F1: Hamilton unstoppable in Spain
Updated: Sep 9
Lewis Hamilton drove a perfect race to record his fourth win of the season and the 88th of his career as Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Mercedes's Valterri Bottas completed the podium.
16th August 2020
Having started on Pole, Lewis Hamilton got off the line well with Valterri Bottas alongside him who also made a decent start. On the run-down to the first corner, Max Verstappen tucked into Hamilton's slipstream and was able to get alongside and ahead of Bottas as Racing Point's Lance Stroll, who followed closely behind the Finn, squeezed down the inside and nicked third.
Hamilton led ahead of Verstappen, Stroll and Bottas. Round Turn three, Bottas got back ahead of Sergio Perez in the other Racing Point and set about catching back up to Stroll.
After the flurry of the first lap, a few drivers had made up places with some losing some. Bottas was the most notably loser having dropped from 2nd to 4th while McLaren's Lando Norris dropped from 8th to 10th. Haas's Kevin Magnussen moved up to 14th after starting in 16th and despite qualifying last for the first time in his F1 career, Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi moved up one place to 19th and continued his streak of making up places at each race this year.
Onto Lap 5, Bottas made his move down into Turn one on Stroll to move ahead back into third place. On Lap 12, Mercedes told Hamilton to push as the championship leader started to set fastest lap after fastest lap to extend his lead over Verstappen. By lap 15, the gap had grown from 1.6 seconds to 3.7 seconds with Bottas a further 2.3 seconds behind Verstappen in third.
Albon blinked first and pitted on lap 18. He dropped ten places and rejoined in 16th on the Hard tyre. Onto lap 21, Hamilton's gap up front had grown to 7.7 seconds while Verstappen's radio messages about his tyres continued. Red Bull finally decided to act and pitted the Dutchman on lap 22.
With a 1.9 second pit-stop, Verstappen rejoined ahead of the racing Point duo of Stroll and Perez on the Medium tyre. Mercedes reacted on lap 24 with a double stack for both Hamilton and Bottas. Hamilton rejoined in the lead while Bottas rejoined in third, behind Verstappen, but ahead of the Racing Points.
Red Bull's gamble to pit Albon early didn't seem to have worked for nearing halfway through the race he was overtaken by McLaren's Carlos Sainz. Racing Point pitted Stroll and then Perez was next but he came out just behind the McLaren on the Medium tyre. Sainz was on a definite two-stop as he was now on the Soft tyre. However, Perez made light work of the McLaren with a move round the outside of turn 1 for 6th.
At halfway through the race, Hamilton's gap up front reduced to 3.7 seconds over Verstappen as the Racing Point team-mates battled over 5th. Albon managed to finally get past the Renault of Esteban Ocon for 8th as Ferrari's Charles Leclerc hustled Norris for 11th. Ocon was now being the bottle in the pack having not pitted as Alpha Tauri's Pierre Gasly was next to overtake the Frenchman. He pitted on lap 35 and released Norris, Leclerc and Daniil Kvyat.
The second Renault of Daniel Ricciardo pitted. He was running in 4th and after his pit-stop, he rejoined in 13th. The hard-working Leclerc was left facing backwards at turn 15 after his Ferrari engine just stopped working. He dropped out of the points but was able to restart his engine and get going again.
Hamilton's lead had extended to 9 seconds ahead of Verstappen on lap 40 but the Red Bull driver had now been reeled in by Bottas with the gap reduced to 1.7 seconds. Ferrari decided to retire Leclerc after problems with his seatbelts as drivers started to see darker clouds on the horizon.
Verstappen pitted from 2nd and rejoined in the Medium tyre in 3rd. A second pit-stop for Sainz sees the home-favourite rejoin in 10th ahead of Albon who also pitted for a second time.
On Lap 49, Bottas pitted for a second time, swapping the Medium tyres for the Soft. Mercedes told Hamilton to pit but the reigning champion didn't want to pit for the Soft tyre. He stayed out as Bottas rejoined behind Verstappen in 3rd. Hamilton obeyed the order and pitted on lap 51. He went onto the Medium tyre and rejoined comfortably in the lead.
Behind, Sebastian Vettel was the sole Ferrari out on track and ran in fifth come Lap 52 having not a second pit-stop. Discussions between himself and the Ferrari pit-wall erupted as the four time world champion took control of the strategy and the situation and made the call to go to the end on the current tyres.
Vettel had nothing to lose and despite Stroll and Sainz Jr nipping past, Vettel held onto seventh marking his best result of the year.
Upfront, Bottas failed to make any inroads into the six second gap Verstappen had been able to maintain. Bottas bailed on the second-last lap to box for a new set of Mediums to go for the fastest lap. He duly took the fastest lap award preventing Hamilton from having a clean sweep as the Brit crossed the line to win.
Behind the top three, on his return Perez finished in fourth but was demoted to fifth after a five second time penalty for ignoring blue flags when Hamilton lapped the Racing Point, this promoted Stroll to fourth.