Spanish GP: Lewis Hamilton overtakes Max Verstappen for brilliant win after late charge pays off
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes get the better of Red Bull with second pit stop for new tyres which overhauled Max Verstappen for Barcelona victory; Hamilton extends title lead over Verstappen to 14 points; Bottas third, Leclerc fourth, Perez fifth
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 10/05/21 2:34pm
Lewis Hamilton pulled off a brilliant fightback win against Max Verstappen in the Spanish GP after overtaking his Red Bull rival in the closing laps at Barcelona to extend his world title lead.
Overtaken into the race's first corner by Verstappen, Hamilton and Mercedes had their work cut out for a fifth consecutive win on a Spanish circuit that is notoriously difficult to overtake on.
So the world champions rolled the strategy dice with a second pit stop for fresh tyres with 23 laps remaining to try and set up a grandstand finish.
Their seven-time world champion did the rest.
- Full Spanish Grand Prix race result
- Hamilton revels in Verstappen 'hunt' and Mercedes 'gamble'
- Latest championship standings
Hamilton returned to the track 22 seconds behind Verstappen but was relentless in his pursuit and, catching the Dutchman hand over fist with the advantage of fresh tyres, he overtook back into Turn One with seven laps remaining.
"That was the might of Mercedes and the brilliance of Lewis Hamilton combining - and they caught Red Bull off guard," said Sky F1's Martin Brundle.
For Hamilton, it was a record-equalling fifth win in a row at the same venue, a third in four races this season, and a monumental 98th of his extraordinary career.
He extends his title lead over Verstappen to 14 points too.
Valtteri Bottas took third in the second Mercedes after losing early ground when he dropped behind Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.
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Leclerc took an impressive fourth, with Red Bull's Sergio Perez fifth after a qualifying struggle had left him eighth on the grid.
Daniel Ricciardo took his best result for McLaren so far with sixth, two places ahead of team-mate Lando Norris whose run of top-five finishes ended in eighth. The Briton was shown the black-and-white warning flag by Race Control for weaving when in combat down the main straight with former team-mate Carlos Sainz, who overtook him.
Spanish GP Result: Top 10
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
6) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
7) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
8) Lando Norris, McLaren
9) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
10) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
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History repeats itself for Hamilton vs Verstappen
Across the last eight seasons in which they have enjoyed unparalleled F1 success, the Hamilton-Mercedes combination have regularly found different ways to win - and their latest triumph came from that glittering playbook.
Comparisons were immediately drawn to Hungary 2019 when Verstappen held the leading track position on a circuit where overtaking is also a formidable challenge without a big tyre advantage. On that occasion, Mercedes pitted Hamilton for a second time to set up a late charge and he raced back to claim the victory by overtaking the Red Bull.
Two years on, history repeated itself.
"I was just hunting. 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," said Hamilton. "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."
After being overtaken at the start, Hamilton consistently kept Verstappen within 1.5s range before the first stops and then again afterwards before Mercedes gambled on the extra stop.
"I was about to have a shot at getting past him before I pitted right at the end and I was really conflicted," added Hamilton. "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."
Verstappen's day had started decisively - and brilliantly - as he turned second behind Hamilton on the grid into first in front of the Mercedes coming out of the race's first corner.
Getting the run on his rival down Catalunya's long main straight, Verstappen thrust his car to the inside for the braking point and made Hamilton take evasive action.
It was the fourth race in succession that the 2021's big guns had gone wheel-to-wheel.
However, while crucial track position was Verstappen's, his Red Bull did not have the pace to shake Hamilton from his tail.
"In a way I could see it coming," said Verstappen, who has finished second to Hamilton three times this year. "Already at the end with the softs he was faster, and then when we were put on the mediums he clearly had a lot more pace, he could just stay within one second.
"There was not much we could have done. They went for another stop and then I knew it was over because I was already struggling with the tyres and you could see every lap he was getting closer and closer. I was just a sitting duck."
Once overtaken by Hamilton, Verstappen pitted again for fresh tyres - Bottas had already himself pitted to create the gap - and claimed the fastest lap bonus point amid the early stages of a championship challenge in which weekends are being settled by fine margins.
But heading towards F1's showpiece Monaco weekend next up, Hamilton and Mercedes are starting to take a little more of that familiar control on the championship.
Spanish GP Race Result
|1) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1:33.07.680|
|2) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+15.841|
|3) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+26.610|
|4) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+54.616|
|5) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+63.671|
|6) Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||+73.768|
|7) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+74.670|
|8) Lando Norris||McLaren||+1 lap|
|9) Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+1 lap|
|10) Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||+1 lap|
|11) Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+1 lap|
|12) Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|13) Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||+1 lap|
|14) George Russell||Williams||+1 lap|
|15) Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|16) Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+1 lap|
|17) Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+1 lap|
|18) Mick Schumacher||Haas||+2 laps|
|19) Nikita Mazepin||Haas||+2 laps|
|Did Not Finish|