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Hamilton wins in Spain to extend championship lead

NEWS STORY
09/05/2021

Having had our hopes cruelly dashed last weekend, we're heading into today's race with understandable caution.

Everything in Portimao was shaping up to be a classic, and while Lewis delivered yet another masterclass, on the whole it was a pretty processional afternoon.

Consequently, at a circuit where overtaking is difficult at the best of times we don't expect much different.

That said... it has been remarkably close this weekend, the 0.036s gap between Lewis and his title rival Max pretty much telling you all you need to know.

The run to the first corner is always important here, but then again, it's equally vital that you get through Turns 2, 3 and 4 safely - 2016 anyone?

Once again, Max finds himself up against two Mercedes, teammate Sergio starting from 8th.

If he fails to be quickest off the line, Max can still make an early move on his title rival, but if that fails we are re likely to be looking at tyre strategy once again.

For both drivers it's a historic weekend as they each celebrate 100. In Lewis' case it's pole positions, while for Max it is his 100th start with Red Bull.

You'll remember that it was here, at Barcelona, that he made his Red Bull debut back in 2016, and what better way to celebrate than to bookmark those 100 races with another win.

Then again, it was the clash of the Mercedes duo that set him up for the win that day, so Lewis will no doubt be looking for pay back of some kind.

As ever, it is the battle behind these two that really excites, and though this weekend has been somewhat topsy-turvy in terms of the pecking order, Ferrari, McLaren and Alpine are likely to be the main players, along with Sergio who really does need a good day today.

Charles continues to flatter an admittedly improving Ferrari, while Carlos continues to keep him honest. After a difficult time in Portugal, Daniel is looking a little more settled, while Lando continues to impress. Then there's Alpine, where Fernando has clearly fired a rocket up Esteban's backside as the French outfit continues to make progress.

Aston Martin is likely to be caught in the netherworld between the back of the midfield and Alfa Romeo, Kimi unlucky not to make it into Q2 - if not higher - yesterday.

The Finnish veteran was twice quickest in the opening sector in qualifying only to lose pace when he closed in on another car and lost downforce, a common problem in contemporary F1 and one that is usually more of an issue here.

Pierre will do his best to break free of the Aston Martin/Alfa Romeo battle but in all honesty he hasn't had the best of luck so far this year.

And then there's Yuki.

The Japanese youngster might be very, very talented, but he really should stop reading his reviews.

Yes, he did well in Bahrain, he did very well, but in no time at all he was throwing his weight around like a seasoned veteran, effing and blinding at rivals, questioning team strategy and now suggesting that his teammate has different equipment.

If there is one (OK, two) team where you do not want to be questioning the management, it is AlphaTauri. From here on in, Yuki would be well advised to keep his head down and do his apprenticeship.

Ditto for Nikita.

Indeed, both could learn a lesson from young Mick. Despite the fact that he is in a crap car, with absolutely no prospects, he keeps his head down and gets on with the job, never complaining, always smiling and clearly eager to learn.

Finally there's Williams, and while Nicholas continues to improve, George will be hard-pressed to get into the points, however, any first lap silliness could play into the youngster's hands.

All the top ten qualifiers did so on the softs so no surprises there today. However, those starting behind on the mediums could throw a surprise.

To add to the fun, both Mercedes drivers have a set of spanking new mediums, while Max has a brand new set of softs.

Unusually, today's race is likely to be a two-stopper, especially if it's warm as was the case in qualifying.

This is down to the relatively high levels of tyre wear and degradation here, with its abrasive asphalt, high-energy corners and the fact that Pirelli has brought its hardest compounds.

Another reason is the fact that not so much time is lost in the pits, which makes a two-stopper much more viable, as well as the fact that the hard tyre is slower here.

As we know, overtaking can be tricky - one of the reasons why qualifying is so important - so race strategy has to prioritise track position above all. As usual, the exact strategy will also be influenced by track temperatures.

