It was 66 laps of pure domination at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Sunday as Lewis Hamilton racked up the 88th win of his remarkable Formula 1 career. 

With his latest lights-to-flag triumph, Hamilton eclipsed Michael Schumacher’s all-time record for most podium finishes (155) and moved himself ever closer to the German’s unrivalled tally of 91 race victories. 

Hamilton requires  just three more wins to reach Schumacher’s long-standing benchmark, which he could rather fittingly match at Ferrari’s 1000th race at the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello in September. 

Already the record holder for most pole positions after topping qualifying for the 92nd time in Barcelona on Saturday, the Briton also remains well on course to equal Schumacher’s outright record of seven drivers’ world titles this year, having stretched his championship lead out to 37 points. 

And amid this current purple patch of form, it is hard to imagine that Hamilton won’t go on to surpass it with an eighth crown in 2021 too. 

This year’s Spanish Grand Prix will not go down as classic - it was mundane at best - with Hamilton seemingly unchallenged and in complete control out front. 

Despite what might have looked like an easy Sunday drive on the surface, Hamilton was working overtime in his all-black W11 in his strive for perfection. 

At 35, the Briton is still seeking improvements in his driving and is showing no signs of slowing down. If anything, Hamilton has gotten stronger with age. 

His peerless performance in Spain was the perfect demonstration of Hamilton’s abilities with a masterful showcase in tyre management that banished the ghosts of Mercedes’ tyre woes at Silverstone

Hamilton was in such a “clear zone” that he even had the awareness and foresight to overrule Mercedes’ original strategy plan to switch onto the Soft tyres for his final stint - and his concerns were proved correct considering teammate Valtteri Bottas’ struggles on Pirelli’s softest compound late on. 

"The most special thing for me was at the end we were ready to put Soft tyres on his car because there were not a lot of laps left and it was the logic choice, but he said ‘ don’t give me the Soft, give me the Medium’,” Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff said. 

“You can see that [decision] lost Valtteri’s race. We put the soft on Valtteri, logically he’d catch up on Verstappen and overtake - at least you’re in the fight but the tyre had no grip.”

Hamilton, who lapped every driver up to third and ultimately crossed the line 24 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, revealed he found a level of clarity and performance he has rarely experienced before throughout his F1 career.

"There is an immense amount of pressure on all of us to perform weekend-in, weekend-out," Hamilton explained after the race. "And in the chase for perfection and being in that zone, you can be very, very close but still be slightly out and not be quite in your perfect rhythm.

"But for whatever reason today, I can't quite pinpoint why, I felt like I was in the most… It was like a clear zone.

"The clarity I had when I was driving, I am sure I've had it before but I don't really know how to really get into that zone. It's hard to say what helps you get into that space. But of course I will evaluate the weekend and the feeling today.

"Honestly, I felt fantastic in the car. It was physically challenging but in terms of not making any mistakes, delivering lap upon lap upon lap, I was in the perfect zone. And that's the zone I dream of being in.

"I never would have expected to have a lead of 24 seconds. Even catching traffic, I was gaining time not losing time. There were all these elements perfectly in place. I was very centred in my core and I've got to try to get there every day.”

Hamilton’s post-race comments of feeling as though he was in “a daze” prompted comparisons to his boyhood idol and F1 hero, three-times world champion Ayrton Senna, who described having an out-of-body experience on his way to claiming a dominant pole position at the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix. 

“I wouldn't describe it the same way as Ayrton would," Hamilton replied when asked if what felt in Barcelona was similar. “It's not an out-of-body experience. Just in my highest form, I would say.

"I always like to talk about trying to be our higher selves, because each of us has an unlimited capacity. It just felt like I was at a high plane. 

“I am always talking about perfect races and that was one of them. We all try for perfection and it is not always easy to deliver like that but today, for me and the car, I was ecstatic.

"When I came across the line I didn't realise it was the last lap,” he added. “I was still going. I was like a horse with blinkers on. I was going to keep going. In terms of how I drove in really delivering, today was right up there with some of the best I have felt I've done.

"It is super-exciting. We move on to the next thing but I need to make sure I really appreciate this moment. It is easy to forget just how amazing it is where we are and what we're doing. So I am definitely going to have a glass of wine to celebrate.”

Hamilton appears to have found extra motivation this year by dovetailing his quest for a seventh world title alongside spearheading F1’s anti-racism protests as part of a global campaign to end discrimination and improve equality. 

According to his Mercedes team boss, Hamilton has reached new levels of performance and is driving “in a league of his own”. 

"Lewis has always been at his best when he fought adversity," Wolff explained.

"The Black Lives Matter movement is close to his heart and it certainly helps in terms of motivation. But I am impressed by how he develops every season. He is better in terms of his personality and as a driver.

"It is really inspiring that as a mid-30-year-old he is able to show us how you can develop as a personality and how you can improve your game. How you can have interest in things outside motor racing that makes you stronger.”

Hamilton’s latest victory defined the level he has worked hard to reach and underlined why his rivals face a near-impossible task to stop him from achieving his goal this season.

 

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