At the start of the Spanish Grand Prix Max Verstappen managed to overtake Lewis Hamilton, and he would keep the advantage until the final laps of the race, when Lewis regained the lead.
In a stroke of genius, Mercedes decided to put Lewis on a two-stop strategy, which would only work if he was able to make up for a 20-something second gap to Verstappen, that opened up after he pitted for the second time.
In the final stage of the race Hamilton managed to close in on Verstappen, who was still on his old tyres, and then overtook him for the win.
“Such a close start, obviously there was a little rubber down on the right-hand side and the Red Bull made a great start,” Hamilton said after the race.
“Then I was just hunting, and I was so close for so long, and I didn’t think in doing that I was going to be able to make the tyres last.
“But I just managed to just keep them in somehow. And a long way to come from 20 seconds back. But it was a good gamble, really great strategy.”
The Briton explains how the strategy was something Mercedes had in mind from the start.
“The plan all weekend to make sure we had two mediums, to be able to do a two-stop. Even though one-stop potentially looks better, I know from experience here that a one-stop is very, very hard to pull off.”
Mercedes actually called Lewis in for his second pit stop on lap 42, when he was very close to Verstappen and looked ready to attack.
“As soon as we had the pace that we had, I knew as soon as I could get past him, if I could and I was about to, I think, had a shot at getting past him before I pitted right at the end, and I was really conflicted: do I come in or do I ignore the call and stay out?
“I did what the team, asked and that’s because there is great trust between us. It was a remarkable job by everyone in this team.
“What a day,” concluded Hamilton.
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Valtteri Bottas’ race wasn’t as good and he ultimately finished in P3, behind Verstappen.
“It was a difficult race,” the Finn said.
“That I immediately lost a place to Leclerc at the start made it extra difficult. I didn’t see him. He chose the better line and managed to catch me. After that I was stuck behind him for quite a while.”
However, Bottas believes his car’s pace was quite good.
“I think what made it tricky for me is I lost the place to Charles [Leclerc] on lap one at turn three.
“I didn’t see him actually so he got the better line and went past me and then I was stuck behind him for a while and compromised the race.
“Otherwise, the pace wasn’t too bad so a bit of a shame. I think it is just small details today like lap one at turn three. Otherwise, the pace is there.
“As a team, we are scoring solid points but not perfect points so there is work to do,” concluded Bottas.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was happy with how the race went in the end.
“I think we had a fast car, but if you lose position on the first lap you are on the back row,” the Austrian told Sky Sports F1
“I think upfront it’s so difficult for Red Bull to make the right decisions because you lose position and you could have lost the race.”
However, Mercedes’ “courageous” strategy saved the day.
“Brilliant,” said Wolff of the strategy.
“Together with the guys back home [at the team’s HQ in Brackely], a brilliant team. I’m so proud.
“This takes a courageous move. When you see the gap widen to over twenty seconds you can’t believe you’re overtaking, but we saw that Max Verstappen’s tyres were suffering a bit more and we stayed close.
“Our planner showed that he would overtake him with one lap to go,” concluded the Austrian.