Exceptional Mercedes Strategy Sees Lewis Hamilton Take Victory At Spanish Grand Prix

Illustration for article titled Exceptional Mercedes Strategy Sees Lewis Hamilton Take Victory At Spanish Grand Prix
Photo: Mark Thompson (Getty Images)

A first-lap pass on polesitter Lewis Hamilton saw Max Verstappen take an early and dominant lead at the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix, but it was Mercedes that triumphed at the end of the day. A mid-race call for a third pit stop put Hamilton in position to not only close the gap on his competitor but to easily build another one once he secured the lead. And on the weekend that Lewis Hamilton scored his 100th pole position, he scored another win to keep him on track to take his 100th win in the first half of the 2021 season. It’s his fifth consecutive win at Barcelona, which sets him on par with Ayrton Senna’s record-setting five consecutive victories at Monaco.

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Max Verstappen had an incredible start, drag racing polesitter Lewis Hamilton off the line. The two drivers were so close as to almost make contact, which left Hamilton to take evasive action. Instead of disaster, by the end of the first lap, Verstappen had built up a 1.5 second gap over Hamilton. In the chaos of the start, Valtteri Bottas also lost a position for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc overtaking on the outside of Turn 3.

On lap 8, AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda’s engine died, bringing out a yellow flag on sectors two and three. He stopped just off the track but not in the gravel trap, ultimately bringing out a safety car.

Meanwhile, Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo pitted, and the team realized the new front left tire had a puncture before putting it on the car.

The race went green again on lap 11, and Verstappen got another solid start, doing his best to break the tow on Hamilton. The gap between them, though, had shrunk to just over a second, which promised to open up the opportunity for Hamilton to use DRS.

Verstappen stopped on lap 24 and had an unfortunately slow stop when one of his tires left the garage slowly. It allowed Hamilton to pit three laps later and, with a fast pit stop, mount a strong challenge against the Red Bull.

The biggest strategy came on lap 43, when Hamilton pitted, catching everyone else off guard and thus forcing Verstappen’s hand. The team could stay out and risk the chance that Hamilton would make up a full second per lap and then pass Verstappen just a few laps to the end, or the team could try to capitalize on the gap and attempt to regain the lead from Bottas after stopping.

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On lap 52, Hamilton managed to overtake Bottas, who didn’t let the reigning champion by easy, costing Hamilton time in his battle against Verstappen. But by lap 59 of 66, the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen had shrunk to less than a second—and he completed the pass on lap 60. Mercedes’ foresight was exceptional, and it allowed Hamilton to build over a second of a gap between the two. Verstappen then pitted with the hope of setting fastest lap at the end of the race.

Top 10 Finishing Order

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing)
  3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
  5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing)
  6. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
  7. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari)
  8. Lando Norris (McLaren)
  9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
  10. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

DISCUSSION

digitaluser32
Digitaluser32

That was a good race. Elizabeth, what’d you think if the midfield battle at the end when Alonso was defend a pack of hungry cars. Pretty good racing.

I noticed Toto's sweat soaked shirt when he throw up his arms on lap 60. I wasn't sure the Mercedes strategy would work.