F1 fans rejoice!
There is a genuine fight for the world championship this season!
Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen was once only an undercard fight, but is now delivering on its potential as the main event.
The first four rounds have seen both Hamilton and Verstappen have their best ever starts to the season, with the two drivers hogging the top two steps of the podium in every race.
However, all that glitters is not gold, as the events of the Spanish Grand Prix were a reminder of how Mercedes can effortlessly dispatch their challengers.
Verstappen could have won the race, or, at the very least, had a chance to challenge for victory, were it not for Red Bull’s decision to leave him out on a one-stop strategy, making the Dutchman a sitting duck to the charging Hamilton, who had fresher tyres after pitting for a second time.
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Despite Red Bull team principal Christian Horner saying there was nothing else that could have been done, Verstappen pitting for a set of softs after being overtaken by Hamilton was a sign to the contrary.
For sure, there was the almost certain threat that track position would have been lost, with Hamilton’s second stop coming as a bit of a surprise, but Pirelli had set out on the morning of the race that a two stop strategy – starting on softs, then pitting for mediums on lap 19, and again for softs on lap 47 – would be the quickest (in theory).
We know, owing to the late pit stop onto the softs by Verstappen and his strong pace on the way to collecting a point for the fastest lap of the race, that Verstappen could still have had a fighting chance on a two-stop strategy.
Instead, he was hung out to dry.
Hamilton’s 14-point championship lead could just as easily be no lead at all, were Verstappen able to maintain the stronghold he had on the Spanish Grand Prix up until Hamilton made his second stop, and take a win and set the fastest lap.
Alas, that was not to be, and fair play to Mercedes for forcing the issue.
However, it does not disguise how this championship could swing the way of Hamilton and Mercedes so easily, as has happened many times before when they are the only ones who keep their heads when all about them are losing theirs.
Red Bull have the pace to win this championship, but there are more pieces to the puzzle than that.
No more track limits excursions, no more questionable strategies, and no more missed opportunities.
The bottom line is this.
Verstappen and Red Bull must win in Monaco.