Hamilton lauds ‘good gamble, really great strategy’
A day after making history as the first Formula 1 driver to seal 100 poles, Lewis Hamilton was able to celebrate a hard-fought race win in the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Despite starting at the front of the grid, Hamilton lost the lead in the first corner with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen diving down the inside of turn 1 leaving Hamilton unable to respond.
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But the Mercedes it wall were already on top of the situation and crafted a precision strategy with a longer first stint on soft tyres than the Red Bull which ultimately returned Hamilton to the front with six laps remaining.
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“Such a close start, obviously there was a little rubber down on the right-hand side and the Red Bull made a great start,” Hamilton told the media in parc ferme after the chequered flag.
“Then I was just hunting and I was so close for so long,” he said of the first 23 laps where he stayed locked to the back of the Red Bull through to the first round of pit stops. “I didn’t think in doing that I was going to be able to make the tyres last.
“I just managed to just keep them in somehow,” he said. Verstappen pitted first and Hamilton stayed out for a further five laps, which was a risky call by the team as the Red Bull was able to put in faster laps in fresher mediums.
“A long way to come from 20 seconds back, but it was a good gamble, really great strategy,” he acknowledged, crediting the team’s strategy chief James Vowles for the call.
Hamilton was right on the back of the Red Bull when the team made the next crucial call to bring Hamilton in for a second stop, which the world champion admitted he’d been in two minds about.
“The plan all weekend to make sure we had two mediums, to be able to do a two-stop,” Hamilton explained. “Even though one-stop potentially looks better, I know from experience here that a one-stop is very, very hard to pull off.
“As soon as we had the pace that we had, I knew as soon as I could get past him if I could,” he continued. “I was about to get, I think, a shot to get past him before I pitted.
“I was really conflicted: do I come in or do I ignore the call and stay out?” he said. “I did what the team, asked and that’s because there is great trust between us.”
It proved decisive and Verstappen had no comeback once Hamilton took the lead to claim his third win of the 2021 F1 world championship.
“It was a remarkable job by everyone in this team,” said Hamilton. “What a day!”
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