Lewis Hamilton wins Spanish Grand Prix despite losing lead to rival Max Verstappen at first corner after smart pit stop

LEWIS HAMILTON’s reign in Spain saw him open up a 14-point lead in the F1 title race.

The world champion’s fifth consecutive victory in Barcelona – also his 98th win of his career – ensured this is his best-ever start to a season.

Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish GP for the fifth straight time with a great comeback driveCredit: Getty

Hamilton overtook Max Verstappen with just six laps remaining for victory

Hamilton overtook Max Verstappen with just six laps remaining for victoryCredit: Getty

Not bad considering he doesn’t have the quickest Formula One car.

That belongs to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who leapfrogged Hamilton at the start but was “a sitting duck” as the brilliant Brit reeled in his advantage to overtake him seven laps from the end.

It was a pulsating contest as Hamilton and Verstappen made this a two-horse race after the hapless Valtteri Bottas faded from the third corner.

The Finn almost put the mockers on it when it made it hard for his teammate to overtake, despite being ordered to move aside.

Hamilton eventually forced his way through with a move that oozed class and displayed the gulf in talent that exists between the two.

Aside from Hamilton’s talent on track, it was a masterclass from the Mercedes mathematicians on the pitwall and at their Brackley HQ, who called a decisive pitstop for Hamilton on lap 44.

When he came out from the pits, he was 22 seconds behind Verstappen with 22 laps remaining.

In doing so, Hamilton had fresher tyres yet crucially it meant Red Bull did not have time to respond and pit Verstappen from the lead, as he would have been overtaken by the Mercedes man.

Hamilton's two pit-stops strategy paid off brilliantly

Hamilton’s two pit-stops strategy paid off brilliantlyCredit: AFP

Verstappen will be left wondering how he didn't win

Verstappen will be left wondering how he didn’t winCredit: AP

They were hamstrung and Verstappen knew it as Hamilton sliced away at the gap before making the move, a simple overtake at Turn One at the start of lap 60.

Hamilton thanked Merc’s F1 strategy chief James Vowles over the team radio after taking the chequered flag before explaining their canny plan to stop twice.

He said: “Red Bull got a great start and after that I was just hunting and I just managed to keep the tyres in somehow.

“I was a long way to come back from, 20-odd seconds back, but it was a really great strategy from the team.

“I knew the plan was to do two pit stops. Even though I know one-stop is potentially the best, I know from experience here that a one-stop is very very hard to pull off.

“As soon as I had the pace, I could get past him. What a remarkable job. What a day.”

Credit to Hamilton for he held it together after losing his lead at the start and there is no doubt that the fight with Verstappen has forced him to go up a gear.

So much so that 1996 world champion Damon Hill hailed Hamilton as “one of the most talented people to walk the earth”.

The ten greatest F1 drivers of all-time - according to SunSport’s motorsport correspondent Ben Hunt

The ten greatest F1 drivers of all-time – according to SunSport’s motorsport correspondent Ben Hunt

Hamilton added: “It is humbling when you see people you have admired say respectful things. It is an amazing moment when that happens.

“This is a moment of time where I have to be at my best weekend in and weekend out.

“Max is driving exceptionally well and so is Valtteri. His qualifying laps are hard to beat and it is so close between all of us.

“It is going to take a perfect delivery all weekend and while it is not possible to always do that, the target is to get as close as possible.”

Meanwhile, Verstappen, who now trails Hamilton’s three wins to one in this season’s opening four races, did get a bonus point for setting the fastest lap time.

He said: “Personally I’m not disappointed because I tried everything, but we were just too slow.

“It shows we are not where we want to be. We have to push hard and catch up, but compared to last year it is a big jump forward.”

Meanwhile, Bottas has defended his failure to allow Hamilton to pass, despite the team instruction “not to hold him up”.

In an interview that will raise eyebrows, he added: “I could have let him by earlier but I am doing my own race.

“They told me not to hold him up, but I was also doing my race and I am not here to let people by.”

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