Lewis Hamilton moves ahead of Bottas with Barcelona victory

World champion delivers dominant performance with Mercedes teammate second

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters

 

Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix with a dominant, untroubled run at the front of the field. He took the race from his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who had started on pole, after passing him into turn one and the Finn could manage only second. Max Verstappen was an impressive third for Red Bull while Ferrari’s difficult weekend yielded only fourth and fifth for Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. The win means Hamilton has retaken the lead of the world championship from Bottas and Mercedes have their fifth consecutive one-two finish.

Hamilton had started from second but having taken the lead held it throughout, with Bottas staying with him but clearly without sufficient pace advantage to challenge. Hamilton was calm and controlled and handled a late safety car which closed the pack up with ease. It was a consummate race by the five-time world champion, who also secured the extra point for the fastest lap of the race.

This is Hamilton’s 76th career victory and continues a strong start for the British driver with his third win this season. He has been out-qualified by his teammate but now has the edge on over Bottas on a Sunday, with three wins to two. It is his fourth win in Spain and his third in a row here.

At the last round in Baku Hamilton had to accept second place to Bottas who had started from pole but here, as he had in China, Hamilton took the lead off the start and then made the most of his advantage to dictate the race.

Hamilton had given the Finn room as they vied with one another through the opening turns in Baku, but had warned he would not be so generous again and duly held his line and the lead through turn one.

Having expected to be chasing Ferrari, to have scored three wins from five races, with Mercedes victorious in all five, is an opening Hamilton would have considered unlikely. He has ensured he has been at the very front of the mix in every race and taken advantage of every opportunity. It has been a ruthless display of focus and application despite the fact he is still yet to be entirely happy with his car and is convinced it will only improve.

Attempting to take a sixth world championship and the third in a row, his form is ominously strong and as things stand only Bottas looks like coming close to him. He leads the Finn by seven points in the title race, is 46 clear of Verstappen in third while the 48-point gap to Vettel in fourth is rapidly becoming a chasm.

Ferrari had brought an early engine upgrade and aerodynamic improvements to Spain and with a straightline speed advantage had hoped to be strong here. But Mercedes also brought aero upgrades and with Ferrari still struggling with pace through the slower corners, they look to have found another step ahead of the Scuderia who have been left once again trying to ascertain the best way forward.

Hamilton made a superb getaway and just had his nose in front and the inside line into turn one and Bottas could do nothing, losing the lead through the apex. Vettel had gone aggressive and went round the outside of the two leaders but locked-up, flat-spotted his tyre and lost third to Verstappen.

Hamilton promptly took advantage and had over two seconds on his teammate by lap five. Behind them Leclerc who had started in fifth quickly caught Vettel, was visibly quicker and the German eventually let him through on lap 12.

Ferrari opted to pit Vettel to deal with his damaged rubber on lap 20, when he took the medium tyres, at which point Hamilton and Bottas were already alone out front, with the British driver four seconds up on his teammate and Verstappen seven seconds behind them. Verstappen came in a lap later but took the soft tyres.

Leclerc came in on lap 26 and took the hard tyre and emerged still in front of Vettel. Mercedes covered the stop with Bottas a lap later and Hamilton after him on lap 28. Both taking the medium rubber. Hamilton rejoined still leading with a 10-second advantage on his teammate. It was, as is so often the case in Barcelona, going by the numbers.

Vettel on quicker tyres caught Leclerc by lap 33 but Ferrari did not swap the pair over until lap 36 and Vettel pitted again on lap 41 for another set of mediums. Red Bull pulled Verstappen in for his second stop on lap 44.

Bottas took a second stop on lap 46 just before a clash between McLaren’s Lando Norris and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll brought out the safety car.

Hamilton dived into the pits for a free stop for the soft tyre as did Leclerc, restoring the order as it had been at the end of lap one. It was briefly dramatic but had no bearing on the outcome. When racing resumed on lap 52 Hamilton controlled the restart superbly from where he ran to the flag, once again untouchable.

Pierre Gasly was sixth for Red Bull. The Haas of Kevin Magnussen was strong in seventh and his teammate Romain Grosjean finished in 10th. Carlos Sainz scored well for McLaren in eighth in front of the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat. - Guardian

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