Hamilton left dazed by scorching success in Spain
Lewis Hamilton looked in a completely different league in today’s Spanish Grand Prix as he led from lights to flag to secure his 88th Formula 1 Grand Prix victory.
Hamilton finished the race with a 24s lead over Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, while a late pit stop meant that his own Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas pipped him to the extra championship point for fastest lap.
But that was the only slight blot on Hamilton’s record this weekend, which even the driver admitted had been one of the best drives he’d ever experienced.
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“God, it felt good out there today,” Hamilton told the media after the finish. “I was just in a daze out there, I was just in a different [zone], I felt really good.
“I didn’t even know it was the last lap at the end, that’s how zoned in I was. I was ready to keep going!”
“Today though I felt like I was in such a different headspace in the car. It was awesome. It was one of the best feelings that I’ve had in a long, long time.
Just focus, no mistakes, and being able to deliver each lap. It was like the most beautiful feeling of just flowing lap by lap!”
Hamilton had come into the weekend worried that Red Bull might have the upper hand at the hot and sunny Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. In similar conditions last week at Silverstone, Mercedes suffered badly with tyre degradation which opened the door to a surprise win for Verstappen.
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But there was no sign of a recurrence of that this time, with Mercedes once again showing a remarkable ability to learn from a defeat one week in order to learn and improve for the next race.
“It was a real surprise, because we had this problem with the tyres. Management was very, very good,” he said. “Fantastic effort from the team.
“That’s ultimately our understanding of what happened last week – that we brought into this weekend – has inevitably enabled us to do what we did today.”
Hamilton himself played a crucial role in the successful strategy, when he countermanded the team’s decision to put him onto soft compound tyres for the final stint.
While Bottas followed that route and was left short of beating Verstappen for second place, Hamilton told the team he wanted to stay on the mediums.
“It’s something I studied very hard before the race, understanding what tyres we were going to be using and what strategy we were going to do,” he explained.
“I was very conscious of getting the perfect start today, and it really was sweet. I didn’t have to move off line, just dead straight. After that it was really about managing the tyres and I think I got the settings just right
“But I didn’t know quick they [Red Bull] would be,” he admitted. ‘So I was just trying to get a measure of [Max] during those early laps and wait for my tyres to stabilise. After that I was able to just eke out the gap a bit and make those tyres last.
“I came to understand I could make the tyres last longer than we had planned,” he continued. “I was even looking potentially going for a one-stop, but I think the strategy we have was just right.
“At the end, there was no need to take a risk of going on the soft tyre. I had a fresh, brand new medium tyre that I think was best,” he said. “I had the safe gap and I think the medium tyre was just the safest tyre to put on, so I was happy with that.”
“I think that was really the difference today, just tyre management,” he concluded. “All in all I think it was one of the best performances we’ve had for a while.”
Despite his success today, Hamilton remains wary about how good his chances are of clinching a seventh world championship.
“It’s a lot closer than people think,” he said. “In the race generally they’re right there with us.”
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