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Lewis Hamilton expertly executed a Mercedes pit-stop gamble to beat Max Verstappen to victory at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix and declared "there’s life in this old dog yet".
Hamilton’s hopes of claiming his third win from four races appeared slim when he was left out on old tyres for four laps longer than his rival during the opening round of pit stops at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.
But the world champion’s Mercedes team rolled the strategy dice by calling in their star driver for a second time with 24 of the 66 laps remaining.
Hamilton was faced with a daunting 22-second deficit to overturn, but by the start of lap 60, Verstappen was within striking range.
The seven-time world champion followed the Dutchman at more than 200mph along the pit straight before darting to the left and placing his Mercedes around the outside of Verstappen to secure his 98th win and fifth in as many visits to Spain.
"That is what we are talking about, Lewis," said Hamilton’s race engineer Pete Bonnington over the radio.
Team principal Toto Wolff, who watched the action unfold with Sir Jim Ratcliffe, one-third owner of Mercedes and Britain’s richest man, threw his arms up in celebration as Hamilton executed the comeback.
Ratcliffe then joined Hamilton on the podium to toast a win which moves the 36-year-old 14 points clear of Verstappen in the title race.
Hamilton’s latest triumph arrived 24 hours after landing his 100th pole - a landmark which led Damon Hill to describe his compatriot as one of the most talented people to have walked the Earth.
"There is still some life in this old dog," said Hamilton, who is 13 years older than Verstappen. "I saw Damon’s tweet yesterday, and I feel so much gratitude towards him.
"I remember growing up watching Damon and having, as I do now, so much respect for him. I was rooting for him as a Brit to succeed even when he didn’t have a great car or good team.
"It is definitely humbling when you see people you have admired and watched or taken inspiration from and hearing them say positive and respectful things.
"This is a period of time where I have to be at my best because Max is driving exceptionally well. It is so close between all of us that it is going to take perfect delivery every weekend. I don’t think anyone can do that but it is about getting as close as possible."
This might be Hamilton’s 15th campaign, but he is showing few signs of slowing down. Indeed, with three victories and a second place under his belt, he is enjoying his finest start to a season.
He opened his bid for victory in Spain on the backfoot after losing the lead during the 600 metre stampede to Turn 1.
Hamilton was hardly sluggish, but the world champion afforded Verstappen an opening at the first corner and the ruthless Dutchman did not need a second invitation.
Bolder and braver on the brakes, Verstappen launched his Red Bull down the inside of Hamilton’s Mercedes. Hamilton turned in for the right-hander and came within millimetres of making contact before conceding the position.
On lap 24, Verstappen switched to new tyres but a slow stop handed the initiative to Hamilton. Pitting for rubber on the next lap would have seen Hamilton emerge in the lead but Mercedes kept him out, leaving the Briton to win it the hard way with a second stop.
Hamilton insists he has no interest in psychological warfare but after trailing Verstappen for 60 of the 66 laps he dropped a post-race comment which could niggle away at the back of his title rival’s mind.
"I learnt a lot about Max today, perhaps more than all the other races put together," he said. "This has been a good race in that sense."
Asked if he wished to elaborate, Hamilton smiled: "No, not particularly. When you are with people on track you get to see different things up close. I learnt a lot about his car and how he uses it."
In the closing stages Verstappen bolted on a set of new tyres to post the fastest lap and claim a bonus point as some consolation.
On a different strategy to Hamilton, Bottas was ordered by Mercedes to move out of his team-mate's way. It was with some reluctance that he did.
He later admitted: "I definitely could have let him by earlier. I am not here to let people by. I am here to race."
The Finn is already 47 points behind Hamilton and the smallest of hopes he had of fighting for the title appear over with 19 rounds still to go.
That's all folks!
We will call it a day here. The battle between Lewis and Max lived up to the hype but the former was too strong today.
After the race was postponed last year, the F1 paddock returns to Monaco. The glitz and the glamour that the Monaco GP provides are always a welcome sight. Red Bull need a result to stop the momentum building at Mercedes.
As always, Telegraph Sport will have full coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix from May 20-23. Till then, visit the website for the best reaction and analysis.
Interesting quotes from Bottas who admits he could have let Hamilton past earlier after receiving the radio call from Mercedes.
He said: "I could have let him [Hamilton] by earlier. But I was doing my own race. I'm not here to let people by, I'm here to race."
Bottas is desperate not to be Hamilton's whipping boy but Toto Wolff won't be happy at that admission.
If Barcelona is a hard track to pass on, Monaco is nigh on impossible. That makes qualifying even more important.
