Hamilton extends title lead with Spanish conquest

Lewis Hamilton has broken the record for most podium finishes with a dominant victory at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton led the race from pole to flag for his 156th appearance on the rostrum, breaking the record set by Michael Schumacher in 2012.

It was also the 88th victory of Hamilton’s career, taking him to within three of Schumacher’s record 91 wins.

This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.

A perfect start was all it took for Hamilton to seal the deal. Though Max Verstappen jumped to second an intimated a challenge early, Red Bull Racing’s forecast race pace never materialised. Meanwhile Valtteri Bottas dropped two positions off the line and never recovered the lost time.

Hamilton’s drive was also perfectly judged, the Briton expertly managing his tyres in the warm weather without sacrificing pace to control the grand prix and extend his championship lead over Verstappen to 37 points.

“I was just in a daze out there, it felt really good,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t even know it was the last lap in the end, that’s how zoned in I was — I was ready to keep going!”

Verstappen snatching second place off the line came at the expense of Bottas, who started alongside Hamilton on the front row but got bogged down at lights out, falling to fourth behind the Dutchman and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.

By the time he fought his way past the Canadian on lap five he’d lost more than three seconds to Hamilton and had taken the best out of his tyres, leaving him unable to close in time for the first pit stops.

Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas held position after the first pit stops, but despite Hamilton being able to sprint away to a more than 10-second lead in the middle stint, Bottas couldn’t make an impression on the Dutchman for second place.

Mercedes rolled the dice in the final stops, giving Bottas the faster soft tire after Red Bull Racing gave its driver a new set of mediums, but even this wasn’t enough to help the Finn close the gap, and Verstappen was able to secure second place.

“I think to be able to split [Mercedes] today was very good for us,” he said. “We clearly didn’t have the pace like Lewis, so I’m very happy with second.

“The start was crucial to get by Valtteri, and from then on I was just trying to do my race.”

Bottas had the cold consolation of securing a point for fastest lap, but without a win since the first round of the season he sits third in the drivers standings and 43 points off title leader Hamilton.

“I think the start was the tricky point,” he said. “The start was not good enough.

“Then the first stint obviously I had to push had and make some ground, and I struggle with tire life.

“But in the end I think the start was the bad thing.”

Racing Point recorded its best finish of the season, with Lance Stroll leading Sergio Perez home to fourth and fifth.

Perez took the flag first, having made it to the end of the race having made one stop fewer than Stroll, but a five-second penalty for ignoring blue flags while being lapped by Hamilton lost the Mexican a place to his teammate.

Carlos Sainz finished sixth for McLaren, the Spaniard benefitting from a failed strategy gamble by Red Bull Racing’s Alex Albon.

Albon was running sixth ahead of Sainz early in the race when the team stopped him early for the hard compound to try to make it to the end, but the tyre was too slow to make an impact, allowing Sainz to slip past with a conventional two-stop strategy and dropping the Thai to eighth.

Sebastian Vettel slipped past Albon for seventh, the German’s best finish since the Hungarian Grand Prix.

He was Ferrari’s only point scorer after teammate Charles Leclerc retired with a power unit problem, the Monegasque’s engine switching itself off after he ran over the kerbs at the final chicane.

Pierre Gasly finished ninth for AlphaTauri ahead of Lando Norris in the second McLaren in 10th for the final point of the race.