Lewis Hamilton wins F1 Spanish GP ahead of Max Verstappen

Hamilton F1 Spanish GP
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Lewis Hamilton scored his 98th F1 victory in the Spanish GP and crept ever closer to the century mark after earning his 100th pole earlier in the week. This is his third win in the fourth race of the 2021 season.

It was not as simple as leading flag to flag, however. Hamilton was involved in a race-long strategy battle with runner-up Max Verstappen.

Verstappen’s Red Bull took the lead on the opening corner of the first lap and led most of the race on a one-stop strategy.

Employing two stops — the second that left him 22 seconds behind the leader with 22 laps remaining —  Hamilton benefitted from having fresher tires.

After getting passed for the lead by Hamilton with five laps remaining (after the No. 44 McLaren made up a 22-second gap to first in 16 laps), Verstappen stopped a second time in the closing laps so he could secure the fastest lap in the race.

“It was actually a really good day,” Hamilton said after winning his sixth Spanish GP and fifth consecutive. “I learned a lot about Max today and perhaps more than all the other races probably put together.

“Obviously I was following relatively, closely and I learned a lot about his car and learned a lot about how he uses it. So that was a good race in that respect.”

The duo extended its advantage over the field by combining to win all four races this season. It’s an early indication this would be a two-driver championship race just as the season has been principally a battle between the McLaren and Red Bull contenders.

“I am beginning to love this battle we are having,” Hamilton said. “Red Bull has started incredibly strong. With Max, they have a championship-winning car. We have to bring our A-game every week.”

Verstappen made his first and only stop on Lap 25 of 66, and Hamilton made his first on Lap 29, coming out about 5 seconds off the lead.

He was within a second of Verstappen when his team made the call to pit for a second time on Lap 43.

Verstappen said he realized he was a ‘sitting duck’ once Hamilton affixed the fresh rubber.

“In a way, I could see it coming, you know?” Verstappen said. “Already at the end [of the first stint] with the softs, [Lewis] was faster. Then when we put on the mediums, he clearly had a lot more pace, he could just stay within one second.

“There was not much more we could have done. They went for another stop, then I knew it was over. I was already struggling with the tires. You could see every lap he was just getting closer and closer. So a bit of a sitting duck.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas finished 11 second behind in third.

Just off the podium, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished fourth with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in fifth.

With three victories, Hamilton expands his championship points lead to 14 over Verstappen, who won the only race that Hamilton has not claimed in 2021.

“It shows that we are not where we want to be. But compared to last year, it has been a big step,” Verstappen said. “We just need a faster car. It is very simple.”

At least the Red Bull driver could take solace in being faster on the start as he ran wheel to wheel with Hamilton through the first turn.

“As I went into Turn 1, I just gave Max as much space as I could,” Hamilton said. “This is a race, not a sprint. I always have my mind on the long game. As soon as I got past Turn 1, I switched into a different mode.”

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.