(Motorsport-Total.com) – After colliding with Kevin Magnussen in the first round, Lewis Hamilton was about to throw in the towel after being washed back to the end of the field by a flat tire due to the contact on the first lap.
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At the end of the race, Lewis Hamilton was lightning fast
Fortunately, the Mercedes team did not listen to him. With a fifth-place finish, he was able to score ten important points and was also named “Leader of the Day” by the fans after plowing from the very back to a fourth-place finish at times.
With the pace that Hamilton was able to set in the race, however, the question arises as to what would have been possible without the contact with Magnussen? After the race, Mercedes team manager Toto Wolff was confident: “Lewis could have fought for the victory! He was the fastest car in the entire field.”
50 seconds left both after the 1st lap and after the race
But is the Mercedes team leader right, or is he exceeding the goal? Wolff’s tone is optimistic enough that it’s worth taking a look at the world of the subjunctive. After all, Hamilton was just over 50 seconds after the race victory, although in addition to the collision at the end of the race, there was also a water leak on his W13, which cost quite some time.
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The Briton was exactly 50 seconds behind the then leader Charles Leclerc when he restarted the race in 19th place after his unwanted pit stop in the first half. Hamilton was 38.6 seconds behind Nicholas Latifi, who was one place ahead of him in 18th place.
After his pit stop, progress was initially sluggish. Hamilton was the only rider in the entire field to start the race on the medium-sized tire, but was forced to shift to the soft like everyone else after the flat tire.
Hamilton fastest on mid-deck
The red deck seems to have been the wrong deck for Hamilton with a lot of fuel on board. When leader Leclerc pitted on lap 22, Hamilton was now one minute and seven seconds behind. So Monegasse and Verstappen were faster with the soft tires in the first place.
Shortly after Leclerc, Hamilton also switched to mid-tires and was able to match the Ferrari driver’s pace. Leclerc put his best lap in the race with a 1: 27.030 just before his engine failure, while Hamilton was even able to put high 1:26s on the following laps.
When the Ferrari driver withdrew and George Russell was able to take the lead for a short time, it was Hamilton’s hour, which at the time was only a minute and two seconds behind. Although Verstappen now had free rein with an undercut on the 28th inning against Russell, Hamilton was the fastest man in the field from that time.
The distance to the top was even reduced to 30 seconds
On average, the Briton was about one-tenth and one-tenth faster than Verstappen from the 30th round. When the Dutchman got stuck behind Russell with a DRS problem, it was sometimes even more than a second that he was able to catch up with the leading duo.
When Sergio Perez passed George Russell on the 31st lap and took the lead of the race, Hamilton’s hole melted to first place steadily. First it was 56.2 seconds, then 54.3, later 52.8, 51.4, 50.5, 49.0.
Max Verstappen was able to regain the lead of the race in the 49th lap, but his lead over Hamilton shrank again as the latter switched to new soft tires a lap earlier. Before his pit stop, the Mercedes driver was even closer at 31.2 seconds.
Water leakage slows down Hamilton
On his first lap after the tire change, he was 51.6 seconds behind Verstappen. However, this had to be reduced to 39.3 seconds in the coming laps, after Hamilton was also able to overtake Carlos Sainz in Ferrari to fourth place.
On lap 62, however, the seven-time world champion was ordered to drive the “Lift and Coast” because engine temperatures rose due to a water leak. He followed his team’s instructions, which meant he had to give up position against Sainz and finished 54.5 seconds behind race winner Verstappen.
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Before the reliability problem, Hamilton had thus gained a full 20 seconds on the Dutchman since the second half. However, it is not so easy to say whether he would have been a serious threat to the world champion.
Would Verstappen have been unattainable without a mistake?
Verstappen maneuvered himself into an unfavorable position with his turn out in turn four on the ninth lap, not only losing eight seconds on that lap but also falling behind Hamilton’s teammate George Russell.
This delayed the Red Bull driver for another 20 laps as Verstappen was unable to overtake with a DRS problem and some brave defensive actions from Russell. How much Verstappen lost in this phase can be explained by the fact that Leclerc with its funky soft tires at the top was able to run about as fast as the two on new media.
It can therefore be assumed that Hamilton would have missed a little bit, as it is not possible to assess exactly how fast he would have run in the front group. However, it is likely he would have ended up on the podium for Mercedes instead of George Russell, after Leclerc retired with an engine failure.
Hamilton was on the right starting tire
Without Leclerc’s misfortune, however, it would probably also have been close to a podium as Sergio Perez finished not far behind his teammates. It is clear that without Hamilton’s collision with Magnussen, it would have been a very different race strategically.
The Briton would have been the only top driver on the midsize tires in the first stint, making it doubtful if Red Bull could have used a three-stop strategy with Hamilton’s strong pace with both cars.
In addition, the yellow tire seemed to be better in the beginning, as Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, who was also forced to get in the pits after contact with Hamilton, but switched from softs to mediums, sometimes drove excellent times with these tires could .
Hamilton celebrates P5 ‘as a victory’
So it will probably never be entirely clear whether Lewis Hamilton could have won the Spanish Grand Prix. One thing is for sure though: This race will be balm for the soul of the Mercedes driver who suffered accidents in the first few races.
“It feels like a victory,” he says. “And in fact, quite often it feels even better than a victory when you’ve fought from behind and you’ve been through as much as I have.”