After Red Bull Racing headed into the race as favourites, Lewis Hamilton once again proved his quality holding off a charging Max Verstappen who was on newer tyres compared to the British driver. In what was an exciting race that went right down to the wire, Verstappen managed to overtake Hamilton before having to give back the position after leaving the track during that move.
Hamilton enjoyed seeing the fans out in the grandstand who were obeying the social distancing rules. Hamilton is very impressed with what Formula 1 have managed to do, putting in place a record 23-race calendar.
“Firstly, can I just say it’s the first time I have seen fans in a long time, it’s so good to see people out here and everyone keeping their distance and staying safe. I’m so proud of what Formula One has been able to do, to start on a normal schedule this year and wow, what a difficult race that was!”
Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team made the decision to pit Lewis earlier to cover of Verstappen and keep track position, Red Bull have been very quick all weekend so Hamilton knew it would take a mammoth effort to retain first place. On the last stint Hamilton had to maintain a balance of managing his tyres and driving fast enough to fend off the charge from Max Verstappen.
“Definitely by stopping early, we knew it would be difficult, but we had to cover Max and keep the track position in the lead. They have had an amazing performance all weekend, so it was going to take something pretty special to get the win tonight. We stopped for that last stint and trying to find the right balance between pushing hard and saving tyre performance for the end of the race was difficult.”
Verstappen and Hamilton were battling right to the bitter end for the win but fortunately for Mercedes, Hamilton managed to hold and the British driver feels that it was one of the hardest races he has had for a long time. The reigning world-champion acknowledges all of those working at the factory, pushing the car to the absolute limit of its capabilities in terms of performance, this race is why Lewis Hamilton loves Formula 1.
“Max was all over me right at the end but I just about managed to hold him off. It was one of the hardest races I’ve had for a while so I’m really grateful for it and massively thankful for the men and the women back at the factory and here, for continuously pushing the boundaries and never giving up, even if we do feel we’re behind. But we love the challenge, I love the challenge, I love what I do.”
“On a personal level it’s not satisfying but at least as a team, we have more points than Red Bull” – Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas suffered from pit stop problems and was unable to fight with Verstappen and Hamilton, as it was in an affective ‘no mans land’ – around 15 seconds to the top 2 and just ahead of the midfield pack, fronted by Lando Norris.
Bottas lost a lot of time with slow pit stops but if those errors hadn’t occured it would’ve been a closer race between Verstappen and himself. Losing 10 seconds in a pit stop means that you can’t catch up to the top 2 who are both top-quality drivers in their own life.
“We lost a lot of time on the slow pit stop otherwise it was a close race with Red Bull. The cars were quite close on pace but if you lose 10 seconds like that, racing against Max and Lewis, you are not going to get that back.”
For Bottas and his championship ambitions, he won’t be particularly overjoyed coming away from the weekend but at least the team have more constructors championship points than Red Bull. The Finnish driver agrees with the decision to stop late on in the race and take an extra point by virtue of recording the fastest lap.
“On a personal level it’s not satisfying but at least as a team, we have more points than Red Bull. It was the right thing at the end to stop for new tyres and set the fastest lap so we have an extra point. The car was more drivable today, it was better than yesterday and we are continuing to make steps forward.”
Bottas hopes that more progress can be made with the three weeks between now and the next grand prix at Imola. After what was a disastrous pre-season test, the team would’ve most definitely taken 1st place in the constructors championship after the first race.
“Hopefully we can make further progress. We have three weeks of work ahead of us before Imola. If you had said at testing that we would have two drivers on the podium and be top of the Constructors’ table after the first race, we would have taken it.”