The pitlane opens and Norris reports a few spots of rain in Turns 4, 5 and 6. Now that would be a turn up for the books, for while rain is forecast for tonight, today was expected to be dry.

It is certainly overcast and windy, a turnaround from yesterday. Air temperature is 21.9 degrees C, while the track temperature is 32.9 degrees. The wind is across the main straight, with a strong headwind into Turn 10. However, it slowly becomes a tailwind down the main straight.

Race control reveals that there is a 20% chance of rain.

Hamilton reports that there is a lot of rubber on Verstappen's side of the grid. The team assures him that it doesn't make much difference.

Ahead of the warm-up lap all are starting on softs bar Raikkonen who is on the mediums.

They head off on the warm-up lap, all getting away. As they head back on to the main straight, Verstappen is almost alongside Hamilton.

The grid forms.

They're away!

Hamilton and Verstappen are both quick off the line, while Lelcerc has a better start than Bottas.

Verstappen nips through on the entry to Turn 1, while Leclerc goes around the outside of Bottas in Turn 3, despite almost losing out to a fast starting Ricciardo in Turn 2, the Australian having already passes Sainz and Ocon.

Indeed, Perez has also made a good start and having passes Sainz and Ocon tucks up behind Ricciardo. The field gets through the first series of corners with no incidents.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc, Bottas, Ricciardo, Perez, Ocon, Sainz, Norris and Alonso.

By the end of the second lap, Verstappen is 1.7s ahead of Hamilton who is 2.9s clear of Leclerc.

Gasly in under investigation for being out of position at the start.

Bottas is all over the back of Leclerc, while further back Perez is hounding Ricciardo, likewise Vettel on Stroll and Schumacher shadowing Tsunoda.

On his mediums, Raikkonen is currently 14th.

With Leclerc lapping around a second slower than the leaders, this is a nightmare for Bottas.

Out come the yellows on lap 9 as Tsunoda reports his engine has stopped on the outside of Turn 10.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Barcelona, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by kenji, 10/05/2021 23:53

"Strange that one of the faster cars had to get assistance from the team in order to pass a slower car so that he could chase a slower car?"

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Spindoctor, 10/05/2021 10:37

"Another great team effort from Mercedes & Hamilton.
Strange that one of the "fastest cars" came 3rd, whilst a slower one came second.... Anyone would think that the driver makes a difference."

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3. Posted by Motorsport-fan, 10/05/2021 8:55

"Man, machine and team in perfect harmony."

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4. Posted by Kkiirmki, 10/05/2021 8:10

"It's taken a couple of races, but Mercedes has finally shown that they're still (way) ahead of the competition. Hopefully, this shuts up the entire Sky Commentary team from trying convince everyone that we're in for this fantastic season, with Hamilton and Verstappen fighting for the championship to the last race. Mercedes have gotten on top of their early season issues, as they usually do, and are back to being on top again. If it wasn't for the brilliance of Verstappen making it look closer than it actually is, Mercedes would be a long way ahead. Title number eight on the way; wrapped up with races to spare."

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5. Posted by kenji, 10/05/2021 1:05

"Mercedes had the fastest car and the fastest car won. A boring race. Time to ditch Barcelona and look for somewhere that will offer up more racing options. Results from strategy decisions are not what I want to see. Even the mid field was somewhat subdued!."

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6. Posted by flyinglap, 09/05/2021 18:41

"The performance of Hamilton has been his customary magistral, but on the other hand Red Bull really threw this win away. Even if they did not pit Verstappen right after Hamilton's pit stop, I am mystified as to why they still didn't pit him some 10 laps later (when their dire situation was obvious) for the softs instead, which would have permitted Verstappen to catch Hamilton at a rate of some 3 seconds per lap. I initially assumed the reason was that they didn't have any softs left, but in fact they did pit him for the softs eventually, going for the fastest lap when it was too late for the win. Am I missing something?"

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