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Home Motor Sports Hamilton Clinches 98th Formula One Win at Spanish Grand Prix

Hamilton Clinches 98th Formula One Win at Spanish Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes produced a brilliant, attacking, strategic race to beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s third win in four races this season came despite losing the lead to Verstappen at the first corner.

Mercedes put Hamilton on a two-stop strategy and the seven-time champion closed a 23-second deficit in 18 laps to pass the Red Bull with six laps to go.

Verstappen bailed on his one-stop strategy after losing the lead and took second and the point for the fastest lap as consolation.

Hamilton’s victory was the 98th of his career after he set his 100th pole position on Saturday, and it extends his championship lead to 14 points.

Verstappen put himself in control of the race with a brave pass on Hamilton at the first corner, braking late and throwing his Red Bull inside the Mercedes, forcing the Briton to take evasive action to avoid contact.

But the Dutchman was unable to shake Hamilton, who tracked him closely towards the first pit stops.

Mercedes were unable to pass Verstappen by stopping first because the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez was just close enough to mean Hamilton would come out behind the Mexican if he stopped.

That enabled Verstappen to make his stop first, and Mercedes decided to delay Hamilton’s stop by four laps to give him a tyre advantage.

Hamilton rejoined 5.5secs behind the Red Bull but was on its tail within three laps. He stayed within a second of Verstappen for another nine laps, clearly faster but unable to pass on a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult.

Then, with 24 laps to go, Mercedes brought Hamilton in again for a new set of tyres, rejoining 22.4secs behind.

F1’s computers predicted that Hamilton would catch Verstappen on the last lap, but he was soon lapping nearly two seconds faster than the Red Bull.

Team-mate Valtteri Bottas cost Hamilton well over a second when the Briton caught him, despite the Finn being ordered by the team not to delay the other car.

But once past Bottas, Hamilton caught Verstappen on lap 60 of 66, immediately sweeping around the outside of Verstappen at Turn One to take a superb team victory after a drive from the top drawer.

It was the fourth race in succession this season in which the two title contenders have gone wheel to wheel.

Verstappen said: “In a way, I could see it coming. Already with the softs [in the first stint], he was faster and then the mediums [in the second stint] he clearly had a lot more pace – he could stay within one second.

“There was not a lot we could have done. Then they went for the second stop and I knew it was over. You could see he was getting closer and closer and I was a bit of a sitting duck.”

Hamilton said: “I feel great after this. I feel like we could go again.

“It was a close start. After that just hunting – I was so close for so long and I didn’t think I could make the tyres last, but I managed to keep them in. It was a long way to come back but it was a good gamble.

“It was the plan all weekend to have two new mediums for a two-stop. Even though the one-stop looked better I knew from experience that a one-stop is very difficult to pull off. What a day.”

The also-rans

Bottas lost the chance to contend for the lead when he was passed by Charles Leclerc on lap one, the Ferrari driver passing the Mercedes in a great move around the outside of Turn Three.

Bottas was stuck behind Leclerc for the entire first stint, getting ahead at the first pit-stop period.

He was told by Mercedes he could catch Verstappen by the end of the race, but this proved not to be the case, so after Hamilton made his second stop the team ordered Bottas not to hold Hamilton up.

He was caught in a quandary as he was trying to extend enough of a gap to clear Leclerc before making his own stop for fresh tyres, and he delayed Hamilton through most of lap 52 before he left a gap into Turn 10 for the Briton to continue his pursuit of Verstappen.

After that, Mercedes brought Bottas in for a pit stop for fresh tyres to go for the fastest lap, which he managed to get, only for Verstappen to take it from him after his own late stop.

Leclerc drove a strong if lonely, race to take fourth, ahead of Perez, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and the second McLaren of Lando Norris.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon took ninth from Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly. The second Alpine of Fernando Alonso, battling an engine problem, tumbled out of 10th in the closing laps as his tyres faded.

Driver of the day

What happens next?

Monaco in two weeks’ time – the one they all want to win. The Mercedes has looked strong in slow-speed corners but Verstappen will be determined to win the sport’s most prestigious race for the first time.

‘We still need to push hard’ – what they said

Hamilton: “It is great to see the fans here. I saw a British flag out there which I haven’t seen for a long, long time. I did what the team asked because there is a great trust between us. Remarkable job by everyone in this team.”

Verstappen: “We’re not where we want to be and we still need to push hard and catch up because at the moment we are a little bit slower. But compared to last year, it has been a jump for us.”

Bottas: “What made it more tricky was I lost a place to Charles at lap one. He chose a better line through Turn Three. That compromised the race a bit. It is a bit of a shame but I am pleased to make it to the podium.” (Source: BBC Sports)

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