Lewis Hamilton Pursues a hundredth Pole as ‘Nip and Tuck’ Title Battle Arrives in Spain
The Method One circus pitches up in Barcelona this weekend for the Spanish Grand Prix with Crimson Bull’s tantalising tilt at prising the highlight away from showstoppers Mercedes topping the invoice.
Three races in and towards pre-season predictions it’s Lewis Hamilton who leads Max Verstappen by eight factors arriving on the fourth leg of the championship.
Wins final Sunday in Portugal and within the opener in Bahrain depart the seven-time champion in his customary habitat on the high of the F1 drivers’ tree.
Barcelona is a observe the groups know intimately as the standard venue for pre-season testing, and with its popularity as a circuit the place overtaking alternatives are few and much between the onus shall be on Saturday’s qualifying to command a chief entrance row seat on Sunday’s grid.
Hamilton is searching for his fifth consecutive win in Catalonia, with three of his final 4 victories delivered from pole.
Ought to he high the time sheets on Saturday he’ll rejoice his a hundredth pole place, after being denied that honour by his teammate Valtteri Bottas final weekend in Portimao.
Verstappen and Crimson Bull’s emergence as severe title contenders not solely has F1 followers gripping their sofas’ arm rests or sensible telephones — Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says he’s having fun with the identical sensation he felt on the first indicators Mercedes may muscle in on the then Crimson Bull roadshow seven years in the past.
“Once we had been behind in testing and in Bahrain, it’s a buzz that I’ve not felt within the crew since 2013 after we had that first sniff that we might be there,” said Wolff. “The whole place is excited and continues to be excited. I’d like to be happy after Abu Dhabi at the end of the season but for the time being, we’ll take it one step at a time.”
Whereas the 2021 Hamilton continues to show all of the hallmarks which have turned him right into a serial champion – typically flawless race craft, consummate professionalism and steely focus, Verstappen this season has modified.
The Dutch driver appears to have his eye on the larger image, as F1’s managing director Ross Brawn identified.
“It’s clear that Max Verstappen is approaching this championship otherwise as a result of he lastly has a title-winning automotive,” said Brawn.
“And it had to change because when you’re a title contender, the focus has to be on consolidating when you’re not the fastest and when opportunities such as a mechanical issue for a rival or a Safety Car present themselves, you must be in a position to strike.”
Verstappen’s boss at Crimson Bull Christian Horner is like his Mercedes counterpart Wolff lapping up the primary correct inter-team title battle for a while.
“The image is beginning to make clear. Crimson Bull and Mercedes are the 2 standout groups, and Lewis and Max are the 2 standout drivers.
“It’s extremely tight. The largest winner for that’s Method 1 – and if it goes like this for 23 races, it’s going to be nip and tuck.”
One driver who has special reason to approach this weekend’s race with a spring in his step is Fernando Alonso.
The two-time champion is finally finding his feet with Alpine, formerly Renault, after his return to F1, scoring points for the second straight race in the Algarve sunshine.
“It was good, it was fun,” mentioned the veteran Spaniard forward of his dwelling grand prix.
“We had been combating with one McLaren, one Ferrari – issues that had been unthinkable in Imola or Bahrain. So I feel we made a giant step ahead when it comes to the automotive efficiency.”
Alonso is in 12th in the drivers standings, nine places and 32 points behind Lando Norris, who has enjoyed a sensational start to 2021 for back-in-business McLaren with three top-five finishes.
Sensational is not how even Nikita Mazepin’s most loyal followers would describe the Russian rookie’s three first appearances in the fast lane.
A lap one crash in Bahrain, spins at Imola, and a dangerous block on Sergio Perez last Sunday suggest the young Haas driver will be just happy to reach Sunday night having crossed the line without any further mishaps.
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