Battle of the strategies leads Hamilton to win in Spain
Driver of the Day Analysis following the Spanish Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton took the win at the Spanish Grand Prix, continuing the winning-streak that he has had at this track since 2017. The seven-time world champion now has six wins at Barcelona-Catalunya under his belt, matching that of Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton had the edge on Max Verstappen during qualifying, taking pole by only about four hundredths of a second. A win from pole position at Barcelona-Catalunya is expected-- commentators said that more drivers finish first off of pole there than at most street circuits-- but Hamilton’s battle for the win against Verstappen was anything but predictable.
Hamilton began the race on the back foot as Verstappen gained track position just after the start, making a bold overtake to take the lead around turn one. It didn’t take long for Verstappen to create a gap, but a safety car deployment on lap 8 meant that gap would contract.
Even after the safety car, Verstappen’s hold on the lead was not compromised. It was clear that if Hamilton had a chance to win, it would be down to tyre strategy. Verstappen would pit first, switching from softs to mediums on lap 24. Hamilton responds five laps later, also moving onto the yellow-marked tyres. With fresher tyres, Hamilton was on the hunt for the lead.
By lap 40, Hamilton was closing in on Verstappen, and was predicted to overtake by the race’s end. In a sudden move, Hamilton boxed for a fresh set of mediums on lap 43.
“I was very conflicted, like do I come in or do I ignore the call and stay out?”, Hamilton said of the pit stop in the post race interview. Despite his hesitation, he obeyed his team’s call to switch to the two-stop.
With all the teams teetering between a one-stop and two-stop strategy throughout the day, it was unclear which selection would end up reaping the rewards. This was made abundantly clear as the two cars battling for the lead diverged, one taking a last-minute stop and the other deciding to try and hold out to the end.
“It had been the plan all weekend for us to make sure we had two [sets of] mediums, if we had to do a two stop,” Hamilton said in the post race interview. “Even though a one stop potentially looked better, I know from experience here that a one stop is very, very hard to pull off.”
After boxing, Hamilton came out of the pit lane in P3, behind his teammate, Valterri Bottas, and over twenty seconds behind race leader Verstappen. He had to make up a large amount of time to retrieve the top spot.
Lucky for Hamilton, Verstappen was not happy with his tyres, saying on the team radio that he may not be able to “make it to the end”. His struggle for pace gave Hamilton an advantage, one that would lead to his win.
Ultimately, Hamilton’s pace was faster than predicted and allowed him to reach Verstappen, whose tyres were wearing out quickly, earlier than expected. He overtook Bottas for P2 on lap 52 and took the race lead on lap 60-- reaching the chequered flag P1.
The Spanish Grand Prix was a battle of the strategies, and Hamilton showed off his experience and adaptability once again, all while proving that the championship is still in his hands.
Driver of the Day Analysis
- Lewis Hamilton - 22.6%
- Max Verstappen - 19.7%
- Charles Leclerc - 12.3%
- Nikita Mazepin - 7.3%
- Daniel Ricciardo - 6.5%
Hamilton took the title of Driver of the Day by a slim margin, just beating out his main rival of the day, Verstappen. It is not often that Hamilton wins Driver of the Day, as his performances are often overlooked by fans due to his staggering consistency-- and that means any time he does win, he had to have done something extra special. By adapting to an unexpected strategy call, and showing great pace at a track where it is exceptionally hard to follow, Hamilton put on an impressive show for fans on Sunday.
Verstappen was not far behind Hamilton in votes, and with good reason. He had a great race despite the strategy not working out for him, and an incredible start that may have been the catalyst for the battle for first. Charles Leclerc had a decent share as well, with a consistent race that saw him finish just off the podium in P4.
Fourth on the list was Nikita Mazepin, likely due to continued calls by people on social media for viewers to vote him Driver of the Day. The trend, however, didn’t succeed this week. Daniel Ricciardo had his best result on pure pace this weekend, and looked very strong in the car, fending off Sergio Perez for a good portion of the race.
In the end, my pick for Driver of the Day has to be Hamilton. His performance was an incredible showing, and it was great to watch him put his vast experience to use in a high-pressure race. He had to fight for the win, and it is these kinds of races when we truly see the champion he is.
This is the third of many installments of my “Driver of the Day Analysis” series! If you enjoyed this one and are interested in reading about each race weekend’s Driver of the Day winner, be sure to follow to make sure you don’t miss out!