Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in the drivers’ world championship to 17 points on Sunday when he roared to an imperious victory as Mercedes scored a one-two triumph at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The defending four-time world champion dominated from start to finish, save for a spell during the mid-race pit-stops, and clocked a series of record laps as he registered his second successive win.
It was the 64th victory of his career – only Michael Schumacher on 91 has more – and came from his 74th pole.
He joined seven-time champion Schumacher and two-time champion Finn Mika Hakkinen as a three-time winner in Spain.
Finn Valtteri Bottas came home second in the second Mercedes ahead of Dutchman Max Verstappen of Red Bull who resisted late pressure from four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who led Hamilton by 17 points after the opening three races this year.
The German, who made a good start, was second until he took an ill-judged second pit-stop, under Virtual Safety Car conditions, midway through the race, dropping two places.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fifth in the second Red Bull ahead of Dane Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Spaniards Carlos Sainz, of Renault, and two-time champion Fernando Alonso, of McLaren.
Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India came home ninth ahead of the impressive Monegasque Charles Leclerc of Sauber.
Only 14 of the 20 starters completed the race after a major high-speed crash on the opening lap, triggered by a spin from Frenchman Romain Grosjean’s Haas car, and a sequence of retirements.
Wednesday’s announcement of a potential 10-year deal for a Formula one Grand Prix to be staged around the sweeping streets of Miami was welcomed with mixed views from enthusiasts of the sport.
The bustling American city, known for its glamour, neon night life, famous residents, stunning weather and the iconic South Beach, could be added to the 21-race calendar from as early as next year.
It would be a PR magnet should the City Commission give it its blessing next week, but even if they pass this juncture, they still need to negotiate a contract before it gets the green light for October 2019.
Next week’s vote will signal the city’s openness to what would be the largest race Miami has even seen.
It has been four years since cars have raced around the city’s winding and iconic streets, that came during the Miami ePrix in 2015 – an electric automobile race. Go further back and 13 years have passed since an Indy Car-style event cut through the famed Museum Park.
Formula One has global appeal and so does Miami. Imagine a race in Miami wedged between the US Grand Prix in Texas and the Mexican Grand Prix.
It would be a fantastic spectacle similar to a Monaco GP – the most glamorous on the circuit – due to its parties, atmosphere, yachts and everything else that goes with it.
Monaco is clearly the most prestigious on the current circuit, but there is no doubt that having the Magic City on the calendar would be just as illustrious.
Imagine the paddock having the likes of Kanye West, Jay Z and Co pitside.
From a drivers’ point of view, Lewis Hamilton joked about the distractions of having a race in Miami, but there is no doubt that every driver and team would enjoy the prospect of a having a new race, especially on Florida’s southeastern tip.
Liberty Media has wanted to expand F1’s presence in the United States since buying the commercial rights in September 2016, with a Miami race high up its wish list.
Miami’s status as one of the most iconic cities would make it a perfect destination for fans and perhaps the next big stop to help develop the popularity of the sport in the US. Americans love to have sports events that they can call their own.
With over 450,000 residents, it has a bustling tourism industry, nice food, great weather, white sandy beaches and multi-cultural population – all of which would add to the appeal of a new destination on the racing calendar.
Not only does it allow drivers to mix it up instead of racing at the same circuits each year, but it gives them a chance to test their mettle on a new street circuit in a vibrant city.
It relieves the stale drag of a 21-race season and gives drivers the chance to compete in another cosmopolitan place with nice weather and new fans.
The only negative would be whether another street circuit is the right way to gain fans and provide a spectacle? It’s difficult to argue against that but the sport’s growth and continued popularity is the most important thing long-term.
But if the race is to be introduced, it’s been suggested that the Azerbaijan GP will be dropped to make room for it – one of the most exciting races in the championship over the past three seasons. That would be shame to a country that has invested heavily in making such a spectacle.
Liberty Media have clearly done a superb job since helping to boost the entertainment value of the sport, and maybe another street circuit would add to more fan-orientated events and widen more appeal to a US audience.
It remains to be seen whether the proposal will be passed, but should the powers that be and the F1 have their offer accepted, then expect Miami to be the hottest race on the calendar.
Lewis Hamilton joked that he stands no chance of winning Formula One’s proposed race in Miami next year because there are “so many distractions”.
The City of Miami Commission announced on Wednesday that it would vote on a street race next week. A further vote would then be put to Miami County later this month, and, if both are approved, the sport will be given the green light to stage a race in downtown Miami in October of next year.
F1 is set to face opposition from a series of local groups, with large parts of the city to be affected by the tabled event, but sources are confident that a deal will now be struck, and saw Wednesday’s announcement as a huge step to reaching an agreement.
Hamilton, who holds a four-point championship lead over Sebastian Vettel following his somewhat fortunate triumph in Azerbaijan last weekend, has been known to party in Miami, and jokingly admitted that it might be hard to concentrate only on the race.
“My friend messaged me about Miami, and I was like ‘I’m not winning that race because Miami is exciting, it is awesome and it is a great party spot’,” a grinning Hamilton said.
“Oh jeez, it is going to be a hard weekend. I might have to stay out of town. There are a lot of beautiful women (in Miami) and there is going to be so many distractions.”
Hamilton, 33, was speaking at a UBS sponsors’ event in London. The Englishman also revealed he visited Mercedes’ factory in Brackley, Northamptonshire on Wednesday as he, and his world championship-winning team, bid to build on their opening victory of the season in Baku.
Hamilton did not enjoy his finest weekend, but ended a near 200-day losing streak by virtue of a series of race-turning incidents.
“This is definitely the toughest year I have experienced and the team are going through a lot of pressure now,” Hamilton added.
“He (Vettel) has got a bloody good car and it is going to take every ounce of me, and all those that are working with me, to finish ahead of him.”
Hamilton’s opening win of his title defence arrived against the backdrop of Bernie Ecclestone’s claim that the Brit is no longer the racer he was, and sensed he is becoming disillusioned with the sport.
Hamilton is yet to sign an extension to his Mercedes contract which expires at the end of the season.
“This year I have been super, super focused,” Hamilton added, seemingly in response to Ecclestone’s claim. “There are always comments: ‘Is Lewis focused?’ ‘Is he the same as he was last year?’ I have actually dedicated myself even more than I did last year.
“I don’t know how many years left of racing I have got, but I can tell you right now that I am enjoying it more than I ever had, even when we haven’t had the wins, because of the journey and the travel that I get to do.
“As you get older, you get wiser, and your vision opens up. You are absorbing new things and I realise now that I am part of a new culture in racing, hopefully drawing new people to it, and I am still at the forefront of it.”