Lewis Hamilton held off team-mate Valtteri Bottas in dominant fashion at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya to head a fifth successive 1-2 finish for Mercedes this season as the Silver Arrows’ campaign of domination continued at the first European race of 2019.
And the champ goes back to the top of the standings 👀 pic.twitter.com/E87ulYa5U8
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 12, 2019
In qualifying for round five, it was Bottas who found the edge over the remainder of the field, taking a third consecutive pole position, defeating Hamilton by a whopping 0.634s to claim the top spot. Despite this initial pace advantage, however, on race day it was Hamilton who would be outpacing Bottas, with the British racer securing a strong start from the front row of the grid to lead into Turn 1.
Behind, Bottas was able to hang onto second, fending off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel who attempted to snatch the second spot from the Finn in the right-hander, only to lose out to Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen who quickly powered his way up to third, snaking past the four-time champion.
At the front of the field and with a clear road ahead, Hamilton was able to streak off into the distance, opening up a defined advantage over Bottas by pushing his Soft compound tyres to the limit, setting multiple fastest laps to establish a firm 10-second lead. While Hamilton was the lead car on the track, surprisingly, it was Bottas who was the first Mercedes in the pit lane, fitting a set of Medium tyres at the end of lap 26 although Hamilton swiftly followed one lap later, copying his team-mate’s strategy to maintain his lead.
With rapid tyre wear rates posing an ever-present threat in Spain, the main topic of conversation was that of race strategy and what would be the fastest way to the chequered flag: Starting on the Softs and pitting onto a set of Hard tyres would mean that only one stop would be required, although the Hard tyres were 1.8s a lap slower than the Softs. By comparison, a two-stop strategy could be used by utilising two sets of Soft tyres and one set of Mediums, although an additional trip down the pit lane would be required.
Mercedes opted to take the second approach, with critical tyre degradation for Hamilton seeing the Briton’s rears particularly suffer in the mid-stages of the race. Again, however, Bottas was pitted before his leading team-mate, fitting another set of Softs with this marking the Finn’s final stop. Contact between McLaren’s Lando Norris and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll resulted in the deployment of the race’s sole safety car, with the yellow flag running gifting Hamilton a free pit stop, boxing to fit the red-striped Soft compound tyre to run until lap 66.
After six laps of controlled running, Hamilton led the field to green and just as he had at the start of the race, powered off into the distance, opening up a four-second advantage in a 13-lap sprint to the finish, taking the chequered flag to front another dominant 1-2 finish for the Silver Arrows – the team equalling its strongest run of results to date, last seen during the Hamilton-Rosberg era from 2014-2016.
“I’m very, very happy with the overall performance of this team,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. “It’s just remarkable. Everyone has worked so hard. To come here with an upgrade and be so dominant this weekend is a real demonstration of just how powerful this team is and that it is the best team in the world. We’re so united and my job really is trying to come in each weekend and just try and deliver for the team.”
P1 🤘🏾🔥 We did it!! What an incredible feeling this is…Thank you all for your love and positivity. This is yet more history made for our team with 5 one-twos! So proud! #nevergiveup #TeamLH @MercedesAMGF1 pic.twitter.com/iE8HUuSMyX
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) May 12, 2019
For Bottas, an apparent clutch problem explained the Finn’s poor getaway from pole position while the driver admitted that the race was effectively decided in Turn 1, with the nature of the circuit and Hamilton’s ability to control the pace at the front of the field leaving the second-placed finisher searching for an opportunity – an opportunity that did not materialise:
“It is really impressive what we’re doing as a team so for that, hats off to everyone at the factory and here,” explained Bottas post-race to Sky Sports F1. “It was honestly very annoying. I lost it at the start and I can look in the mirror and honestly say that it was not my fault. I had some issue with the clutch, some vibration at the start which I had never had before. That’s why the getaway was slow I’m keen to find out what happened.
“I know it’s quite a lot easier at the front. You can control the pace and when you are behind you’re trying to keep up and the dirty air, on this kind of track, you’re sliding around. I was expecting the race to be kind of decided into the first corner and then, even though you try, you try to wait for the opportunities, it was game over.”
Using a two-stop strategy, Verstappen took the chequered flag in third place to secure a second podium finish of 2019, defeating Ferrari who cruised to the finish in a disappointing fourth and fifth, Vettel edging ahead of team-mate Leclerc with the aid of team orders as the Scuderia’s difficult season continued.
Happy to be on the podium 💪 After a hectic start, our race pace was good and we were competitive. Thanks @redbullracing and @HondaRacingF1, and also all fans for voting me Driver of the Day 🙌 #KeepPushing 🇪🇸 #SpanishGP pic.twitter.com/hz52iz6Im5
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) May 12, 2019
Pierre Gasly took sixth place in the second Red Bull after briefly challenging Leclerc for fifth on the lap 53 restart, coming under pressure from seventh-placed finisher Kevin Magnussen who secured a haul of six points for the American outfit while costing Romain Grosjean eighth place after contact between the pair resulted in the Frenchman dropping to 10th, with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat taking eighth and ninth.
The Formula 1 circus next heads to the Principality of Monaco for the Monaco Grand Prix on May 26, returning to the iconic and historic streets to compete in the race that is widely regarded as the crown jewel of motor racing. With a low reliance on power, a requirement on high downforce and given the sheer unpredictability of the race, Formula 1 may see a shakeup at round six where Mercedes seeks to continue its current domination while Ferrari and Red Bull aims to end the German marque’s reign.