Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes may have wobbled in the last round at Silverstone but his victory at the Spanish Grand Prix was as crushing an exhibition of superiority as he has delivered all season. This was the world champion in the zone, with such control, precision and pace he was on another level to his rivals. He rated it as close to perfection and one of his best drives. Here then was Hamilton mirroring one of his hero Ayrton Senna’s greatest moments.
After his pole lap at Monaco in 1988 when he was a second and a half clear of every other driver, Senna famously said that he felt he was no longer driving consciously. “I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension,” he said. “I was way over the limit, but still able to find even more.”
At the Circuit de Catalunya Hamilton drove a race that echoed the Brazilian’s experience. “I was in a daze out there, it felt really good,” he said. “I didn’t even know it was the last lap I was so zoned-in.”
Hamilton had found his groove, his touch to such an extent that he was, as they say of a batsman, seeing the ball like a beachball. Six races into the season he is over a ton up and eyeing an innings that will swiftly put him well out of reach of the opposition.
To put the victory in perspective, he lapped all but the top three in the field and finished 24 seconds in front of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in second, with his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas a distant and dejected third. Another record fell in doing so as with his 156th podium Hamilton overtook Michael Schumacher’s tally. The gap he is opening on the opposition is becoming a chasm. Hamilton now leads the championship with 132 points, 37 in front of Verstappen and 43 clear of Bottas.
Moreover this was a performance as statement, coming back after disappointment at Silverstone to affirm his intent to crush the competition out of the title fight as swiftly as possible.
With both Mercedes drivers having suffered severe tyre wear on the softer compound rubber and in the heat and heavy loads of Silverstone last Sunday, they were soundly beaten by Verstappen. The Mercedes team principal. Toto Wolff, had warned before the race he expected Verstappen to once more be quickest in race pace at Barcelona, but while the temperatures were high, the harder compound of tyre in use this weekend once more suited the Mercedes and Hamilton delivered with an almost serene control.
With the fears that the heat of Barcelona would once again be Mercedes’ achilles heel allayed, Hamilton was so focused he barely broke a sweat. He did admit it was physically challenging but that would have presented no problem to the world champion when every touch of every corner was clicking metronomically.
Yet like the very best he was also on top his game with the big picture. When Mercedes called him in for his second stop to take the quicker soft tyre he overruled them, insisting he would stick with the medium rubber that had served him so well up to that point. It was acknowledged as one his great strengths by Wolff.
“He drives in a league of his own, totally under control,” he said “The special thing for me was that we were ready to put soft tyres on his car and he said: ‘Give me medium.’ He had an absolutely instinctive understanding of the race.”
The team, too, had played their part. After Silverstone left them licking their wounds, they went away to examine how to help their tyres deal with the higher temperatures. With the track at 49C on Sunday they were rightly pleased with their efforts. A beaming Wolff announced he would now welcome more hot races.
The race was in Hamilton’s grip from the off after he made a very good start from pole, holding his lead on the 612-metre drag into turn one, while Bottas went backwards and Verstappen moved up to second.
Hamilton then opened a gap with a 1.4sec lead by lap four but Verstappen was matching the world champion’s times. Hamilton was controlling his pace carefully nursing his tyres without pushing and the Dutchman matched his pace.
The drama and tension of the previous round were absent as the frontrunners were all successfully managing the conditions and their tyres, although it swiftly became obvious that no amount of pushing would catch the world champion.
Through the first round of stops they remained in touch with one another but as the race progressed and it became clear the tyres were holding up, Hamilton simply slipped into that other-worldly extra gear. His lead extended to five seconds, then nine, and by the time of the second stops he was uncatchable. In the final stages he was down the road and gone. Another consummate win and another step toward the title complete.
This was a masterclass from the world champion, if one that made for an uninspiring spectacle. F1 wants to see a fight at the front, F1 needs a fight at the front, but the British driver has left the opposition wondering just how battle might be joined. For Hamilton and Mercedes this was very much normal service resumed in Barcelona. Happy daze indeed.
|FORMULA 1 ARAMCO GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA 2020 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (66 LAPS)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team W11||66||1:31:45.279||25|
|2.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB16||66||+ 24.177||18|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team W11||66||+ 44.752||16|
|4.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP20||65||1 lap behind||12|
|5.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP20||65||1 lap behind||10|
|6.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL35||65||1 lap behind||8|
|7.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF1000||65||1 lap behind||6|
|8.||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing RB16||65||1 lap behind||4|
|9.||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlfaTauri AT01||65||1 lap behind||2|
|10.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL35||65||1 lap behind||1|
|11.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team R.S.20||65||1 lap behind|
|12.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia AlfaTauri AT01||65||1 lap behind|
|13.||Esteban Ocon||Renault F1 Team R.S.20||65||1 lap behind|
|14.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C39||65||1 lap behind|
|15.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-20||65||1 lap behind|
|16.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C39||65||1 lap behind|
|17.||George Russell||Williams Racing FW43||65||1 lap behind|
|18.||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Racing FW43||64||2 laps behind|
|19.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-20||64||2 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF1000||38||Electrical|
Championship points are awarded on the results of the Final Classification of each Grand Prix to the race’s top-ten finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 sliding scale.
A bonus point is awarded to the driver finishing in the top-ten (Lewis Hamilton) and their corresponding team (Mercedes-AMG Petronas) for posting the fastest lap of the race.
- Sergio Pérez received a 5-second time penalty for ignoring waved blue flags.
- Daniil Kvyat received a 5-second time penalty for ignoring waved blue flags.
- The classification of Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez is provisional, subject to the outcome of any appeals lodged with the International Court of Appeal, relating to Racing Point’s use of brake ducts, the development of which was found to be in contravention of the Sporting Regulations.
Image via Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 Team
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