Hamilton delighted to cash in on Mercedes' Spanish Grand Prix 'gamble'

By Sports Desk May 09, 2021

Lewis Hamilton was elated that a "good gamble" from Mercedes paid off and said his Spanish Grand Prix victory was an example of the "great trust" in the team.

Hamilton extended his championship lead to 14 points with a third win in four races this season despite being passed by Max Verstappen at Turn One on the opening lap.

Verstappen led for much of the race, but had to settle for second place ahead of Valtteri Bottas after Hamilton overtook him with six laps to go at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Mercedes' two-stop strategy worked a treat, with Hamilton called in for a second set of medium tyres on lap 43 of 66 and returning in third place with over 20 seconds to make up on leader Verstappen.

Verstappen had only pitted once and he was reeled in by the seven-time Formula One world champion, who also had to pass Bottas before regaining the lead.

Hamilton matched Michael Schumacher's record of six Spanish Grand Prix triumphs by winning the race for a fifth consecutive season and he paid tribute to his team.

"First I want to acknowledge the fans that are here," said Hamilton. "It is great to see. I saw a British flag out there, which I haven't seen for a long, long time.

"I feel great after this. I feel like I could go again."

Hamilton added: "I was so close [behind Verstappen] for so long but just managed to keep the tyres in somehow. It was a long way to come back [after the second stop] but it was a good gamble - a really great strategy from the team.

"I was about to get a shot to get past him as I pitted. I was really conflicted - 'do I come in or ignore the call'. I did what the team asked because there is a great trust between us. Remarkable job by everyone in this team. What a day."

Verstappen knew it was only a matter of time before he was caught by Hamilton, who managed his tyres to perfection in another masterful drive that took his tally of F1 wins to 98.

"In a way I could see it coming," said the Dutchman, who secured another point by clocking the fastest lap after finally pitting again from second place with Hamilton easing to victory. 

"Already at the end with the softs, he [Hamilton] was faster and when he put on the mediums, he had a lot more pace. There was not much we could've done.

"Then they went for another stop and 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. Bit of a sitting duck.

"With the cars behind, you don't want to pit in traffic, but it makes a clear advantage when there is more pace in the car. If we would have jumped for another stop, I'm not sure we would've caught up again. I tried everything I could.

"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."

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    Heading into the final grand prix in Abu Dhabi next Sunday, Verstappen has the edge on races won (9-8) and so will clinch his first ever title if Hamilton does not better his result.

    If neither driver finished in the points – or finished the race – that would also seal Verstappen's triumph.

    Asked by the Daily Mail whether his son is likely to sacrifice his own race to take out Hamilton, Verstappen's father and former F1 driver Jos said: "I don't think that will happen.

    "Max absolutely wants to win. He will definitely go for it. He will clearly try to beat him. He will do everything to get the win, that's for sure. It will be exciting."

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    Verstappen received a pair of penalties in Jeddah, the second for causing a collision with Hamilton when he braked suddenly.

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    "This is not the first time that I've had to avoid a collision, that's how I felt at the moment, but you know sometimes you say things in the heat of the moment and you go back and re-watch things and then you maybe feel differently. But in the moment, that's how it felt.

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    Max Verstappen received a further 10-second penalty plus two penalty points following a wild Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton levelled the Formula One title race with victory on Sunday.

    Verstappen had already been slapped with a five-second penalty for the Turn 1 incident – the Red Bull star and championship leader was deemed to have gained an unfair advantage going off track.

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    Verstappen's secondary penalty was for causing a turn 27 collision with Hamilton when he braked suddenly, causing the Briton to clip the car head, damaging his front wing.

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    "I definitely feel that there were scenarios where that was the case," Hamilton told reporters when asked if he thought Verstappen drove dangerously.

    "This is not the first time that I've had to avoid a collision, that's how I felt at the moment, but you know sometimes you say things in the heat of the moment and you go back and re-watch things and then you maybe feel differently but in the moment that's how it felt. But I really just tried to recompose myself and chase down and keep fighting."

    The incident was the latest flashpoint between the two title rivals, but Verstappen indicated he felt he was harshly penalised.

    "I find it interesting that I am the one who gets the penalty when both of us ran outside of the white lines," Verstappen told reporters after the Turn 1 incident. "In Brazil it was fine and now suddenly I get a penalty for it.

    "You could clearly see both didn’t make the corner, but it's fine. I mean I also don’t really spend too much time on it. We have to move forward.

    "We're equal on points on now and I think that's really exciting, of course, for the whole championship and Formula 1 in general but I said it earlier on my in-lap, I think lately we're talking more about white lines and penalties than actually proper Formula 1 racing and that's, I think, a little bit of a shame."

    The stewards report on the Turn 27 incident said: "In deciding to penalise the driver of car 33 [Verstappen], the key point for the Stewards was that the driver of car 33 then braked suddenly [69 bar' and significantly, resulting in 2.4g deceleration.

    "Whilst accepting that the driver of car 44 [Hamilton] could have overtaken car 33 when that car first slowed, we understand why he [and the driver of car 33] did not wish to be the first to cross the DRS [line]. However, the sudden braking by the driver of car 33 was determined by the stewards to be erratic and hence the predominant cause of the collision and hence the standard penalty of 10 seconds for this type of incident, is imposed."

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