And it means Perez and Bottas need big weekends. Had Perez been in contention, Mercedes may not have had the luxury of switching tactics.
Barcelona pit strategies
As you can see below, two stops was the way to go today. Mercedes executed their game plan expertly.
Hamilton's decisive move
Hamilton in control
That's now three wins from four races for Hamilton. The Red Bull speed we saw in Bahrain hasn't really been replicated and they need a big result in Monaco in two weeks time.
But in fairness, Barcelona has been a Mercedes track in recent years.
Updated drivers standings
"I feel great after this. I could go again," he said. "Such a close start. .. it was a long way to come back from 20 odd seconds but the team had a great strategy.
"I was just hunting. I was so close for so long and I didn't think in doing that I was going to be able to make the tyres last. But I just managed to. It was a long way to come back from 20 odd seconds back but it was a good gamble, a really great strategy from the team.
"I lost a place on Lap 1 to Charles and that made it tricky for me in the early part of the race," he said. "Otherwise, the pace wasn't too bad and it's good that I made it to the podium"
"In a way I could see it coming," he said. “There was not much we could do… I was a bit of a sitting duck. I tried everything I could. We are not where we want to be... but compared to last year it’s a big jump for us”
Hamilton WINS. Five wins in a row for the seven time champion in Barcelona. Outstanding performance.
Lap 66 of 66
Final lap. Bottas, Verstappen and Perez are all fighting for the point for the fastest lap.
Lap 65 of 66
Penultimate lap of the race. Gasly moves past Stroll for 10th.
Lap 64 of 66 - TOP 8
Lap 63 of 66
Alonso and Stroll are under investigation after an incident at turn one. Unsurprisingly Verstappen is the quickest man on the track on fresh tyres.
Lap 62 of 66
Outstanding strategic race by Mercedes it has to be said. Knew exactly what they were doing and caught out Red Bull and Max.
Lap 61 of 66
Verstappen pits for fresh tyres and comes out second. He will be aiming for the fastest lap time.
Lap 60 of 66
There you go. Down the long pit straight, Hamilton goes around the outside and passes Verstappen. Like taking candy from a baby.
Lap 59 of 66
Russell is chasing down Alonso for the final point. Hamilton less than a second behind...
Lap 58 of 66
Perez pits. "I might not have any tyres left at the end," says Hamilton. "Don't worry, Verstappen will have less," says Bono his engineer.
Lap 57 of 66
Bottas passes Leclerc and sets the fastest time of the race. 3s between the leaders. Will Red Bull regret not pitting Verstappen?
Lap 56 of 66
Ten laps to go. The gap is 4.6s.
Lap 55 of 66
Less than seven seconds between Verstappen and Hamilton. The Mercedes is getting quicker and quicker. Red Bull and Verstappen have no answer right now.
Lap 54 of 66 - TOP 8
Lap 53 of 66
13 laps to go. 10.4s lead for Verstappen. Bottas pits. He's trying to get the fastest lap of the race it seems. Leclerc is now third.
Lap 52 of 66
Bottas not willing to let Hamilton go past slowly. Really holds him up. Bold decision by the Finn. Toto Wolff doesn't look happy.
Lap 51 of 66
Less than 11s between Verstappen and Hamilton. Bottas is being told not to hold Hamilton up.
Lap 50 of 66
Hamilton 1.8s faster on the previous lap. There's no way Verstappen can stop him surely. Team orders will come into play too with Bottas likely to be told to move aside for Hamilton. Sainz passes Norris for P8.
Lap 49 of 66
16.2s between Verstappen and Hamilton. Bottas gets a message to pick up the speed with plenty of traffic on the track.
Lap 48 of 66
Verstappen and Red Bull will be ruing Perez not being around to help him. He says: "I don't see how we're going to make this."
Lap 47 of 66
Outstanding pass by Perez to get past Ricciardo around the outside at turn 1. He's now up to fifth and 3s behind Leclerc.
Lap 46 of 66
Twenty laps to go, two seconds between Ver and Ham. Hamilton is taking a second out every lap.
Lap 45 of 66
Verstappen can't pit now. If he does, Hamilton will be in front without doubt. Red Bull tell Max Hamilton will catch him on the final lap.
Lap 44 of 66
The gap is already down to 22s between Verstappen and Hamilton. Ver has track position but will be on older tyres.
Lap 43 of 66
Verstappen says out. Hamilton has a 23s gap to close. 22 laps left. What a finish we have coming up.
Lap 42 of 66
Hamilton pits. Another strategy change by Mercedes. How will Red Bull react? Expect Hamilton to fly now.
