F1: Hamilton hunts down Verstappen to win in Spain

Mercedes F1 ace Lewis Hamilton, on fresher tires, hunted down Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and passed him with six laps to go to win the Spanish GP in Barcelona.

Polesitter Hamilton, lost the lead to outside front-row starter Verstappen at the start, but was playing the Dutchman like a fiddle with clearly the faster car.

The Mercedes team decided to pit Hamilton for fresh medium tires when he was stuck behind the slower Verstappen, and that enabled him to easily pass Verstappen with 6 laps to go, Verstappen barely hanging on with very old tires.

“We were just too slow, I don’t know how we were supposed to keep them behind,” Verstappen radioed to his crew.

“When they went for another stop, I knew it was over – I was already struggling with the tires.

“They had more pace in their car, even if we’d gone for that second stop, I’m not sure… I did everything I could,” said a frustrated Verstappen.

Hamilton celebrates yet another masterful win

Verstappen pitted late to get soft red tires, and captured the extra point for fastest lap, but finished almost 16 seconds behind as a result.

It was Hamilton’s sixth win in Spain, as he extends his lead in the championship to 14 points.

“I feel great after this, I feel like I could go again,” said Hamilton!

“I was hunting, I was so close so I wasn’t sure I could make the tires last [in the dirty air] so it was a gamble, but a great strategy by the team. Remarkable job by everyone in this team, and yeah, what a day!”

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda never had a chance against the faster Hamilton, and his superior Mercedes. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

“They could follow so much closer [in the dirty air], and once the field opened up, they had the gap to go for the early second pit stop,” said Red Bull Boss Christian Horner.

“Lap 1 was mega, he got the tow, got the momentum, braked later, and thankfully Lewis got out of it otherwise I think they’d have touched.”

As for Verstappen, there was little he could have done differently. He made the great start, made the move to get into the lead -, but even in the early stages, was struggling for grip compared to his rival. The good news is he pushed Hamilton close at a track that always favors Mercedes.

“It’s so difficult at the front – if you give up position you’ve ‘lost’ the race, whereas in second you have less to lose,” said Mercedes Boss Toto Wolff afterward talking about their 2nd pit stop strategy.

Valtteri Bottas third was a distant third in the 2nd Mercedes.

“I lost the place to Charles [Leclerc] in Turn 3, I was stuck behind him, and it compromised my race as otherwise, I had good pace. I scored good points, but not perfect points,” said a defeated Bottas afterwards.

Charles Leclerc was fourth for Ferrari, Sergio Perez fifth in the 2nd Red Bull, and Daniel Ricciardo just held on to sixth in the #4 McLaren.

“Today was an amazing race for us, we couldn’t have done anything better,” said Leclerc.

“P4 was the best we could do. We were incredibly competitive with regards to our main competitors, and the car felt amazing.”

Carlos Sainz Jr., Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon, and Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10.

Norris holds off Alonso, and Stroll early on

Mark C. reporting for AutoRacing1.com


Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

Lewis Hamilton (1st): “What a day! It was a remarkable job by the whole team again this weekend, and it’s so good to see fans back here. I even saw a few British flags in the crowd, and I’ve really missed that! I feel great, like I could do that all over again, all the training is clearly paying off! It was really close off the start, there was a lot of rubber down on the righthand side of the grid, and Max got a really good start. I then went hunting, and was so close to Max for so long during the opening stages of the race, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make the tires last in the dirty air. It looked like a long way back after the second stop – it was something like 20 seconds off Max -, but it was a really bold call by the team. I was really conflicted, it felt like I might have the shot to make the move before Max stopped, but we just have that trust between us in the team, and it was a great call.”

