Lewis Hamilton’s dominant victory in the Spanish Grand Prix acted as another crushing blow to Valtteri Bottas’ Formula 1 title hopes. 

A fourth win in six races has propelled Hamilton into a 37-point championship lead over Max Verstappen after the Red Bull driver finished a distant second in Barcelona

Behind Verstappen came Valtteri Bottas, who paid the price for a poor start that meant his race turned into a recovery effort to complete the podium.

A move to the Soft tyres in the second stint did not work out for Bottas as he failed to mount a challenge to Verstappen with Mercedes attempting an undercut strategy as he ultimately stopped for a third time to return to the yellow-walled Mediums. 

Despite the consolation of securing the extra point on offer for fastest lap, a third-place finish was another huge setback for Bottas in his hopes of claiming a maiden F1 title this year. 

Bottas has already haemorrhaged pivotal points to an in-form Hamilton with an awful start in Hungary, which was followed by a puncture-induced blank score at the British Grand Prix, and then getting out-raced by Hamilton at the second Silverstone round despite beating his teammate to pole position. 

The Finn now finds himself third in the standings, six points behind Verstappen and facing a monumental task in front of him if he is to overhaul a 43-point deficit to Hamilton - almost equivalent to two race wins. 

The Finn cut a despondent figure after the race, having almost resigned himself to the acceptance that his title hopes are effectively already over. 

“I’m very disappointed of course, it’s far from ideal,” Bottas conceded. “The points difference is way too big and I can see again the championship drifting away. 

“We will take a couple of days to look at everything and see what went wrong and move on. At this point it’s very disappointing but I will always bounce back.

“In Spa I will be in full mental health giving everything I have but for now, I just want to be somewhere else.” 

How Bottas bounces back at the upcoming triple-header that starts with the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of the month will be crucial.

While Bottas seemingly has no answer to Hamilton, Verstappen continues to maximise every opportunity in his RB16. 

Verstappen’s second-place finish behind Hamilton was his fifth consecutive rostrum, highlighting a run of consistency that has been key to thrusting the Dutchman into title contention. 

He once again qualified third behind the dominant Mercedes and has a handy knack of placing himself in prime position to capitalise on any drama that unfolds before him. 

Last week it was through making the most of Mercedes’ tyre struggles in an aggressive drive to a surprise win, and on this occasion it was from taking advantage of Bottas’ sluggish start. 

This time, however, Hamilton was in complete control en route to securing an 88th career win that has moved him ever closer to equalling Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 victories. The Briton also surpassed the legendary German for the most podium finishes with his 156th. 

Hamilton, who remains well on course to land a record-equalling seventh world championship this season, said he felt he was “in a daze” on his charge to his comprehensive triumph, but acknowledged that Verstappen is still in the hunt. 

"After the last race I looked and Max was second in the first race and if he didn't have the DNF he would have only been 12 points behind me," Hamilton told Sky F1. "So it's a lot closer than people think. In the race they are generally right with us.

"Today though I felt like I was in such a different head space in the car - it was awesome.

"It was one of the best feelings I've had in a long, long time in terms of just focusing and [making] no mistakes. Just being able to deliver each lap. It was the most beautiful feeling of just flowing lap by lap.”

Such was his sheer domination, Hamilton lapped everyone bar his fellow podium finishers Verstappen and Bottas. 

As Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff proclaimed, Hamilton is currently driving in a league of his own, with Verstappen appearing the most likely rival to have any chance of putting the brakes on what is turning into a runaway charge to a historic seventh world title.

 

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