Lap 39/71 Bottas loses some pace – great news for Verstappen. The gap is 23s or so, and might Red Bull bring him in now while the going’s good?
Lap 38/71 Verstappen has to get through maybe ten more laps before he pits, and hasn’t opened enough of a lead over Bottas to be sure of coming out in front of him. That’s a right boon for Hamilton and Vettel.
Lap 36/71 Vettel can’t make an impression – he’s 12.889 behind Verstappen, and Bottas in fourth is 22.104s down. That’s a nice pit-stop window for the leader.
Lap 35/71 We hit halfway and if Hamilton goes in now he’ll come out ahead of Leclerc. He does not.
Lap 34/71 Might Mercedes bring Hamilton in soon to stick him on hards? If they leave alone, he’s relying on others suffering to win.
Lap 33/71 Hamilton lost half a second on the previous lap and his tyres are looking a little ragged.
Lap 32/71 Verstappen is a proper threat next term, I’d say. Mercedes can’t rely on Hamilton’s driving – they need to work on their speed down the straights.
Lap 31/71 One good stop might do it for Verstappen here, because Vettel isn’t really closing the distance. Hamilton will need some kind of mechanical or driver error to compete by the looks of things … but we can’t be underestimating his brilliance.
Lap 30/71 Leclerc is told to follow “Plan C” and then pits, changing to hards – they’ll be expected to carry him home, I shouldn’t wonder. Verstappen leads by 2.317s, with Vettel 12.808s behind.
Lap 29/71 “I think we’ve gone for the wrong tyre,” Hmailton tells his team. We should be on the medium. And as if to prove his point, Vettel, on mediums, records the fastest lap of the race and takes out Leclerc, who’s yet to pit.
Lap 28/71 As we thought: on the radio, Hamilton tells his team he can’t keep up with Verstappen, but he’s actually going faster through the middle section of the lap.
Lap 27/71 In goes Bottas and Verstappen now leads by 2.128s. That’s a pretty nifty gap because it’s hard to see how Hamilton finds the pace to get by him; Vettel, with hsi one-stop strategy, almost seems a likelier challenger now.
Lap 26/71 Vettel goes in, and might just manage a one-stopper. Meanwhile, Bottas leads by 0.582 and Verstappen is behind ready to nail him with the DRS.
Lap 24/71 We see the Kubica intervention again, and that was very naughty from Williams – we could see it happening, so you can be sure his team did BUT EXCUSE ME WHILE I INTERRUPT MYSELF BECAUSE HAMILTON HAS DRS AND HE NAILS VERSTAPPEN ON THE INSIDE BUT VERSTAPPEN CLOSES THE DOOR!
Lap 23/71 Here we go! Hamilton zooms by Leclerc …but Verstappen does too! AND NOW VERSTAPPEN NAILS HAMILTON TOO! Hamilton tires to fight back with the DRS but he can’t, and might that be the race?!
Lap 22/71 Verstappen goes in and that’s a brilliant change! Out he goes, on used softs – the ones he saved from qualifying – BUT WILLIAMS RELEASE KUBICA INTO HIS PATH! HE’S BEHIND HAMILTON!
Lap 21/71 “Don’t miss this shot” Hamilton tells his team and he goes into the pits! He puts on softs – used softs! – so he’ll definitely be stopping twice! Meanwhile, Verstappen is having grief with Russell and Kubica as he laps them, and he and his team need to decide whether or not to come in. Surely they’ll come in?
Lap 20/71 Lets have a rundown:
Lap 19/71 Verstappen is losing patience with his tyres and the back of his car is moving around. Hamilton isn’t quite yet the favourite, but things are tilting his way.
Lap 18/71 It’s reckoned that Hamilton will be able to go four or five laps longer than Verstappen, but for the time being he’s not making inroads into a lead that’s back up at 2.402s.
Lap 17/71 Vettel’s Ferrari is starting to struggle on its tyres. He’s 4.202s behind Verstappen.
Lap 16/71 Elsewhere, Harold Winks has given England the lead in Kosovo. You can follow that one here.
Lap 15/71 In commentary, they speculate that Verstappen’s vibration is what has encouraged Hamilton, while Ricciardo is give a five-second penalty for that Magnussen affair.
Lap 14/71 It looks like Hamilton wants to have a go at Verstappen, and has trimmed his lead to roughly two seconds.
Lap 13/71 “Who do you think is more likely to be be a future world champion – Verstappen or Leclerc?” asks @TAFKABB. “Or one of the other young guns? Austin?”
I reckon Verstappen will be the closest challenger next season – Leclerc still has a lot to learn, though the speed and skill are obviosly in place.
Lap 12/71 Verstappen says he’s picked up some vibration on the left front, but in general is happy with his tyres. I’m kind of surprised he’s not extending his lead but perhaps is trying to savr the car.
Lap 11/71 Verstappen leads Hamilton by 2.358s, with Vettel roughly the same behind him.
9/71 As a result of that little tussle, Magnussen is down to 18th and Ricciardo is last. Leclerc, meanwhile, gains on Gasly… and that’s him into sixth! His car is an absolute unit.
Lap 8/71 Ricciardo has a chunk of front wing hanging off! Magnussen squeezed him into a turn, he spun uphill and off the track, and that’ll be a pit situation.
8/71 Ricciardo, in 14th, is worrying Magnussen ahead of him. I thought Ricciardo might be the next driver to make it happen, but at the moment we’re looking at Leclerc and Verstappen.
7/71 Leclerc gets behind Raikkonen, into his slip, bit of assistance, and that’s an easy pass! He’s seventh now, and is on a right old boust.
6/71 In commentary, they just think that Verstappen and his car are quick, especially in the middle of the lap. In fifth, Albon is gaining on Bottas – there’s a second or so between them.