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Hamilton in the ‘zone’
“I forgot what lap I was on”.
The words of Lewis Hamilton on the Team radio as the he took the chequered flag in Barcelona on Sunday, winning his fifth Spanish Grand Prix in Catalonia on Sunday.
Romping to his fourth win out of six this season, the 35-year-old further extended his World Drivers’ Championship lead to 37 points with his 88th Formula 1 win, now just three short of Michael Schumacher‘s 91 career victories.
After a rocky opening weekend in Austria, there may have been doubters that Hamilton could climb his latest mountain in pursuit of Schumacher’s seven world titles this season, but the Stevenage driver has emphatically batted any uncertainties away.
Doing so with such relative in ease in Catalonia – after two weekends where Mercedes found potential forks in the road due to similar heat – Hamilton entered the fabled sporting zone into which few have rarely been at such comfort.
The Briton has been the dominant force in F1 since 2017. Should he remain in the ‘zone’ as he so bullishly mooted in victory on Sunday, Hamilton will be on the verge of immortality.
Records continue to tumble
In his 88th F1 win, the records continue to tumble for the six-time champion.
Now just four short of setting a standard that will likely never be surpassed, the Spanish GP saw Hamilton notch a record number of podium finishes, his 150th in total.
Indeed, the Dutchman’s frustrations reared their head in Barcelona, complaining about the state of his tyres and the fact he felt his team should focus on his race, rather than on what Mercedes were doing.
Verstappen however, was quick to downplay his on-radio irritation and as he told F1.com, was only keen to play the best card Red Bull had:
“At the end of the day you can’t control what they’re doing, you can only control what we do so we just have to make sure we do the fastest strategy possible for us.
I wanted to pit, and they didn’t call me in. I was massively struggling on the tyres and I lost quite a lot of lap time over the last two laps and I already said on the radio I don’t care if you put me out behind the Racing Points because I will pass them easily because we’re a lot faster, especially on new tyres. So that was the conversation.”
Though almost forty points off Hamilton at the top of the standings, the 22-year old has however opened up a slight advantage of six to Valtteri Bottas in second place.
Staying there will no doubt be the target of Verstappen in his country of birth at Spa in a fortnight’s time.
Inconvenient marriage for Ferrari
On another uncomfortable weekend for Scuderia, for once it was Sebastian Vettel who outshone teammate Charles Leclerc, but the divorce between German and Ferrari is becoming an awkward situation.
After Leclerc was forced to retire after an early spin, Vettel went on to finish fifth, but with the four-time champion set to leave the Prancing Horse at the end of the season, relations between driver and team have strained.
Leaving Verstappen’s in-house quarrels with Red Bull’s approach as nothing more than playground banter, Vettel’s strong tones with Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto were loud and very apparent.
Having changed his chassis ahead of this weekend’s race, Scuderia’s number two again wrestled with his-now erratic drive.
As Mercedes have illustrated for the past three seasons, team harmony is a necessity for results on the track, and though both driver and boss have played down the building friction, the parting of the ways is proving to be a painful one after five years in wedlock.
With Carlos Sainz poised to take the Ferrari hotseat – though its has been suggested that Vettel could walk away before the end of the campaign – there remains a further six months of tension on the horizon. It appears the straw has very much broken the camel’s back.
Perez makes strong return
After a two-race absence for Sergio Perez, the Racing Point driver made an impressive return to the paddock taking fifth in Catalonia.
Having become the first F1 driver to test positive for COVID-19 since the start of the season, the Mexican had been forced to sit out Silverstone’s double-header in rounds four and five.
No doubt keenly aware of any extra social distancing afforded him, his drive was one of similar class before his enforced break.
Coming in behind teammate Lance Stroll this weekend – the Canadian equally eye-catching with an initial grid overtake of Vettel – Perez has three top-six finishes in the four races he has competed in this seasons.
Visibly eager to return to the driver’s seat, the 30-year-old has put to and end to a difficult fortnight and though rumblings continue regarding RP’s adjudged ‘copying row’, Perez’s return to the fold is a timely one for his team.
The 2020 Belgian Grand Prix takes place at Spa-Francorchamps, between August 28-30.
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