Out of an early mistake comes another Hamilton masterclass | Daily News

Out of an early mistake comes another Hamilton masterclass

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton

Any victory feels good, but even as the Mercedes driver closes on 100 Grand Prix victories - the one in Portugal on Sunday was his 97th - some are more special than others. And this was undoubtedly one of the special ones.

The fight Hamilton and Mercedes are facing against Max Verstappen and Red Bull this year is arguably the toughest they have faced since they began their domination of Formula 1 in 2014.

So for Hamilton to pass not only Verstappen but also his own Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas to take his second victory in three races in a season the team started very much on the back foot was an achievement to savour.

"It feels fantastic," Hamilton said.

In all three races now, Hamilton and Verstappen have fought wheel-to-wheel, but this was perhaps the most definitive statement the reigning champion has yet made. He dropped to third in the early laps but was in the lead by lap 20. Once Hamilton was there, the fight for the win was over.

"He just drove an immaculate race," team boss Toto Wolff said. "But it makes no sense to talk about these exceptional Lewis performances because they have become quite regular now. It's his standard now and he sets that standard for himself."

Hamilton being Hamilton, he made his victory at Portimao look easy. It was anything but, and the evidence for that was provided by the two drivers he was racing against.

Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen were running in their grid order when the safety car came out after two laps in Portugal. It pulled off at the start of lap seven, leaving Bottas in control of when the racing restarted, and Hamilton made his only mistakes of the day.

He was looking in his mirrors to check where Verstappen was behind him, he said, at exactly the moment Bottas decided to jump. "That wasn't great," Hamilton laughed. But worse was to come.

The split second's reaction advantage allowed Verstappen to get a run on Hamilton, who recounted the incident in the post-race press conference, sitting between his vanquished rivals.