They have to pit Verstappen now.
Lap 41 of 66 - TOP 8
Lap 40 of 66
Critical that the backmarkers get out of the way of Verstappen and Hamilton. We don't want the race being decided by someone ignoring the blue flags.
Lap 39 of 66
Hamilton remains the fastest man on the track. Bottas is seven seconds behind in the battle between the top two. Perez is within 0.5s of Ricciardo now.
Lap 38 of 66
Raikkonen finally pits after 38 laps. Verstappen remains in control of the race.
Lap 37 of 66
Remember there is a four lap difference in tyre life between Hamilton and Verstappen. Norris passes Raikkonen for P9.
Lap 36 of 66
Hamilton is getting DRS on every lap but can't get close enough yet. The Red Bull is fast enough in the right places.
"I feel like the wind is picking up," Russell says over team radio.
Lap 35 of 66
Hamilton is now in the turbulent air of the Red Bull. Verstappen now on the defense.
Lap 34 of 66
Bottas is told on the radio he'll catch Verstappen on the last lap. Hamilton now less than a second behind Verstappen.
Lap 33 of 66
Ricciardo's fending off Perez, in the battle for fifth place. The Mexican's getting closer but the McLaren is staying ahead.
Lap 32 of 66
The gap now 1.6s between Verstappen and Hamilton. Insane speed. Backmarkers are coming up for them both.
Lap 31 of 66
Wow. Hamilton is 1.4s quicker than Verstappen on the mediums. Game on. What as a 5s gap is now 2.7s. He's going to be all over Verstappen very soon.
Lap 30 of 66
Mercedes call for Bottas to stay with Hamilton. He's just two second behind. The Silver Arrows are on the march. Great fight in the midfield between Vettel, Gasly and Giovinazzi.
Lap 29 of 66
Hamilton comes in for his stop. A 2.7s stop. He comes out over 5s behind but on tyres that are five laps fresher.
Will Mercedes have better tyre wear at the end? Alonso has engine issues. Bottas finally clears Leclerc.
Lap 28 of 66 - TOP 8
Lap 27 of 66
Hamilton looks to be going long. Major strategy swtich. Mercedes want quick tyres at the end. How will Red Bull react?
Lap 26 of 66
Hamilton does not pit. Hamilton says he is happy with his tyres. Verstappen is third. Toto Wolff on FIA radio complaining about Hamilton being held by Mazepin. "This guy is losing us the position," he says.
Lap 25 of 66
Verstappen pits. It is a slow stop, 4.2s. Hammertime now for Hamilton. A good lap and he could get the lead if he pits as well.
Lap 24 of 66
Bottas pits. Hamilton stays out and closes the gap to Verstappen.
Lap 23 of 66
Sainz now pits for the mediums from eighth.
Lap 22 of 66
Hamilton now under a second behind Verstappen. Fascinating battle. Vettel pits and drops to 19th.
Lap 21 of 66
Verstappen and Hamilton continue to pull away but their speed has dropped slightly as they look to preserve their tyres.
Bottas is now struggling with his rears.
Lap 20 of 66
The pit window for a two stop is open. Will anyone bite? 25s separate Verstappen in first and Stroll in 10th.
Lap 19 of 66
Gasly pits and takes his five second penalty. He's now last in the field.
Lap 18 of 66
“Tyres are starting to drop,” says Hamilton. The gap between the top two is 1.2s.
Lap 17 of 66
Heavy blistering on Hamilton's tyres. What was a one stop plan could become a two stop.
Lap 16 of 66
Hamilton in DRS range of Verstappen. But Leclerc has broken clear of Bottas' DRS.
Lap 15 of 66
Russell and Latifi, both on fresh mediums, pass Schumacher and Mazepin for 15th and 16th.
Lap 14 of 66
Even stevens at the front after 14 laps. Barcelona is a notoriously difficult track to pass on...
Lap 13 of 66
DRS is now enabled and Hamilton is less than a second behind. No joy for Bottas in passing Leclerc, his race is being seriously hampered.
Lap 12 of 66
Verstappen has already opened up an 0.8s gap to Hamilton. DRS not open yet so it is imperative the Red Bull builds a one second gap.
Lap 11 of 66
Great restart by Verstappen. No position swaps down the home straight. But Stroll overtakes Alonso.
A five-second time penalty for Gasly for being out of position at the race start.
Lap 10 of 66
Safety car is coming in at the end of this lap. Brace yourself...
"Have a think about what we can do different to the other cars," Bottas suggests over team radio.