Valtteri Bottas (3rd): “Losing that position to Charles at Turn 3 on the first lap compromised the first stint of my race. I was hoping for more today, but that made it difficult. My overall pace wasn’t too bad – bit of a shame that we couldn’t finish higher, but at least I managed to get on the podium. I’m never happy to settle for third, I’m here to win, but it was a good day for the team, scoring more solid points. Monaco is going to be a unique challenge in two weeks’ time, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Toto Wolff, Team Principal: “I think we had a quick car, but when you lose position on the first lap it puts you on the back foot. It was difficult for Red Bull as the car in front to make the right decision on strategy, being in second it’s easier if you have the gap to make the call that we did today. When you look at qualifying, there were three cars within a tenth, you never know who’s going to be in front. I hope it’s going to remain like this till the end of the season – it’s just what the sport needs, and we’re enjoying this fight. Today was brilliant work from the team back home, it was our Head of Race Strategy, Rosie’s, last race before going on maternity leave, and I’m so proud. It was a bold move, and when you see the gap open up to more than 20 seconds, you think there’s no way you’ll catch up. We saw Max’s tires suffered more than ours, and we were able to stay close. The planner actually showed we’d catch Max with one lap to go, but we got there with four! The guys, and girls in the team are doing a really good job, even on the days we lose, we learn, and the mindset is right. When our car is not quick enough, we are still able to extrapolate good performances. We we never rest, never have any sense of entitlement – in two weeks it can swing in the other direction, and then it will be a weekend to learn. The atmosphere was fantastic, and I really need to take my hat off from the group of strategists led by James, and all the group back in Brackley, they are just fantastic.”

Andrew Shovlin: “Congratulations to Lewis on another well-deserved win! A good day’s work by the team, and drivers, but it felt like a lot of effort to get back to where we started. Both drivers dropped positions off the line; we didn’t have a particular issue on Lewis’s side, he just lost a bit in clear air, and ended up on the left where you can get pushed wide. Valtteri got a bit boxed in with Lewis going into turn 3, and lost to Leclerc on the outside. We knew overtaking on-track was going to be a long shot on the same age tires, but at least we could sit close enough to Max to force him in early, and with Valtteri, to go for the undercut on Charles. Going into the race, we thought a one-stop would be much easier to complete than it turned out to be, but I don’t think we were alone going in with that mindset. That’s largely down to the short sessions, with less time to do our homework, but at least the scene was set for the alternative strategy to take the win as many cars were dropping off at the end. Our pace has been pretty solid this weekend, although we still seem to be relatively better on the long runs than the single lap, and in Monaco, it’s mainly about single lap performance. That’s always a challenging weekend to get right, but it’s a great race, and we’re looking forward to going back there after the gap in 2020.”

Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen (2nd): “I tried everything I could today, and took the lead at Turn 1, but from there we were just lacking a bit of pace to Mercedes. Of course we wanted to win, but I cannot feel too disappointed as I did everything I could out there, and maximized the opportunities. Even if we had looked at another strategy, and done a two stop, and pitted before them, we wouldn’t have made the time up as they were just faster than us. I know how fast I can go, and where the limit of the car is, and when they can do a free stop behind it is easy for them to do a different strategy. I pretty much knew that when he pitted for the second time that he would come back at me on the new tires a bit like Hungary 2019, and although I did everything I could I was a bit of a sitting duck. The pace difference on the tires made it an easy pass for Lewis, and then I was able to at least keep second place, and take Fastest Lap. It was just a day where we lacked a bit of pace, and second was the best result possible so now we need to look at why they seem to have jumped ahead a bit in terms of race pace.”

Sergio Perez (5th): “This isn’t an easy track to overtake on which made for a tough race. We had a good first lap, and made up some positions, but it took me quite a long time to get past Daniel. The McLaren was extremely fast on the straights so it was really hard to try a move, but we made it work around the outside of Turn 1. I knew what I had to do, I pushed on, and managed to make it work, but we didn’t have much tire life left afterwards so it was tough. I’m getting more confident with the car now, and every time I get to the end of a weekend, I think, ‘I wish the weekend was just starting now.’ Also every circuit is different so what I learn here will be different to what I need in Monaco, but the main thing is that I am still adapting, and hopefully soon we can be 100%. I am excited for Monaco, especially with this car as historically it’s been competitive, and I think we have a chance of winning.”

Christian Horner, Sporting Director: “It was a great start by Max, and he was fully committed into Turn 1, and grabbed the opportunity to take the lead – it was full Max Verstappen spec. He positioned the car fantastically well, hit the brakes later, and ran the car wide to take the race lead. Unfortunately we had a slow pit stop after a miscommunication meant Max pitted a lap earlier than we expected, but fortunately quick thinking, and fast reactions from the pit wall, and the pit crew meant we lost minimal time, and recovered incredibly well. We couldn’t have done anything differently today, Lewis, and Mercedes were quicker than us, and able to follow Max so closely without hurting their tires. We were able to hold track position, but when the field opens up to the degree it did behind, Lewis gains a free pit stop which leaves you in the horrible position as race leader trying to brave it out to the end instead of sacrificing track position. Once Lewis caught up, and got past, all we could do with Max was go for the Fastest Lap which he achieved. Checo did a good job to recover to fifth after qualifying eighth yesterday, making a bold move on Daniel around the outside of Turn 1, and banking solid points for the Team. It’s full focus on Monaco now, and continuing work back at the factory to find more performance, and catch up to Mercedes.”

