Lewis Hamilton re-establishes his points lead of the 2019 Formula One Championship with a perfectly managed victory over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton might have lost the pole to Valtteri Bottas at Barcelona, but he was dominant when it counted, taking victory in the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix. His win helped make history for Mercedes, with five straight team 1-2 finishes in the first five Grands Prix of 2019. The sombre Bottas finished in second place with Max Verstappen taking third place, returning to the Catalunya podium where he celebrated both his first F1 victory and Red Bull debut in 2016.
Bottas had soundly beaten Hamilton to pole position by over a half-second on Saturday, but clutch slippage gave the Finn a slow getaway, and the strong starting Hamilton won the drag race down to Turn 1. He would never relinquish the lead.
The only real drama occurred when Lando Norris’ McLaren tangled with Lance Stroll’s Racing Point 20-laps from the finish, bringing out the Safety Car. Nevertheless, Hamilton made a perfect restart, re-establishing his lead with the race’s fastest lap and taking the chequered flag for his third win of the season and the 76th victory of his F1 career.
Lewis Hamilton has F1’s all-time pole position record, but even he had to give full praise for Bottas’ staggering pole time early on in Q3. Six-tenths of a second equates to a massive gap in F1 terms, and Bottas’ smile and demeanour promised Hamilton would have all he could handle on race day.
All eyes in Barcelona were on a Ferrari resurgence after their domination of pre-season testing on this very track produced data that 2019 was the year they would bring the fight to Mercedes. Australia’s lacklustre start was temporarily forgotten with Charles Leclerc’s seemingly effortless Bahrain victory until it was given away in the final few laps due to an engine issue, followed by disappointments in China and Baku.
Ferrari arrived in Catalunya 74 points behind Mercedes. The Scuderia fast-tracked an upgraded engine package and brought a full selection of new aero improvements to Barcelona to re-energize their season at the track they “owned” in the pre-season. They seemed in control after leading FP1, but Mercedes calmly shut them out of the front row, with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull splitting Vettel in third from Leclerc in fifth place.
Race day promised perhaps more surprises. Sunday dawned with the hottest temps of the entire weekend – with 43-degree C track surface temps before the start.
The heat suggested two questions; would Mercedes now be out of balance as their rear tyres would be prone to blistering? Could Ferrari develop similar woes, leaving Verstappen’s Red Bull as a spoiler? All would be settled in the 565-metre run down to Turn 1.
Lewis Hamilton knows that overtaking is not easy in Barcelona, so the start represented the best place to make a move. At lights out, he was alongside Bottas’ right flank in a heartbeat. Vettel was also using the start as his best challenge and took up position on Bottas’ left as they ran three abreast into Turn 1. Hamilton grabbed the lead, while Vettel locked up his front tyres attempting to go around Bottas. Vettel took to the runout area and returned in the path of Leclerc.
As both Ferrari drivers lifted slightly for an instant to miss each other, Verstappen flung his Red Bull around the outside of both Ferrari’s and snatched third place. Amid this virtuosity, Bottas lost front downforce in the wake and slid wide. In that second, Hamilton buried his foot on the throttle while Bottas could only squeeze. By Lap 2, Hamilton led Bottas by 4-seconds.
While the front three, Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen were getting down to business, Sebastian Vettel’s flat-spotted tyres immediately sapped the German’s speed. With Leclerc eager to take up the charge to the front, Vettel eventually moved over to allow Leclerc to move into fourth place.
By now, Vettel’s flat spots were severe, and he urgently requested an early tyre change. Ferrari then split its strategies-Vettel would run a two-stop to counter Red Bull and Mercedes. Leclerc would switch to the hard tyre in an attempt to run a one-stop race.
Ferrari quickly ran afoul of the race plan, as Vettel rejoined behind Leclerc on faster tyres. Now he was being held up. This time, Ferrari allowed its drivers to race, but Leclerc pointed Vettel by at Turn 4 on lap 37.
The processional Grand Prix came alive eleven laps later. Stroll collided with Norris on Lap 46 – with the FIA deploying the safety car for debris removal, lapped cars were then allowed through to retake positions at the tail of the leading pack. Suddenly, the Spanish Grand Prix had awakened from its slumber with a chance for a thrilling five-way fight for the victory. Hamilton, Bottas and Leclerc all made pitstops under the safety car. Hamilton and Bottas kept their positions, while Leclerc rejoined behind both Verstappen and Vettel again.
When racing resumed on Lap 54, Hamilton quickly pulled away from Bottas at the restart and won by four seconds. Pierre Gasly attacked but failed to pass Leclerc for fifth place just as the two Haas drivers made light contact into Turn 1 directly behind them.
Gasly then came under attack from Kevin Magnussen – the Haas driver had got ahead of team-mate Romain Grosjean after a minor nudge, but Gasly held on sixth place.
Magnussen went on to finish seventh, ahead of Carlos Sainz’ McLaren in eighth. Kvyat fell to ninth and Grosjean fought off Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon to save his tenth place in the final laps.
It’s now on to the Grand Prix of Monaco on May 23-26.
See you there.