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|Carlos Sainz Jr.
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The statistics dictate this pick. Lewis Hamilton has won the last three Spanish Grand Prix and four overall. On Saturday, he earned the pole for Sunday’s race. The pole winner has been first to the checkered flag in 21 of the last 29 races at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. How could we pick anyone else to stand on the top tier of the podium?
Lewis Hamilton -200
|Spanish Grand Prix Information
|Spanish Grand Prix
|Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
|Sunday, August 16, 9:05 a.m. EST
|How to Watch
|Watch on ESPN+ here!
The oldest of the races on the current Grand Prix circuit, dating to 1913, the Spanish Grand Prix has contested over 66 laps at the 2.892-mile, 16-turn Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Six-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has won the last three races there and four overall.
Other drivers in the field who have claimed the Spanish Grand Prix trophy are Max Verstappen (2016), Sebastian Vettel (2011) and Kimi Raikkonen (2005 and 2008). Of those three, only Verstappen is a likely podium contender on Sunday.
Despite a chassis change, Vettel failed to make Q3 for the second straight week and will start 11th. Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc fared only slightly better, qualifying ninth, as the vaunted red cars from the Scuderia continued to struggle in a disappointing season—through Leclerc has outdriven his equipment to two podium finishes this season.
In sweltering conditions on Saturday at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Lewis Hamilton led Mercedes to its seventh front-row lockout in the last eight years of the Spanish Grand Prix. Hamilton’s first lap in Q3 was his fastest. He toured the 2.892-mile circuit in 1:15.184, topping teammate Valtteri Bottas by .059 seconds.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was a distant third in time trials at 1:16.292, but the day went to Hamilton, who extended his F1 record with his 92nd career pole. Given the difficulty in overtaking at the Spanish Grand Prix circuit, Hamilton elevated his status as favorite to win on Sunday—if that’s possible. In 21 of the last 29 Spanish GP events, since the move to the current track, the pole winner has gone on to claim the race victory.
After qualifying, Hamilton spoke of the physical demands of racing at Barcelona in the summer. The last 11 Spanish Grand Prix has taken place in mid-May.
“It’s definitely the first time I’ve been here in Barcelona when it’s this hot,” said Hamilton, who was at the track until 10 p.m. on Friday, mapping out his strategy for time trials. “Physically, it’s tough. It’s so fast, the fastest we’ve ever been around here.”
For the first time in his career, 22-year-old Max Verstappen secured a top-three starting position for the Spanish Grand Prix at the site of his breakthrough victory in 2016. In that race, Verstappen won from fourth on the grid, becoming the youngest F1 winner at 18 years and 228 days.
Coming off a strategic victory last Sunday at Silverstone—the first race of the season not won by a Mercedes driver—Verstappen was satisfied with his third-place qualifying effort on Saturday, but he hopes to pressure front-row starters Hamilton and Bottas under race conditions on Sunday.
“It’s the maximum we can do at the moment,” Verstappen said after time trials. “Overall, the whole weekend, we were P3. I’m pretty happy about that. I just hope we can close in the race.”
Verstappen’s Red Bull team found a way to do just that last week in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, as Verstappen climbed to second in the F1 driver standings, 30 points behind Hamilton. Repeating that performance, however, will be exponentially more challenging in Spain.
Sergio Perez returned in style. Back from a two-week hiatus after testing positive for COVID-19, Perez was fourth fastest in qualifying, just .190 seconds behind Verstappen in third. Racing Point teammate Lance Stroll earned the fifth spot on the grid, another .107 behind Perez.
What Racing Point hasn’t been able to accomplish so far this season is a top-three result when it counts on Sunday. Should Hamilton, Bottas or Verstappen falter, however, one of the pink Mercedes is most likely to gain the podium.
That could be the case if the Mercedes drivers can’t manage their tires, which created serious issues in both races at Silverstone. In the British Grand Prix two weeks ago, Hamilton limped to the win after a tire failure with a half-lap left. Last week, tire wear on both Mercedes gave Verstappen the opportunity to parlay an alternate strategy into victory.
Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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