The 2021 Spanish Grand Prix saw Mercedes outsmart Red Bull as Lewis Hamilton fought intelligently to win the race. Max Verstappen settled for second place as Valtteri Bottas claimed the final spot on the podium.
The Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona is notorious to be difficult to overtake. Hamilton started the race from pole and Verstappen alongside on the front row. As the lights went out, Verstappen got a tremendous start and was able to perfectly place his Red Bull into turn 1. Hamilton was forced to yield and settle into second. But there were 66 laps still to go. Verstappen started to pull away from Hamilton and Hamilton to the rest of the pack.
The race was to be won by strategy but was down to the drivers to make the strategies work. Verstappen dived into the pits on lap 24 for a fresh set of medium tyres. But a slow stop by Red Bull cost him two seconds more than Verstappen would have liked.
However, as Hamilton felt comfortable on his soft tyres, he stayed out for a few more laps to create a gap to Verstappen. Eventually, Hamilton pitted for fresh medium compound tyres. a near-perfect 2.7-second pit stop allowed Hamilton not to lose out much to Verstappen who re-took the lead. However, Verstappen’s tyres were now five laps older.
By lap 36, Hamilton was within the DRS range. But getting the move done would require more. After keeping close to Verstappen’s tail for a few laps, Hamilton stopped again for a set of medium tyres on lap 43. But Red Bull withheld temptation to react and not repeat what happened in Hungary in 2019. It would turn out to cost them dearly yet again.
Hamilton exited the pits in third behind teammate Bottas. With 22 laps to go, Hamilton had a 22-second gap to Verstappen to make up. As he started to approach Bottas, the Finn was advised not to hold him up. However, Bottas wouldn’t yield to team orders it seemed and Hamilton was required to make a genuine overtake. The ordeal cost Hamilton four-tenths to Verstappen.
Hamilton although began to charge towards the leading Red Bull, Bottas stopped for fresh soft tyres on lap 54.
On lap 60, Hamilton had now closed in the gap to Verstappen and then used DRS and superior grip to take the lead into turn 1.
Verstappen now had to cover off the second Mercedes of Bottas to keep his second place. Red Bull called the dutchman in for fresh soft tyres. But he was now 22-seconds behind Hamilton and six laps remained in the race. As Hamilton went on to win the race, Verstappen maintained second while Bottas came across the line in third.
Behind them, Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari finished fourth ahead of Sergio Perez in fifth for Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo claimed the sixth place for McLaren. Carlos Sainz brought his Ferrari home in seventh. Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were the final three drivers to score championship points as they finished eighth, ninth and 10th respectively. But it was Verstappen who took the bonus point for the fastest lap of the race.
Yuki Tsunoda was the only retirement after a problem with his Honda engine of his AlphaTauri in the initial stages of the race.
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