Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen overtakes Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton at the start of the Spanish Grand Prix race. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen overtakes Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton at the start of the Spanish Grand Prix race. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

Max Verstappen didn't lose: Five things we learnt from the Spanish GP

By Morgan Bolton Time of article published May 10, 2021

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It was arguably the best Spanish Grand Prix in recent memory, even though it retained all the characteristics of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

It was still difficult to overtake, it still stretched out the majority of the grid, and it still finished mostly as it had started, except for one key moment - a moment of utter brilliance from Mercedes.

ALSO READ: Mercedes F1 masterstroke in Spain helps Lewis Hamilton deny Max Verstappen

Here we look at five things we learnt from the GP this past weekend.

1 The Quiet Battle Rages

It is easy to just concentrate on the battle between Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen and then also forget that their battle for supremacy extends into the paddock. On Sunday, Toto Wolff and Co dished up a masterclass in tactics, one that Christian Horner of Red Bull had no answers to.

In the 42nd lap, Hamilton came in for a pitstop - his second of the afternoon - to change to a fresher set of medium compound tyres, which placed him some 20 seconds behind the leading Vertsappen. An inspired strategy, it paid its dividends in the 60th lap after Hamilton hunted down and then overtook Verstappen to claim the victory six laps later. Red Bull had two options when this played out - keep Vertsappen out on track, or bring him in - they went with the latter, and it ultimately cost them a second win of the season.

ALSO READ: ’I just need a faster car’, says beaten Max Verstappen after finishing behind Lewis Hamilton again

Wolff is a serial winner, and right now he is beating Horner.

2 Verstappen didn't Lose

The young Dutchman did everything right on Sunday, and although he lost and it will be disappointing, he must remain positive. He crucially took the lead on the first corner of the race, and from thereon kept a level head, controlled the race and the pace of the following Hamilton, and managed his tyres with aplomb for 60 laps.

He made no mistakes, and the shenanigans of exceeding track-limits that have plagued him in recent race weekends never disrupted his rhythm. When Hamilton overtook him, he received a refreshed set of red compound tyres, and nailed the fastest lap of the race easily to secure an all-important point. His second-place finish had nothing to do with any error on his part, but rather the masterstroke strategy that Mercedes pulled off. He has more victories in him this season - and if he continues to do his part, and his team manage to outthink their opponents at crucial moments - then he will stand on the top step again this year.

3 The curse of the second seat

First it was Daniel Ricciardo, then Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon, and now it is Sergio Perez. Red Bull have a second seat problem that borders on the supernatural, and it continues to put the team into vulnerable positions.

ALSO READ: Jenson Button warns Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda to watch his words

Checo qualified eight at Catalunya, and finished fifth but if Red Bull are to compete against the Silver Arrows to maximum effect, the Mexican needs to be up amongst the front-runners. Mercedes got away with their strategy this weekend, because the second Red Bull posed no threat to their plans, and in effect Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were racing only against Verstappen.

The pressure is on Perez to get up to speed immediately - he admitted as much after this race - and give all of Red Bull a fighting chance, otherwise the narrative of the season will follow the same script as it did this past weekend.

4 And speaking of teammates ...

Although Bottas gave Mercedes options with his third-place finish, it seems to have been done begrudgingly on the Finn's part. Running on a different strategy to Hamilton, Bottas once again showed none of the pace that his teammate did, but it didn't stop him from making a statement.

On the 52nd lap, he even went so far as to seemingly defy team orders, and race for position with Hamilton as they came to Turn 10. Instead of letting the Brit pass, he assumed a defensive posture, held up Hamilton for a few moments, and tried to close him out on the racing line. Bottas has previously said he detests team orders, especially after the 2019 Russian GP, and his deviation from the team in that singular moment perhaps shows a driver that is tired of following the status quo.

Wolff, will no doubt, have words with his driver to knock him back into shape, but will Bottas take heed?

5 Alpine flatter to deceive

After a good showing in Portugal, and Imola before that, Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso were talked up ahead of this weekend as real mid-field contenders. That did not happen.

Instead what was revealed is that Alpine are still some ways off from competing consistently with the best of the rest. It was a disappointing weekend for them, especially Alsonso who finished all the way down in 17th. Ocon did manage to secure two world-championship points with a ninth-placed finish, but after the froth of excitement they had created on previous race-weekend's it was extremely underwhelming.

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