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Lewis Hamilton rallies to edge out Max Verstappen to win Spanish Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix with a magnificent piece of controlled, strategic driving and management by his Mercedes team, after he had lost the lead on the opening lap. He beat the Red Bull of Max Verstappen into second place at the Circuit de Catalunya, with Valtteri Bottas third for Mercedes. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was in fourth with Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez in fifth.

Beaten off the line from his pole position, Hamilton and Mercedes had to orchestrate a superb comeback combining Hamilton’s skill with a strategy that left Red Bull unable to match their rivals.

The win is a real achievement for Hamilton and Mercedes with which to close out the initial skirmishes of the opening four races of the season, emerging firmly on top after they were considered to be on the back foot to Red Bull.

The team now have three wins from four races but the title fight remains finely poised with Hamilton leading Verstappen by 14 points, with Hamilton on three wins to Verstappen’s one but with the Dutchman having returned three second places.

This is Hamilton’s 98th win, two from a century after he became the first F1 driver to to take his 100th pole in qualifying here on Saturday. He has also equalled another of Michael Schumacher’s record’s, that of six wins in Barcelona as he attempts to surpass the German with his eighth title this season.

It also maintains Mercedes’ remarkable record in Spain. Hamilton has made the track almost his personal fiefdom of late, undefeated since 2017 and since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2014 Mercedes have been beaten here only once, by Verstappen when the Dutchman made his debut for Red Bull in 2016.

Verstappen and Hamilton both got away well but the Dutchman drew alongside on the long drag to turn one. Neck and neck into the corner Verstappen threw his car up the inside squeezing Hamilton just wide, with the world champion having to give up the place. It was risky and aggressive but exactly what Verstappen is good at, while Hamilton did well to avoid a clash, recognising he needed to stay in the game.

The opening moments had fallen to Verstappen and with overtaking so hard the race looked like it was in his grasp. The pair were evenly matched on pace, Hamilton steady and watching his tyre wear, one second behind the leader. They were on their own out front eking out their rubber in a cat and mouse run as they headed toward the first pit stops.

Verstappen went first, struggling with his rears as Hamilton closed, pitting on lap 23 to take the medium rubber. It was slow stop of 4.2 seconds and he merged in traffic. Hamilton inherited the lead and had the opportunity to push hard while happy with his tyres. Mercedes advised him to stay out. It appeared to be a key moment.

They had opted to go longer but might have done better to pit Hamilton immediately when they had the advantage of the slow Red Bull stop. Mercedes were concerned they might hit traffic had they done so and that their advantage to Verstappen was not sufficient but with passing so difficult in Barcelona it may have been worth the roll of the dice. It transpired they had other plans.

The extra time worked for Verstappen who soon had clear air and was putting in quick laps when Hamilton came in on lap 28. He emerged behind the Dutchman, with fresher medium rubber but crucially Verstappen had the track position and again looked in control.

The game was not up however. Hamilton immediately pressured Verstappen to within a second by lap 33 and sat under the Red Bull’s rear wing. He had DRS usage but with the major pace advantage required to pass here he still did not have enough to make a move. Mercedes instead took a gamble pitting Hamilton again on lap 42 to take fresh tyres.

He emerged 21 seconds back from the lead with 24 laps to catch and pass Verstappen. It was the same scenario as Hungary in 2019 when Mercedes two-stopped and Hamilton chased him down to win. Indeed Red Bull pointedly reminded their man of that race over the radio.

With so much extra grip Hamilton was flying, taking seconds out a lap of Verstappen’s lead with the Dutchman concerned that his tyres would not make it to the end. The gap was down to 10 seconds by lap 49 and tumbled until Hamilton had caught the leader by lap 58.

A straight race to the line ensued and Hamilton’s tyre advantage was telling, he flew past Verstappen on the main straight on lap 59 to ease into the lead into turn one. He and Mercedes had done it again, he held the lead to the flag to secure another remarkable win, while Verstappen pitted late to go for and take the fastest lap.

Daniel Ricciardo was in sixth for McLaren with his teammate Lando Norris in eighth. Carlos Sainz was in seventh for Ferrari. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was in in ninth with Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly in tenth.

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