THIS STORY APPEARS IN THE MAY 14 ISSUE OF MOTORSPORT ILLUSTRATED NEWS
For a driver who definitely ranks as one of Formula One’s most famous and is certainly seen as one of its best, Lewis Hamilton has never enjoyed much success or support in Spain. A fractious rookie season alongside Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2007 explains the latter, but the former has never really made much sense.
On Sunday, the Briton won the Spanish Grand Prix for the first time in eight attempts, and with his fourth victory in succession, took possession of the championship lead. Even the most parochial Alonso fans sitting in the packed grandstands at the Circuit de Catalunya had to applaud his efforts, if only for the way the race-long fight with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg bubbled to the boil in the closing laps.
From pole, Hamilton made a strong start and negotiated the longest run from the lights to the first corner of the season in first place, and the race looked his to lose for much of the 66-lap distance. But unlike the last race in Shanghai, this was no walk in the park for Hamilton, with two slow pit stops eroding his advantage to his teammate, and a strategy that had him on the harder-compound Pirelli tyre for the final 23 laps of the race. Severe graining on the left front tire hampered his efforts to pull away from Rosberg, and as the German closed, a frantic fight to the flag that punctuated the spectacular Bahrain race last month looked to be in the offing.
With Rosberg bearing down, Hamilton – after several fraught exchanges with race engineer Pete Bonnington over the radio in the latter stages – held his nerve, and it was Rosberg – on the faster, medium-compound tyre and with use of DRS to close the gap – who blinked first.
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