Lewis Hamilton cantered to victory at the Spanish Grand Prix, his 88th win in all and one of the most crushing.
The world champion started on pole and led every lap. The only two possible concerns were the threat of tyre wear in the 30C heat and rain contained in the clouds that glowered over the Circuit de Catalunya. Neither impediment materialised and Hamilton, managing his rubber expertly, led unbroken all afternoon.
The win extended his championship advantage to 37 points and took him within three victories of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91. He can reach that summit in Mugello on September 13 – the occasion of Ferrari’s 1,000th grand prix.
Actually, this was a pretty tedious race from the moment Hamilton got cleanly away. He controlled the pace to preserve his tyres while still being able to keep Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in second.
Verstappen had pushed himself up a place at the start after lining up third on the grid.
Valtteri Bottas, who started second, made a timid beginning, braking early and going back to fourth. Five laps later, he passed Racing Post’s Lance Stroll to climb into third place, where he finished.
Hamilton had the minor irritation of a slow first stop, 4.3sec, as the left rear went on sluggishly.
There were warnings of rain, predicted by Ferrari for arrival after lap 50 of 66. There was talk of thunderstorms. Heavens, the race needed it.
There was some decent midfield action with Charles Leclerc trying to thread his Ferrari past Lando Norris’ McLaren. It was fair but tough. Norris defended well. Leclerc stayed on him like a rash. But moments later, the Monegasque’s engine briefly cut out, he spun off and retired from the race.
Not a great day for Ferrari: Leclerc out and Vettel seventh.
Verstappen, who won at Silverstone a week ago in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, simply did not have enough poke at his disposal to make a fight of it here. He grew exasperated, saying over the radio: ‘How about we just focus on our race first instead of looking to Lewis? Clearly on the soft tyre we were not as fast as them. So let’s do our job, and let them do their job.’
The reply: ‘Keep your head down, Max, please.’
He did, but it made no difference. Hamilton, in a car in a class of its own, was long gone to finish more than 24 seconds ahead.
Lance Stroll was fourth for Racing Point but more than a lap back. That said it all.