Hamilton explains his cautious start in Spain, as Horner says his driver’s move was ‘full Max Verstappen’
Lewis Hamilton has explained why he didn’t fight harder to hold on to the lead at Turn 1 on the first lap of the Spanish Grand Prix – while Red Bull boss Christian Horner called his driver’s move on the reigning champion “full Max Verstappen”.
While Hamilton started on pole position, Verstappen enjoyed a rapid getaway from a rubbered-in P2 grid slot that saw him go side-by-side with the Mercedes into Turn 1 and push the Silver Arrows driver wide, taking the lead of the race.
READ MORE: Why Red Bull were always likely to lose to Mercedes in Spain, however the strategy battle played out
Hamilton said he could have “sealed the job” at the start, but backed off instead.
“So, I know Valtteri was obviously starting in third and the goal is to work as a team,” he recounted. “So I stayed to the left. I think in hindsight there could have been a moment, looking back, that when Max moved in behind me for a second, I could have pulled across and sealed the job there – but I didn’t.
“And then, as we went into Turn 1, I just made sure I gave as much space as I could to Max. In my mind, it’s always a marathon, not a sprint, so I’m just always thinking the long game and sure, you could be a little bit more aggressive. Do I need to? Well, I’m in the position that I’m in because I don’t get too aggressive when I don’t need to be,” he explained.
Hamilton's caution paid off of course, as he later passed Verstappen to take the win after an ingenious two-stop strategy that Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said was “perfectly executed”.
Red Bull team boss Horner said Verstappen’s start was a highlight of the race, by using a choice turn of phrase.
READ MORE: Horner praises pit crew after unexpected Verstappen stop – but admits Red Bull lacked pace to win
“Turn 1 was mega. I mean Max, that was full Max Verstappen – he was just going for it – and he positioned the car fantastically well,” said Horner after the Spanish GP. “He tucked in, he got a little bit of a tow and a bit of momentum. And yeah he just braked later and ran the car wide. Thankfully Lewis had got out of it because otherwise he would have ended up in the fence,” he added.
Next up the championship battle hits the streets of Monaco, with Mercedes ahead in the constructors' title race, and Hamilton leading Verstappen in the drivers'.