Mercedes once again has a car with which one can dream of victories. In Barcelona it wasn't quite enough. Lewis Hamilton had the speed of the Red Bull until he had to back off due to a water leak.
Mercedes is getting closer to the top. The engineers estimate the gap to the top at three tenths. Two weeks ago he was still at a second. Mercedes has managed to break the habit of bouncing its capricious W13. As soon as this parking brake was released, the silver arrow showed its claws.
Now the development work begins. Technology director Mike Elliott is convinced that there is much more to this car: "That was the first step. Now we have to learn how to get the most out of the package."
Team boss Toto Wolff took stock with satisfaction: "For the first time, this car reminded me of our world champion cars of the past years. If, like Lewis, you can go from last place to the very front, then there are good reasons to believe that we'll be winning races again soon and maybe we'll still be able to fight for the two world championships."
Russell's engine was running too hot
George Russell was able to get a taste of leadership air for four laps. The 24-year-old Englishman put up a big fight for Max Verstappen over many laps, forcing Red Bull into a three-stop strategy.
Verstappen couldn't get past the #63 Mercedes because of a DRS problem. But Russell didn't have a carefree race either. The engine overheated at an early stage. Russell couldn't go at the pace he wanted. He was rewarded for his "fight for survival" with his second podium of the year.
Hamilton's Spanish Grand Prix was half over after the first lap. The Englishman had to pit after a no-fault collision with Kevin Magnussen in turn 4 with a flat left front tyre. When he started the race again, he was 53.9 seconds down on the leader. That was the moment when the record winner suggested that the team consider saving the engine 300 kilometers of running time instead of driving hopelessly at the end of the field.
Race engineer Pete Bonnington reminded his driver of his duty and motivated him with the extrapolation of the strategy software: "You can still finish eighth." Hamilton was fifth, and he would have finished one place up had a water leak not forced him to ease off the gas early on the straights and coast towards the corner for the final ten laps.
Toto Wolff defended his sometimes tearful superstar against accusations that he would have preferred to give up: "Lewis showed his determination with his lap times."
Hamilton gains 12 seconds on Verstappen
The race analysis should give the competition something to think about.Hamilton was at times the fastest man in the field, although he had to overtake six times on his way up. By lap 56, when everyone had completed their pit stops and just before the water leak made itself felt, he had reduced his gap to 40.8 seconds.
"If Lewis had stayed where he started after the start, he might have been able to fight for victory with his alternative strategy," the engineers believe. Bucking the trend, Hamilton started on medium tires and was set for a two-stop race.
The Mercedes technicians also put things into perspective: "Leclerc looked incredibly strong. He would have managed a two-stop race too. And Max had his DRS problem and his slip, which threw him behind George and cost time." Nevertheless, the numbers of Hamilton's catch-up race speak for themselves. This World Cup could soon become a three-way battle.
Hamilton saw the world in pink again after the race: "The car felt great. The bouncing on the straights is gone. It's still there in some corners, but not nearly as bad as it used to be. We are much closer to the guys at the top. It paid off that we didn't give up. In the end I was really annoyed that I lost the place to Sainz considering where I came from."
Toto Wolff is also more optimistic about the future than he was in Miami: "We have pulled away from the midfield, at least here in Barcelona. It was the most valuable race so far because it gave us a lot of data about our cars, which have different setups and tires were on the way. Our understanding has taken a big step forward and there is still a lot to come."