Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in the Formula One world championship thanks to what he labelled a “good gamble” by his Mercedes team as he collected his sixth win in the Spanish Grand Prix.
- Mercedes were smarter with pitstops, guiding Lewis Hamilton to his third win of the season
- Max Verstappen tried to nurse his tyres on a one-stop strategy, but had to settle for second
- Daniel Ricciardo beat his McLaren teammate for the first time this season, finishing sixth
It had looked like Max Verstappen would lead from the opening turn to race finish after he passed pole-sitter Hamilton into the opening turn but a stroke of brilliance from the Mercedes team in pit lane made all the difference.
On lap 42 the team pitted Hamilton for a second set of medium tyres, switching to a two-stop strategy, believing on fresh rubber he could chase down the 23-second gap to Verstappen.
And he did. Released back onto the track in third place he quickly hunted down teammate Valtteri Bottas and after slight resistance passed him.
With seven laps to go he was then within one second of the Dutchman and made the move for the lead past Verstappen into turn one on lap 60 as he took the outside line past Verstappen, whose tyres were struggling for grip.
“It was a great gamble and really great strategy by the team,” Hamilton said of the strategy.
Verstappen seemingly knew his lead would never last, having flagged that his tyres were struggling on lap 48 over the team radio.
“It’s impossible to keep them behind,” Verstappen said.
“There was not much we could have done and once he pitted, I knew it was over. I was a sitting duck.”
Hamilton won the race by 16 seconds to Verstappen, with Bottas in third and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finishing fourth.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo had his best drive yet for McLaren, finishing sixth, two places ahead of teammate Lando Norris.
It had been a bold drive from Verstappen early on. He got the jump off the line and was side-by-side with the Hamilton into the first turn.
The Dutchman had the inside line and bravely threw his car into the corner, forcing Hamilton off the track.
The Red Bull driver had a one-and-a-half second lead by the end of the first lap and maintained that through the opening laps, crucially staying out of DRS range.
But the field was bunched up when the safety car came out on lap nine following the AlphaTauri car of Yuki Tsunoda stopping mid lap.
It was the end of a horror weekend for the Japanese driver, who courted controversy during qualifying with some negative comments about his team.
Verstappen was perfect off the restart getting a gap between him and the Mercedes, ensuring he would be unchallenged into the first turn on lap 11.
The Dutchman was again able to stretch his lead beyond DRS range, gaining most of his time in the second and third sectors.
And there he would stay despite Hamilton steadily gaining on him and several times getting within half-a-second of the race leader before the ultimate strategy move proved decisive in turning the race on its head and seeing Hamilton once again triumphant in Spain.