What a day with Thomas

"What a day": the famous Hamilton countered Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton's black Mercedes had deserved the caresses of the record world champion.

After a tactical masterpiece and a subsequent mad ride, the Briton not only won the Spanish Grand Prix, he also celebrated the next important point victory in the thrilling World Cup duel with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen. “You always impress me,” said Hamilton in Barcelona shortly after he had patted his car almost affectionately in the direction of his overjoyed Silver Arrows crew: “What a day! Thanks for the hard work! "

Hamilton was not impressed by a successful attack by the Dutchman right in the first corner and countered brilliantly after a second pit stop in Catalonia. After his 100th pole, he drove to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya his 98th Grand Prix victory and the fifth Formula 1 success on the difficult to overtake track in a row. “In the end it just looked. But it wasn't, ”emphasized Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. Hamilton's Finnish team-mate Valtteri Bottas came in third.

And Verstappen? He was ahead for a long time and still had to admit defeat. “It is as it is, it was impossible to keep him behind us,” the Dutchman radioed from his car and then drew a bitter conclusion: “I almost saw it coming. There wasn't much we could have done. We were generally too slow - that was our biggest problem. "

Verstappen only finished second in his 100th race for Red Bull in the tire game, with Hamilton overtaking him with six laps to go. The triumph at the site of his first Formula 1 victory five years ago as the youngest driver in the motorsport premier class came to nothing. In the classification, Hamilton's lead over the classic grew to 14 points in two weeks in Monaco.

In the slipstream of the world championship fight, Sebastian Vettel experienced another race under the claims of a four-time world champion - or in short: To forget. 13th place. "It was not a good race for us," said the Hessian: "We find it difficult to take a step forward." Mick Schumacher was mindful in his fourth race as well, but he experienced a moment of shock during a pit stop.

He didn't get a tire change that much faster than he did during training. “Then I had a stationary bike,” he said, “and the car doesn't stop quickly. The main thing is that the boys are fine ». In the end, the 22-year-old Formula 2 champion could not do more than 18th place in the Haas after being lapped after a little more than halfway. It was more difficult than expected, "of course also frustrating".

The two World Cup opponents put a lot of pressure on right from the start. Verstappen knew like Hamilton: A preliminary decision could be made at the start. Verstappen was second on the grid on the actually dirtier inside, but thanks to a lot of rubber on the tarmac he got away really well, pushed himself just behind Hamilton, swerved and attacked the Spain winner of the past four years in the first corner. It was getting tight. Verstappen risked contact, and Hamilton backed away. The challenger led.

The two Germans came further back. Vettel had not only made 13th place in the qualification. Vettel, who was now in a crisis at Aston Martin, could not make up ground at first. In contrast to Schumacher, who first improved by two ranks and moved up to 16th place in the meantime.

Verstappen could not pull away, any lead would have been lost when the Alpha Tauri of the Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda stopped and the safety car had to be taken out. Verstappen also mastered the always tricky moment when the drivers are allowed to accelerate again with ease. Hamilton didn't come up at first. But the softest tire compound deteriorated, Hamilton put Verstappen under pressure, reduced the gap to less than a second when Verstappen drove in to change tires.

And then that: 4.2 seconds. It is not uncommon for the Red Bull crew to change four wheels in less than two seconds. The Mercedes command post and Hamilton knew that this could be the decisive phase of the race. Even a 2.7-second tire change did not have the desired effect from Mercedes' point of view. Hamilton stayed behind Verstappen, at least shortened the gap. A mistake by Verstappen and the Briton would be back in front. The Red Bull hopefuls made no mistake, but complained about the tires. When Hamilton was almost there, he turned towards the pits. Back on the track, he called up the top times like a robot.

Red Bull dared and left Verstappen outside: one-stop strategy. Around 21 seconds ahead with a good 20 laps. The Hamilton hunt was on. Once again, the record driver drove in a league of its own. On the 60th lap, Verstappen had to let Hamilton pass, the decision had been made, in order to get at least one additional point, he had the soft tires put on again.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210509-99-530311 / 7