Lap 9 of 66
Big blow to Red Bull and Verstappen. Their advantage his gone now. Hamilton will be very dangerous now.
Lap 8 of 66
Yellow flags in sectors 2 and 3 as Tsunoda has ground to a halt at turn 10 and says his engine has stopped. A safety car has been deployed.
Lap 7 of 66 - TOP 8
Lap 6 of 66
Hamilton responds with the quickest lap of the race so far. Verstappen and Hamilton are pulling away from Leclerc and Bottas.
Lap 5 of 66
Verstappen continues to lead by 1.6s. Bottas is looking to pass Leclerc. The Aston Martin's are 11th and 12th currently.
Lap 4 of 66
The race has settled now. Gasly is being investigated for being out of position at the start. Usually a slam dunk penalty that.
DRS is now open.
Lap 3 of 66
Seeing replays of the first turn again. No contact between Ham and Ver but the Red Bull driver just wasn't going to surrender to the Mercedes
Lap 2 of 66
Ocon and Sainz have gone backwards, dropping to 7th and 8th. Verstappen sets the fastest time.
Everyone gets off the line nicely. Hamilton looks like he will get to turn one first but Verstappen brakes later and gets ahead. Gutsy move by the Dutchman. He leads by 1.5s after the first lap.
Bottas drops to fourth. Perez up two places.
Formation lap underway - A reminder of the starting gird
Toto Wolff was just on Sky Sports F1 says a one-stop race is the most likely strategy. Pirelli seem to think differently...
Fans in the stands
1000 fans are in the stands on the home straight which is nice to see after the year everyone has had. And they will have a cracking view of the drag race to the first corner.
One of the best starts ever at the Spanish GP came in 2011 as Alonso, in a Ferrari, went from the outside to the inside, overtaking two Red Bulls and getting to turn one first.
Pit lane open
The drivers are making their way to the grid. Carlos Sainz says he's seeing some rain drops on his drive around the track.
Rain always makes things interesting...
Boost for Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo has made no secret of his struggles to adjust to the McLaren so qualifying ahead of team-mate Lando Norris for the first time this season will be a boost for his confidence.
Ricciardo starts in seventh, with Norris ninth, despite not setting a second time in Q3. “I’m certainly standing here more happy than I was one week ago,” he said.
“I drove with more confidence but I’m aware that there are still some corners that I’m still finding my way, so to speak. It’s a mini-breakthrough, let’s say that.”
Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann meets Lewis
One of the stories of the season so far is the return to form of the Scuderia and it is great to see.
F1 needs Ferrari competing at the top. Charles Leclerc qualified fourth with Carlos Sainz in sixth. Sainz said: “It was a good qualifying and I’m very happy with the result. Looking at the gap between us and the top three, P4 is a solid result today. My Q2 lap was very clean and that’s good for the tyres that I will use for the start. I am concentrating on this a lot because tomorrow it will be important to start on a tyre with little degradation.
“As a team, we start from P4 and P6, which is positive. Our race pace has been competitive and if we manage our tyres in the same way as we did yesterday, it should look good. Our target is to bring home as many points as possible.
“Overall it has been a good weekend so far and I hope that we finish it on a high.”
Spanish GP grid order
After the Saturday appetiser comes today's main event - Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen.
The title rivals are on the front row for the Spanish GP after just 0.036s separated them in qualifying.
It was the 100th pole position of Hamilton's career and a win today would give him his 97th victory. Hamilton's former McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso hailed the British driver's accomplishment and feels he is only getting better.
"It's not going to be the last, that number will only go up," said Alonso. "I think it's an amazing achievement that shows how good Lewis is, in not only one lap but also in a race situation. We see in the victories, in the podium finishes, in the championships. It's in a way, not a surprise. He has dominated the sport for a few years now and he is getting better and better every time."
Hamilton has four consecutive victories at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya but Verstappen and Red Bull will be desperate to stop the seven-time world champion from making it five.
"It is a long run to Turn 1 and a good start is key," Verstappen, who trails Hamilton by eight points in the drivers' standings, said. "The pace is there, so I hope we can have a good race. We know they are hard to beat around here but to be that close, I can be happy with that."
Elsewhere, Sergio Perez could be in for another tough race after revealing he managing pain in his left shoulder through qualifying.
"I didn't feel 100% with myself today," he said. "I have a bit of an issue with my shoulder through qualifying, and I was just feeling bad all the way through it. It was just getting worse and worse as quali developed, and I struggled a bit more with it."
The Spanish GP gets underway at 2pm so stay with us for full build-up and coverage.