Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) has won his third race of the year in Spain. The Brit had to work hard at the Barcelona circuit, but thanks to a clever strategy, he managed to pass Max Verstappen (Red Bull) in the final laps. Verstappen was second, Valtteri Bottas was third in the other Mercedes.
The Grand Prix of Spain is traditionally the opener of the European season, but this was not the case for the second consecutive year due to the corona pandemic. The circuit in Barcelona did not promise much spectacle in advance: teams and drivers know the circuit like the back of their hands because it is frequently used for the winter tests. In the recent past, this has often led to predictable races.
The 2021 season could perhaps change that, as in the first three races of the year, Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull) had very entertaining battles for the win. Hamilton triumphed in two of the first three Grand Prix and won the first battle on Saturday by taking his 100th pole position. Verstappen and Hamilton’s teammate Bottas were right behind the world champion on the grid.
How did the start go?
The start is crucial in Barcelona. Whoever comes out of the first set of corners first has a good chance of winning the race as overtaking on the Spanish circuit is not easy. Verstappen had also understood that message well. The Dutchman got off a little better than Hamilton and then applied the brakes very late in turn one. Mission accomplished: Verstappen took the lead, Hamilton was second.
The start went smoothly behind the two ruffs. There were smiling faces at Ferrari: Charles Leclerc outwitted Valtteri Bottas with a brilliant maneuver outside in the third corner and thus moved up to third place. To Bottas’ dismay, he would hold that position for a long time.
How did victory come about?
Verstappen would constantly see Hamilton in his mirrors after the start. We had to wait and see who would be the first to get new tires. In the end they blinked first at Red Bull: in lap 24 of 66, Verstappen came to get fresh rubber. Hamilton continued to drive 4 laps longer for his pit stop. Verstappen remained in the lead, but got a Hamilton on newer tires behind him.
Verstappen managed to withstand the pressure. But Mercedes did not give up that easily: the world champions surprised by bringing Hamilton in for a second pit stop on lap 42. After all, the Briton still had a fresh set of medium tires, a luxury that Verstappen did not have.
Hamilton knew what to do: kick. The Briton nibbled little by little at the backlog and also passed teammate Bottas. At Red Bull they already felt the downpour and in lap 60 the seemingly inevitable happened: Hamilton was close enough and squeezed past Verstappen in the first corner.
Verstappen came in afterwards for fresh soft tires and snatched the point for the fastest lap, but the most important prize was again for Lewis Hamilton.
Who stood out?
Lewis Hamilton deserves all the credit for this win, but he gets the pit wall from Mercedes for thanking. With a sophisticated strategy, they guided Hamilton to an important victory and handed a blow to Verstappen and Red Bull.
Charles Leclerc seemed to be able to dream of a podium with Ferrari for a while when he took third place at the start and then held it in his hands for a long time. In the end, Leclerc and Ferrari couldn’t compete with Bottas’s fast Mercedes, but fourth place is nevertheless a very nice and hopeful result for the prancing horse.
He did not have an easy start to the season with his new team McLaren, but in Spain Daniel Ricciardo it excellent. The cheerful Australian drove around in fifth place for quite some time. He ultimately failed to hold off Sergio Pérez’s much faster Red Bull, but with sixth place – two places better than teammate Lando Norris – Ricciardo can certainly be satisfied.
Who didn’t have a day?
In front of Yuki Tsunoda, the youngest driver on the grid, it was a weekend to forget. The Japanese from AlphaTauri had a very bad qualifying on Saturday, on Sunday his car gave up after just a few laps.
Also Antonio Giovinazzi shalllooking back on his race with dissatisfaction. The Italian was one of the few to come in for a set of fresh tires during the safety car phase that caused Tsunoda. Giovinazzi’s race, however, was killed. One of his new tires turned out to be underinflated, making his pit stop extremely long.
Finally knew Fernando Alonso not a very happy home race. The Spaniard won this Grand Prix in 2006 and 2013, but now had to give up all weekend to his young stable mate Esteban Ocon. Alonso also had problems in the final phase of the race and therefore dropped back to seventeenth place.
How high was the spectacle value?
As mentioned earlier, the Grand Prix of Spain is one of the less interesting Grand Prix on the calendar almost every year. The 2021 edition did not fully follow that trend, as viewers were glued to their screens by the interesting jousting game between Hamilton and Verstappen. However, the truth compels us to say that apart from the duel for the win and some maneuvers in midfield, there was not much to do in Barcelona.
What do we remember from this race?
That Lewis Hamilton once again handed out a little bit to Max Verstappen, but the title fight still remains very exciting. Hamilton has now won three of the first four races, but his World Cup lead is ‘only’ 14 points. It is up to Verstappen to hit back at the next race in Monaco in two weeks.