Hamilton learned more about Verstappen than ever in Spain - The Race
Formula 1

Hamilton learned more about Verstappen than ever in Spain

May 9 2021
By Scott Mitchell-Malm

Lewis Hamilton reckons he learned more about Formula 1 rival Max Verstappen while following him in the Spanish Grand Prix than in “all the other races” combined.

Hamilton lost the lead to Verstappen when the Red Bull driver launched a robust move into the first corner at the start, but he stalked him throughout the rest of the stint and again throughout his second stint.

“When you’re with people on track, you get to see different things and watch closely. I learned a lot about his car and a lot about how he uses it” :: Lewis Hamilton

That meant Hamilton spent almost half the race either within DRS range of Verstappen or just over a second behind him, before eventually switching to a two-stop strategy and passing him late on as Verstappen faded with older tyres.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton said he is “continuing to love this battle we’re having” as he and Verstappen continued their 100% record of going wheel-to-wheel in races this season, and said the lessons he took from shadowing Verstappen made it a “really good day” for him.

“I learned a lot about Max today,” he said. “Perhaps more than all the other races probably put together. So, this has been a good one, in that sense.”

Asked if he could elaborate, Hamilton laughed and said: “Not particularly, no! It was just good.

“When you’re with people on track, you get to see different things and watch closely.

“Obviously I was following relatively closely so I learned a lot about his car and a lot about how he uses it.

“So that it was a good race in that respect.”

Lewis Hamilton wins Spanish Grand Prix 2021

Victory at Barcelona meant Hamilton moved onto 94 points – his best start to an F1 season – and opened up a 14-point lead over Verstappen in the process.

Studying the behaviour of the Red Bull and his chief rival is an example of how Hamilton is still trying to raise his own game.

“Every year I come back and I’m always trying to improve, and most often it tends to seem impossible, but it’s a necessity,” he said.

“The Red Bulls have started off incredibly strong, they do both have a championship winning car and opportunity.

“As do we. And it’s going to take everything from us, not only me bringing my A game but the team bringing their A game weekend in, weekend out.

“Otherwise, these guys will be winning.”

Hamilton sounded nervous during the race when he emerged from his second pitstop more than 20 seconds behind Verstappen and seemed to genuinely fear the gap was too big to reel in.

But he quickly began lapping between one and two seconds faster than Verstappen, and ultimately was able to pass him with a few laps still remaining.

He said despite his initial doubt, Mercedes had executed a “perfect” strategy having known a two-stop was a serious prospect.

“It was really interesting because all weekend, a one-stop strategy was the quickest way to the end of the race,” said Hamilton.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Spanish Grand Prix Race Day Barcelona, Spain

“But this is one of the most abrasive circuits that we go to in terms of how aggressive it is with the tyres, and it isn’t easy to make these tyres go that distance – even when the track was a lot cooler this weekend than perhaps it was last year here, and compared to how it was yesterday.

“All these little details have an effect on how these tyres last but still it is a really challenging circuit to save them and make them go the distance.

“It was quite clear early on to me that with how close I was pushing to keep within a second or just over a second behind Max, I knew that I was going to a two-stop strategy.

“But when I came out 20-odd seconds behind I thought that seems so far, it’s such a huge gap to close.

“I had plenty of laps to catch up but I didn’t know whether or not I’d have enough pace at the end, tyre-wise. But then you have the offset, he’s going to have even worse pace at the end.

“So it was the perfect strategy.”

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