Lewis Hamilton wins Spanish GP for 88th career victory in Formula One

F1 Lewis Hamilton Spanish
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MONTMELO, Spain — Lewis Hamilton had no problems with his tires Sunday as he coasted to victory at the Spanish Grand Prix, extending his championship lead to 37 points and clinching an 88th career victory to move within three of Michael Schumacher’s Formula One record.

The talk before the race was whether Mercedes’ tires would be vulnerable in the searing summer heat of Spain, after experiencing problems in the past two races at Silverstone.

But there were no such issues as Hamilton, who started from the pole position, finished a sizeable 24 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen for his fourth victory in six races this season.

With his 156th podium, Hamilton broke a record he shared with Schumacher.

Valtteri Bottas placed third to fall further behind second-place Verstappen in the standings.

The winding 4.7-kilometer ( 2.9-mile) Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with its combination of slow and fast corners, is one of the hardest for overtaking.

After narrowly securing a record-extending 92nd career pole position Hamilton made a strong start on the long straight to the first corner. But Bottas was overtaken by Verstappen and the Racing Point of Lance Stroll – who jumped from fifth to third with a fine move on Bottas’ right flank.

Track temperatures on the circuit were around 50 degrees C (122 F) and Mercedes was concerned about catching too much sun.

“These black overalls are hot,” Bottas said during the race, throwing in an expletive for emphasis.

It was another miserable day for the struggling Ferrari team, with Sebastian Vettel finishing seventh and Charles Leclerc abandoning after his engine cut out on the track.

“I don’t know why the car switched off completely,” Leclerc said.

He crawled into the pits but the mechanics seemed at a loss to figure out what was wrong and his race was over on lap 41.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
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Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.