The only person who enjoys the Spanish Grand Prix is Lewis Hamilton.
His fourth win of the 2020 season with Mercedes-Benz comes in a boring and largely processional race, although Max Verstappen manages to split the black arrows with his Red Bull as Valtteri Bottas comes home third.
“This feels absolutely incredible. I was just in a daze out there, I didn’t even know it was the last lap in the end, that’s how in-the-zone I was,” says Hamilton.
“I can’t remember the last time I felt like that. It was really special and a real surprise after our recent tyre problems. We brought all of our learnings from the previous weekend into this one and that enabled us to do well today.”
The Spanish race is run in the sort of hot conditions which brought the Benzes undone in the two previous races at Silverstone in Britain, where they tortured their tyres and also had to protect their engines from overheating.
But Benz boss Toto Wolff is happy to gloat after this race.
“Bring on the heat,” he shouts to rival team boss Christian Horner after triumphing in 50-degree track temperatures.
The only failing for Mercedes is the failure to get Bottas past Verstappen with a change of Pirelli tyres.
“We put the softs on Valtteri’s car earlier, assuming that logically he’d catch up to Verstappen and overtake for second but the tyre had no grip and that lost his race,” says Wolff.
It is a day where drivers call the strategy shots as with Hamilton, Verstappen and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel all over-rule pitwall calls with decisions made on-the-fly that in all three cases turn out to be correct.
Off the line, pole-sitter Hamilton breaks away but fellow front-row starter Bottas leaves the door open for Verstappen to steal second place at turn one and chase after Hamilton.
Hamilton has more pace and manages his tyres better in the opening stages which frustrates the 22-year old Red Bull pilot, who is further aggravated by a pit call to stop for soft tyres based on Hamilton’s performance.
“How about we just focus on our race first instead of looking to Lewis. Clearly on the soft tyre we are not as fast as him, so let’s do our job and let them do their job,” says Verstappen.
With the top 10 all starting on soft rubber, Vettel – who missed the Q3 cut-off by 0.002 of a second – starts in P11 which gives him the freedom to choose his race compound. The four-time champ goes with the medium compound in order to make up positions as those in front pit early to ditch their fast-wearing softs.
Vettel pits on Lap 29 for the sticky softs, dropping back to 11th but when asked over team radio to stop for harder tyres later, while sitting in seventh, he vetoes the call saying he is managing the pace despite losing two places to the Racing Point of Lance Stroll and the McLaren of Carlos Sainz.
The gamble works as he maintains his respectable seventh place at the finish, earning Ferrari’s only points after teammate Charles Leclerc spins and suffers an electrical gremlin that stops his engine.
“It’s simple, we didn’t have anything to lose,” Vettel reports.
“As others pitted for their second stop, I was not in a rush to catch them because I was managing my tyres, then I was told to push and asked if I could make it to the end.
“I said: ‘Well, you could have asked that three laps before because I asked a couple of times, what’s the target, how long do we want to go, so I could look after my tyres’. I said we’d try to make it.
“The last five laps were really difficult. We took a risk because we had nothing to lose and it paid off, but it wasn’t the plan to do close to 40 laps on the soft tyre.”
Hamilton’s win takes him to a record 159 podium places, passing Michael Schumacher’s record and moving him within three wins of the German’s record of 88 F1 victories.
The top three are in a race of their own with Verstappen and Bottas being the only two drivers not lapped by Hamilton over the 66 laps.
Sergio Perez crosses the line in fourth ahead of his Racing Point teammate Lance Stroll, but is handed a five second penalty for ignoring blue flags which reversed the positions in the final result with Sainz an impressive sixth.
Renault leaves empty handed after Daniel Ricciardo could only manage 11th, with Esteban Ocon 13th, after both missing the cut-off for the final sector of qualifying.
Ricciardo slips back to 13th on lap one while Ocon drops to 16th before pitting on lap 34 for new soft tyres followed by Ricciardo a lap later.
“It was tough and not where we wanted to be,” Ricciardo says.
2020 Spanish Grand Prix
World championship points: