Lewis Hamilton overcame Max Verstappen to take his third win of the 2021 Formula 1 season in a race-long duel at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Mercedes’ world champion had to come from behind after losing the lead on the first lap, but an early move to a two-stop strategy allowed Hamilton to bear down on Verstappen at the end and snatch first place back.
Verstappen had made a slightly better start than Hamilton and then steamed down the inside into Turn 1 to take the lead from second on the grid.
Hamilton lurked within 1.5s of the Red Bull through the first stint, which included a safety car interruption after Yuki Tsunoda’s 16th-placed AlphaTauri parked at Turn 10, but lost ground by staying out four laps longer than Verstappen before making a first pitstop to change from softs to mediums. That appeared to be a let-off for Red Bull, given Verstappen’s stop had been a slow 4.2s.
Though the Mercedes was six seconds behind Verstappen when it rejoined following that stop, Hamilton rapidly demolished that gap.
When he got onto Verstappen’s tail, Hamilton couldn’t get close enough to try a pass despite the speed with which he’d caught the Red Bull.
With 23 laps to go, Hamilton dived in for a second pitstop, with Red Bull deciding to stay out in the lead rather than immediately responding and risking being jumped by a fast out-lap on new tyres from Hamilton.
That left Hamilton with a 23s gap to close down to take the lead, but Verstappen with the task of a 42-lap stint on the set of medium tyres with which he’d be defending the lead.
Hamilton was immediately over a second per lap quicker than Verstappen on his new tyres, and sometimes close to double that.
The only impediment in his charge to the front was his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who had lost touch with the lead battle on the first lap when Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari passed him around the outside of Turn 3 after Bottas lost momentum in the wake of Verstappen and Hamilton’s wheel to wheel battle.
Bottas, who eventually got ahead of Leclerc in the first pitstops and then gained second when Hamilton made his second stop, was in no hurry to let Hamilton past but was overtaken into Turn 10.
Hamilton lost a little ground to Verstappen on that lap, before regaining momentum and appearing on the Red Bull’s tail with seven laps left. Next time around, Hamilton got his first proper DRS run at Verstappen and smoothly passed him around the outside into Turn 1 to clinch victory.
Hamilton takes the lead#SpanishGP 🇪🇸 #F1 pic.twitter.com/BCyJUtwKhj
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 9, 2021
Verstappen then pitted and grabbed the fastest lap bonus on his fresh tyres.
Bottas completed the podium ahead of Leclerc, with Sergio Perez recovering from his poor qualifying to take fifth – via a bold round-the-outside pass on Daniel Ricciardo at Turn 1.
Ricciardo had his best race for McLaren so far, keeping Perez’s faster Red Bull at bay for a long time and then resisting Carlos Sainz Jr’s Ferrari for sixth. The second McLaren of Lando Norris was two places further back.
Esteban Ocon was one of just two drivers who actually made a one-stop strategy work as he held off Pierre Gasly to take ninth for Alpine. Gasly had to recover from a five-second penalty for starting outside his grid slot.
Fernando Alonso had been in line for a point on the same tactic as Ocon, as he fended off a massive queue of cars until late on. Once he started being shoved down the order, Alonso gave in and made a pitstop, leaving him 17th.
|Pos||Name||Car||Laps||Laps Led||Total Time||Fastest Lap||Pitstops||Pts|
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda||66||54||+15.841s||1m18.149s||2||19|
|5||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull-Honda||66||0||+1m03.671s||1m19.483s||2||10|
|8||Lando Norris||McLaren-Mercedes||65||0||+1 lap||1m21.279s||2||4|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Alpine-Renault||65||0||+1 lap||1m23.311s||1||2|
|10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri-Honda||65||0||+1 lap||1m21.375s||2||1|
|11||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||65||0||+1 lap||1m22.607s||2||0|
|12||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||65||0||+1 lap||1m22.868s||1||0|
|13||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||65||0||+1 lap||1m22.82s||2||0|
|14||George Russell||Williams-Mercedes||65||0||+1 lap||1m23.208s||2||0|
|15||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||65||0||+1 lap||1m22.802s||2||0|
|16||Nicholas Latifi||Williams-Mercedes||65||0||+1 lap||1m22.905s||3||0|
|17||Fernando Alonso||Alpine-Renault||65||0||+1 lap||1m21.182s||2||0|
|18||Mick Schumacher||Haas-Ferrari||64||0||+2 laps||1m22.637s||2||0|
|19||Nikita Mazepin||Haas-Ferrari||64||0||+2 laps||1m24.04s||2||0|