Lewis Hamilton revels in Max Verstappen 'hunt' and Mercedes 'gamble' after Spanish GP victory
Mercedes pitted Lewis Hamilton for second time before he chased down Max Verstappen; "I was really conflicted," admitted Hamilton. "Do I come in or I do ignore the call and stay out?"; Hamilton extends his title lead to 14 points
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 10/05/21 6:08am
Lewis Hamilton has paid tribute to Mercedes' strategy "gamble" at the Spanish GP after chasing down Max Verstappen for victory - even though he admitted he was "conflicted" on whether to ignore the team's call.
Hamilton was trailing just behind Verstappen for most of Sunday's race despite appearing to have a faster car, but Mercedes made a critical decision with on Lap 43 of 66 by pitting the Englishman for a second time.
The stop dropped Hamilton down to third and some 23 seconds behind Verstappen, but on new tyres the F1 world champion charged back towards the Red Bull before a comfortable overtake in the closing laps.
"I was just hunting," said Hamilton, who was passed by Verstappen on the opening lap. "I was so close for so long and I didn't think in doing that I was going to be able to make the tyres last - but I just managed to.
"It was a long way to come back from 20 odd seconds back but it was a good gamble, a really great strategy from the team."
He added to Sky F1: "When I came in I thought, 'jeeze that's a long way to catch up'. It's a big gamble. Obviously we had to really execute it perfectly and I think we did together."
Hamilton looked likely to pull off an on-track overtake just before Mercedes called him in.
"I was really conflicted," he admitted. "Do I come in or I do ignore the call and stay out?
"Obviously I did what the team asked and naturally that's because there's a great trust between us.
"Just a remarkable job by everyone in this team. What a day."
Hamilton on 'great' Verstappen battle and why he's not 'aggressive'
Hamilton extended his title lead over Verstappen to 14 points with the Barcelona victory, his fifth in a row at the Circuit de Catalunya. But the championship rivals very nearly came together at the very first corner.
Verstappen, starting on the front row behind Hamilton, got a great start and then - as Sky F1's Martin Brundle described it - "shoved" Hamilton out of the way when diving up the inside into Turn 1.
Not that Hamilton saw any problem with it.
"It was great," he told Sky F1's Rachel Brookes. "He was in my blind spot, if you're looking in your mirror you can see a straight line back but he was in an area that I had no idea exactly how far he was alongside.
"I think we broke into Turn 1 as late as we could and I had to bail out eventually otherwise we were going to [make] contact. After that my strategy just switched. That was no issue, kind of like game on, let's figure out how we can catch them and get back."
He then added in the press conference that his slower start was in part due to attempting to give team-mate Valtteri Bottas a tow on the main straight.
"I just made sure I gave as much space as I could to Max," he said. "In my mind it's always a marathon not a sprint so I'm just always thinking long .
"Sure, you can be a little bit more aggressive, but I'm in the position that I'm in because i don't get too aggressive when I don't need to be."