McLaren F1 Team

Daniel Ricciardo (6th): “It was a good weekend. I would say the best weekend so far as a whole, and I felt like I got the maximum out of the car today. I was defending the whole time! We jumped a few spots at the start, and I think naturally those cars were a little quicker, which left me defending. It meant that the pace was high, and it forced me to push the whole way. I ended up learning even more about the car. We’re obviously competitive for points, but we just need that little extra step. Ferrari had a bit more than us today, and obviously we know the Red Bull is fast. We know we’ve still got some work to do, but all-in-all it was a smooth, well-executed weekend. The team made some good calls for the pit-stops, and I think top-six was the best result possible.”

Lando Norris (8th): “Tough race! It was expected really, just because it’s so difficult to overtake. Despite that I think we achieved everything we could. On paper it’s not as strong a result as we’d like, but I don’t think that really matters today – we had decent pace all day. Given the characteristics of this track we did what we could, and that was P8, and double points, so I’m happy for the team.”

Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “The team executed a very good race today, resulting in both Daniel, and Lando gaining a place on their starting positions after each raced hard from lights to flag. Given how difficult overtaking is here in Barcelona, that was pretty much everything possible for us to achieve today. We’re in a very close battle in the Constructors’ Championship, and scored strong points on a weekend where we didn’t have the upper hand. Thanks to the entire team, our drivers, and our colleagues at Mercedes HPP for a very good job managing our first double-header of the season across the last two weeks. Big thanks particularly to the development, and production teams back at the MTC who have pushed very hard in recent weeks to deliver the upgrades we had on the car this weekend.”

Zak Brown:

Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team

Lance Stroll (11th): “It is a bit frustrating not to get the point at the end. We fought hard with the AlphaTauri, but just did not have enough to get P10. We also raced hard against Fernando [Alonso], and the moment at Turn One was a racing incident: I braked deep into the corner, and he was late on the brakes. We made some contact, and he pushed me wide. This weekend has helped us continue to learn, and improve the car. We will keep pushing to unlock some more speed before Monaco.”

Sebastian Vettel (13th): “It was quite a tricky afternoon, and I was running out of tire life at the end, even though we went for the two-stop strategy. I made quite an early second stop, and came out behind Kimi [Räikkönen], which I think hurt my tires quite a lot. That is what made it difficult to fight for points. With hindsight, it is always easy to say what you would do differently, but it was difficult to fight the cars around me in the closing laps when they had a tire advantage., but we will keep working hard, and we know there is a long season still ahead of us. The new parts we had here helped, and we need to keep taking steps forward each weekend.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer: “After 66 hard-fought laps, our two drivers finished today’s Spanish Grand Prix in the same positions as they had started it from: P11 for Lance, and P13 for Sebastian. Yet it was an eventful afternoon for both of them. Sebastian made up a place at the start, and, until the Safety Car was deployed, our two cars were running in line astern, Lance just ahead. Soon afterwards, Lance pulled off the overtaking manoeuvre of the race, a brilliant move on Fernando [Alonso], thereby moving up to 10th. However, towards the end of the race, both our drivers were passed by Pierre [Gasly], dropping them to 11th [Lance], and 13th [Sebastian], with the result that, again, frustratingly, we narrowly failed to score points.”

Alpine F1 Team

Esteban Ocon (9th): “It was a tough race today. We have a few things to review as we weren’t as fast as the Ferraris or the McLarens in the race. A positive thing is that last year here, we didn’t score points, and this year we come away with two. It’s not ideal after qualifying, but we’ll take it, and move on to the next race. We have more work to do on race pace, and, as always, some things to discuss to improve ourselves. We’ll see how we do around Monaco, it’s great that we’re going back there, and we go there with some motivation to have a better result.”

Fernando Alonso (17th): “It wasn’t where we wanted to finish today, but I think the weekend in general was positive. We had some good performance from the car, and we are definitely heading in the right direction. In Portugal we were fast, but we didn’t know if it was specific to that track, so our progression this weekend shows we are in a good place. We had some fun battles today, and I enjoyed the racing, but we just couldn’t hang on in the end with the Medium tires. We had to try something different, and it didn’t work out. We’ll go again in Monaco, and have some fun there.”

Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director: “After a very positive qualifying, this race result clearly was not what we were hoping for. We lost some positions at the start, two for Esteban, and one for Fernando. We were pretty committed to a one-stop strategy, and we tried to make it work. However, it was quite tough to get to the end on the second set of tires, with Esteban able to salvage two points after a brave last couple of laps. Fernando ran out of tires at the end, leaving him out of the points. We didn’t have the pace to fight with Ferrari or McLaren in the race today, so that gives us an area to focus on, and find further improvements. Nevertheless, we’ve scored two points on the teams behind us in the Constructors’ Championship. Overall, though, we were hoping for more from this race.”

Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow

Charles Leclerc (4th): “It was a very good race. I had a good start, then went for the outside in turn 3, which worked out for us. From then on, we had a very competitive race. Our pace was strong, both on the Soft, and Medium tires. Still, P4 was the best we could achieve. I am really happy though, because from the cockpit you can feel when you do a good job, and that was the case today. As a team, we did a really good job, everything went perfectly. We see that we have made a lot of progress compared to last year, and this is credit to everyone working so hard back at our factory in Maranello. We were quite strong in the third sector, which is very technical. Hopefully, that’s a positive sign for Monaco. Since the beginning of the season, we seem to be strong in the slow corners, so I am crossing my fingers that it will stay that way. I am really looking forward to my home race. Seeing fans there in the grandstands will be amazing, and I hope to be just as competitive there.”

Carlos Sainz (7th): “I am not very satisfied with P7 today, to be honest. I had a poor getaway at the start, and after the first corner I found myself surrounded, and lost a couple of places. From then onwards though, we had a very strong pace. Today the car was well balanced, and it performed quite well with the tires. We still lack a bit of speed on the straights, which makes us struggle for overtaking. We must work on that, and I must keep working on refining some details, because today with a stronger start we could have made it to P5. The strategy worked well, and the guys put together a couple of fast pit stops. It was a good team effort, and we leave Spain with good points for the Championship. We must continue to analyse where we weren’t perfect, and push from there!”

Mattia Binotto, Team Principal: “A positive result with a good points haul that sees us close the gap to those just ahead of us. Achieving that was our main aim for the weekend, and we succeeded. Charles drove an impeccable race. He was aggressive at the start, and did a very good job of looking after his tires, something that we have worked on a lot with him. Carlos lost positions at the start, and that cost him a better result, but he did not lose heart, and fought back, making up quite a few places. We head home believing that we have taken a significant step forward compared to where we were in 2020. There’s still a lot of work to do to get the Scuderia back to where it should be, and I was pleased to see that the whole team, both at the track, and Maranello, is clearly keen to improve.”

Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda

Pierre Gasly (10th): “I’ve got mixed feelings about today, I think in the race I made a good recovery, but we’re really lacking pace compared to the first two rounds, which is frustrating. I’m upset with myself for making the mistake on the grid, it’s a very silly penalty to get, and it made my life harder. That being said, I had some good battles in the race, and managed to pass a few cars to make it into 10th place. The car definitely has potential, we just haven’t made it work consistently in all corners around the lap yet. We’re going to work hard now ahead of Monaco, and I trust in the team to make some steps forward in the next few races.”

Yuki Tsunoda (DNF, Power unit): “It’s been a frustrating race weekend for me, I’m obviously disappointed to not have finished the race as I think my pace at the start was quite good, but it was completely out of my control. We don’t currently know what happened to the car, so we’ll investigate this after it returns to the garage, and then we’ll review everything together with the engineers. I just need to look forward to the next race in Monaco now, it’ll be my first-time racing there, and I’m excited to drive on such an iconic circuit.”

Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN

Kimi Raikkonen (12th): “We did the best we could with a car that actually felt quite nice. I had a decent first lap, making up a few places, and then went for a long first stint. We were always planning for a one-stop, and I think the strategy was the best we could choose today. Unfortunately, we went really close to the points once again, but didn’t get anything out of the race. Only one retirement didn’t help us, but we need to keep working to find the little bit that is still missing.”

Antonio Giovinazzi (15th): “It was not an easy race, which was effectively compromised by the issue we had during the pit-stop. To lose all this time, and a new set of tires was a blow, especially as I had to follow a delta behind the Safety Car, and couldn’t catch up with the pack. After that, I tried to make up as much ground as possible, but with not much happening in front of me, 15th was as far as I could go. Our race pace wasn’t bad, but it ended up being a frustrating day: hopefully Monaco will be better – I am looking forward to it already.”

