BEVERLY HILLS, May 09, (THEWILL) – Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 team executed a pit-stop gamble by passing championship rival, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen with just six laps remaining to win a breathless Spanish Grand Prix with their five-time consecutive winner in Spain, Sir Lewis Hamilton, leading them to victory.
For the most part, Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya seemed to be beyond Hamilton’s grasp and the honour of a fifth straight win too much of a task for the British knight as he was left out on old rubber for four laps longer than the impressive Verstappen.
Hamilton’s pole position start began uncharacteristically under par for the Brit as he lost the lead at the opening bend. That afforded his title rival an opening at the first corner and Verstappen did not need a second invitation to speed ahead.
After a safety car was deployed on the ninth lap when Yuki Tsunoda broke down at Turn 10, Verstappen left Hamilton trailing to retain the lead when the race resumed.
Then, the Mercedes team sprung a surprise on Red Bull. They called a second stop on Hamilton, which left the world champion with only 24 laps to overturn a 22-second deficit if he was to claim victory.
They must have believed in the impossible given how well Verstappen was doing for Red Bull but that was exactly what Hamilton did. The Brit produced faultless driving combined with an expert comeback pace to take victory.
With 14 laps to go he was 10 seconds adrift of Verstappen, which was a realisable take for the champion, to the visible pleasure of Mercedes Team Principal and CEO, Toto Wolff, intensely following the race.
It intensified all the more at the start of lap 59. Verstappen was just 1.5 seconds ahead and had Hamilton racing down his rear by lap 60, Hamilton was within striking range as they sailed down the pit straight, for the finish.
The champion demonstrated why he was a five-time winner in Spain as he followed Verstappen at over 200mph before jinking to the left of his helpless rival and sailing round the outside for the 98th win of his stunning career while extending his lead over Verstappen to 14 points in the drivers’ standings as well.
Again, in third, was Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez, the other Red Bull, followed after.
Speaking after the win, Hamilton said: “It was a long way to come back from but a good gamble and a really great strategy by the team.
“A one-stop is very hard to pull off and I was about to have a shot at getting past him before I pitted for a second time. I was conflicted but I did what the team asked and that is because there is great trust. It is a remarkable job by everyone in this team. What a day.”
“Just a remarkable job by everyone in this team! What a day!”
Indeed, what a victory it was but the decision to pit twice from Mercedes, which looked to be negative for victory, paid dividends in the end.