F1 Spanish GP: Lewis Hamilton extends his championship lead over Red Bull rival Max Verstappen

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Apologies to Beethoven, Shakespeare, Caravaggio and Einstein, but none of you could have come back 22 seconds within 24 laps to win the Spanish Grand Prix.

That distinction fell to Lewis Hamilton, who called 1996 world champion Damon Hill “ one of the most talented people ever to walk on Earth ” this weekend.

This is just sport, riding in circles, but here was another reminder that Hamilton remains a man apart in his chosen calling, his 100th career pole position on Saturday, followed by a fast ride to his fifth straight win at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton won the cat-and-mouse Grand Prix of Spain with a great victory over Max Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton won the cat-and-mouse Grand Prix of Spain with a great victory over Max Verstappen

His third win in four rounds earns him 14 points ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the world championships.

It was the Dutchman who felt the full crushing power of the champion’s abilities as he tried to withstand older rubber to withstand the swell behind him. With a speed of 1.5 seconds per lap, sometimes more, Hamilton went in the younger man’s favor.

“How far do I have to overtake?” asked a concerned Hamilton. Race engineer Pete Bonnington told him it was 22 seconds. “ We’ve done it before, ” he added, referring to the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix where Hamilton trapped Verstappen with three laps to go.

After the race on Sunday, Verstappen admitted that he knew his fate the moment Mercedes delivered their surprise – a strategic masterstroke – by calling on Hamilton for a second stop. To be honest, Verstappen drove flawlessly, but his pursuer inevitably moved towards his gearbox.

‘I don’t see how we are going to make it to the end’, was the cry of Verstappen.

Hamilton passed teammate Valtteri Bottas, on a different strategy, to finish second. And with six laps to go, he flew smoothly past his prey in Red Bull’s red and blue, to the left and out of the first corner.

Hamilton rode majestically to claim his third win in four races and extend his lead

Hamilton rode majestically to claim his third win in four races and extend his lead

Hamilton rode majestically to claim his third win in four races and extend his lead

“I was a seated duck,” said Verstappen, who finished second but with the fastest lap after a late stop after his hopes for victory were gone.

It was victory No. 98 for Hamilton. “There is still life in the old dog,” he declared 24 hours after landing his 100th pole – a milestone that prompted Hill to comment on Hamilton’s talent. “I saw Damon’s tweet and I am so grateful to him,” Hamilton said.

“I remember growing up looking at Damon and, as I do now, having so much respect for him. I wanted him to succeed as a Brit even if he didn’t have a great car or team.

“It’s absolutely humbling when you see people you have admired, watched, or inspired from, and hear them say positive and respectful things.”

At the age of 36, Hamilton says he is feeling fit as always, a new workout program is working for him.

He takes on a very good rival in Verstappen, who showed his instinctive combat skills by bravely jumping through Hamilton’s inside at the opening corner, the place where he would later be eclipsed.

“This is a time when I have to be at my best, because Max drives exceptionally well,” added Hamilton. ‘It’s so close between all of us that it will get a perfect delivery every weekend. I don’t think anyone can do that, but it’s about getting as close as possible. ‘

We also have to greet Mercedes – they are up to any challenge. Their car was out of pace at the start of the season, but look at it now. And notice how they got the big call here, knowing that Hamilton could keep his side of the bargain.

No wonder Red Bull team principal Christian Horner’s voice was downcast when he admitted there was nothing they could have done that day.

In the Mercedes garage, team boss Toto Wolff threw up his hands to celebrate while enjoying the satisfaction of the team and driver who excel in perfect harmony. Sitting next to him was Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, who received the constructor’s trophy.

Ratcliffe has a third stake in the team, with suggestions to step in deeper. That’s a prospect to deliver gastritis to Mercedes rivals.

What else? Bottas, it should be noted, did not relinquish his place to Hamilton lightly. He was in his own fight for third place with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and did not move over as he was asked.

It was an entertaining afternoon, with the two top executives on completely different strategies

It was an entertaining afternoon, with the two top executives on completely different strategies

It was an entertaining afternoon, with the two top executives on completely different strategies

Hamilton was not concerned after that and called the Finn the ‘best’ teammate.

Indeed, Bottas finished third, with Leclerc fourth and Sergio Perez, in the other Red Bull, fifth. The Mexican has yet to get his feet under the table with his new team, something he must do quickly when Red Bull takes on the champions next door.

When it was all over Hamilton may have been playing with Verstappen’s mind saying, “I learned a lot about Max today, maybe more than all the other races put together.”

When asked if he could explain anything, Hamilton said, “Not special. I followed him closely so I learned a lot about his car and how he uses it, so it was a good race in that regard. ‘

If there is one man who would like to know what the winner meant, he was sitting next to him and his name is Max Verstappen. Maybe he’ll wake up thinking about it.

Next up is Monaco, two weeks away. As for Hamilton, he promised, “It’s about me bringing my A-game and the team bringing their A-game week in, week out.” Red Bull has work to do. The warnings are everywhere.

Relive Sportsmail’s Ieuan Ivett’s live Formula 1 coverage of the Spanish Grand Prix.

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