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal: “Today was another race in which we proved we can fight with all the cars in our section of the midfield, but we came home with nothing to show for it. To end just outside the points in a race with just one car failing to finish shows we are in the right place to benefit from any trouble, but we know we have to still improve to make it into the top ten on pure merit. We don’t lose heart, we have made a lot of progress already, and we do not intend to stop now.”

Haas F1 Team

Mick Schumacher (18th): “It could have been better, but we knew it was going to be a tough race for us. Nonetheless we can be happy with most of what we achieved. My start itself wasn’t that great, but I got a good opening lap – I managed to find a good spot to drive around some people that were maybe blocked by some others. On that side of the race I think we can be quite happy. Unfortunately, we knew after that it was going to be quite difficult. We were struggling quite a bit with the rear tires on the C3. We just had to concentrate on our race, and maximize what we had. Every weekend has been a bit different, so I go into Monaco next with an open mind, and we’ll see how it is there after FP1.”

Nikita Mazepin (19th): “It was very difficult today – the balance shift was very strange. To be honest, we struggled a lot with mid-corner under rotation in qualifying, and then it went to extreme oversteer on all the sets I used in the race. We need to analyze why the shift was so big – maybe it was the temperatures, maybe it was the wind. It’s every rookie’s job to keep learning in every race, I remember from the junior categories how much more I knew in year two, and year three of being in the same series. There’s a lot to be learned. Today was quite a clean race from my side though, no big mistakes, and pretty consistent driving.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “It was a tough race today for us. I would say the start was very good for Mick (Schumacher), and also Nikita (Mazepin), he had a good start too., but then they rightly decided not to take any risks in the first few corners, and then the Williams got by. We obviously need to end races, there’s no point to do anything that will damage the cars so you can’t finish the race. I think our strategy was the best one for us, it’s what we could get out from the race this afternoon – there was not more there for us this weekend.”

Williams Racing

George Russell (14th): “We have to be satisfied with the job we did today. The car in the race today felt good, and I felt really confident, however the result doesn’t quite reflect that, as we started P15, and finished P14. We were on the one-stop, and the guys around us were on the two-stop. I was battling with Fernando (Alonso) trying to pass him, and the guys behind me were on the brand-new soft tires which were much faster. As soon as I got passed by one, they all came past. The tires were on the limit, I was on the limit, and the car was on the limit. That was the maximum, and I am really pleased we opted with that strategy as it gave us half a chance. We were so close to a much better result, and hopefully we have more of these race weekends. To be battling there on merit was a great job.”

Nicholas Latifi (16th): “As we expected, it was a challenging race out there. However, even though the pace isn’t where we want it to be, I’m happy that the most important session of the weekend was the one that the car felt best in. With a strong strategy, and some good overtakes on track we also managed to get in front of both the Haas cars. I think we’re ending the weekend on a high, but we’ve also got quite a lot of homework to do before Monaco.”

Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer: “We enjoyed today, and were able to race with some high-quality midfield cars. The opening stint was tough, but the early safety car presented an opportunity, and we were able to capitalise on the slow pitstop that Giovinazzi had by pitting both of our cars. George, and Nicholas both showed good pace on the Option tires, and George, as the lead car, was able to pull away, and avoid a lot of the blue flags, and attacking cars that subsequently pitted behind us. Nicholas pitted a third time to protect his position to Giovinazzi, and the Haas cars. Meanwhile George attempted to thread a needle between managing his tires, attacking Alonso, and defending from the cars behind. In the end it was an impossible task, but we are pleased that we could race hard, and that we got ourselves into a strong position. Once again, the top-10 was agonisingly close, but this only increases our appetite, and motivation to push everything out of the FW43B for the rest of the season.”

Race Results

1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 66 1h33m07.680s
2 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 66 +15.841s
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 66 +26.610s
4 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 66 +54.616s
5 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda 66 +63.671s
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 66 +73.768s
7 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 66 +74.670s
8 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 65 +1 lap
9 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 65 +1 lap
10 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda 65 +1 lap
11 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 65 +1 lap
12 7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 65 +1 lap
13 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes 65 +1 lap
14 63 George Russell Williams Mercedes 65 +1 lap
15 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 65 +1 lap
16 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 65 +1 lap
17 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 65 +1 lap
18 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 64 +2 laps
19 9 Nikita Mazepin Haas Ferrari 64 +2 laps
NC 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda 6 DNF

* Provisional results