Formula 1 raced in back-to-back weekends in neighboring countries as they went from racing in Portugal last week, to Spain this weekend. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen battled once again with Mercedes winning with a bold pit strategy as Hamilton picked up his third-race win of the 2021 season.
It was a clean first lap as the drivers battled for positioning on a track where overtaking is particularly difficult. Verstappen, like he did at Imola in the second race of the season, forced his way past Hamilton on the first lap to take the lead.
Mercedes lost another place on the opening lap as Charles Leclerc got passed Valtteri Bottas for third place. Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo gained several positions at the start, moving up two spots each with Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz each dropping two spots.
On lap 9, Yuki Tsunoda’s engine stalled at turn 10, forcing him to retire from the race for the first time in his rookie season in F1. It brought out the safety car, allowing the drivers to extend the use of their tires. AlphaTauri’s misfortunes were further highlighted as Pierre Gasly started the race out of position, suffering a five-second time penalty.
On lap 24, Verstappen’s pit stop was 4.2 seconds, allowing for Hamilton to have a chance to undertake. However, Mercedes kept Hamilton out an extra five laps, hoping that the fresher tires would give them the advantage over the Red Bull leader. After Bottas overtook Leclerc, the two Mercedes began hunting down Verstappen.
Verstappen held his lead over Hamilton when Mercedes took a gamble on lap 43, sending Hamilton to pit lane for fresh tires in an attempt to pass Verstappen at the end of the race. This is similar to the decision Mercedes made in the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix as Hamilton passed Verstappen with a few laps to go on fresher tires to pick up the win.
The decision paid off as Hamilton passed Verstappen for the lead on lap 60 with his fresher tires. Later that lap, Verstappen pitted to get the fastest lap of the race, which he did on lap 62.
Hamilton picked up his third victory of the 2021 season, maintaining his lead in the driver’s championship battle over Verstappen. It is the sixth victory for Hamilton at the Spanish Grand Prix and his 59th career victory from pole position. Bottas finished third to pick up his 50th podium as as Mercedes driver.
Leclerc finished fourth for the second time this season.
Perez finished fifth, gaining three positions after starting the race eighth. Ricciardo finished sixth, picking up his fourth top-10 finish of the 2021 season. This is the first time this season Ricciardo finished ahead of his teammate Lando Norris, who finished eighth.
Sainz finished seventh in his home track at Barcelona.
Alpine struggled in this race as Ocon finished ninth after starting fifth, and Fernando Alonso suffered tire issues, forcing him back down to 17th at the end of the race.
Gasly was able to salvage a championship point despite his penalty earlier in the race to round out the top 10.