CAROL’S CORNER: Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes take step forward!

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

By Carol M. Creasey

All eyes were on Mercedes in Barcelona during free practice 1 and 2, to see if they had made any progress with their car. During FP1 Lewis Hamilton did not have DRS and he finished in P6, with George Russell finished in P4.

During second practice, it was clear that there was less porpoising for Mercedes. Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets, George was second, and Lewis third. It was exciting to see that Mercedes had closed the gap from over a second behind to two tenths of a second, and both drivers were faster than both Red Bulls. But of course, practice is not when everyone does their fastest laps, it’s qualifying that counts. However, it was already looking like there may be three teams up there fighting for pole on Saturday.

On qualifying day, the times at the top of the timesheets kept changing between the three teams, with George and Lewis first and second at one point. However, by Q3 it was Leclerc on pole with Verstappen second, then Sainz, George, Perez, and Lewis in sixth. When interviewed afterwards Lewis said the car felt more like a Formula One car to drive, although he was disappointed that he had only qualified in sixth. He stated that he would keep pushing, and both George and Lewis felt they might be in a position to challenge the Ferraris.

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When the race started Lewis’s bad luck continued when he was hit by Kevin Magnusson and sustained a puncture, so he had to pit for new tyres. He rejoined in 19th position and for the first 12 laps was unable to make any headway.

During the early part of the race, Sainz and Verstappen both spun, losing position, while George Russell moved up to second, and then Leclerc had to retire because of a power unit problem, which elevated the Briton to first. Verstappen fought to try and overtake him, but he had no DRS and failed. Meanwhile by Lap 30 Lewis started to make progress, and was up to 11th position, then worked his way up to 6th.

After Verstappen made his last pitstop, Perez was asked by the team to move over and let him past to win the race. Clearly as the season is still very young, Red Bull are determined to only back Verstappen for the world championship, instead of giving their drivers equal chances. Perez was not happy, but he obeyed the order, saying he would speak to the team later.

Lewis pitted for the third time, putting on soft tyres. He emerged in seventh place, and from 51st lap he worked his way up to P4. This was incredible from 19th, but towards the end of the race he had to concede to Sainz, as his car was overheating.

Damon Hill described it as a “champion’s drive” and the fans must have agreed, as Sir Lewis was voted driver of the day. He was then told by his team that he was lapping at the same time as the leading cars, so it really looks as though Mercedes are emerging from their current troubles. Congratulations to George for getting on the podium, and a special well done to Lewis, who has had so much mud slung at him, and yet he remains stoic. He will ultimately have the last laugh.

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