Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton takes Spanish Grand Prix
British driver extends his lead over Sebastian Vettel in World Championship to 17 points
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. Photograph: Andreu Dalmau/EPA
Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix with a commanding victory from pole and in doing so has extended his lead in the Formula One world championship. In a strong race for Mercedes, his team-mate Valtteri Bottas was second, with the Red Bull of Max Verstappen in third. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel could manage only fourth after his team took a second pitstop for the German behind the virtual safety car that lost him track position. Hamilton now leads Vettel by 17 points in the title race.
The win is Hamilton’s second of the season and one he will believe is fully deserved. He inherited victory at the last round in Baku but in Spain, having claimed pole with a superb lap, he converted it with clinical efficiency that exploited the performance he has sorely lacked from the Mercedes in three of the four previous rounds. This 64th career victory is his third in Barcelona.
“This is more like it guys, let’s keep this up,” a buoyant Hamilton said.
The victory will be hugely pleasing and of some relief to the British driver and his team. Mercedes have not been able to get the most from their car since the opening round in Melbourne and have been repeatedly out-paced by Ferrari. However they were hooked up in qualifying and then proved to have the race pace to match, concluding with their first one-two this season.
Mercedes will be optimistic that they are getting to grips wth the issue of putting their tyres in the correct operating window that has seen them struggling for performance thus far. The thinner tread on the rubber Pirelli have supplied this weekend in response to the blistering during testing in Barcelona certainly seems to work to their advantage and the same type of tyres will be used at the French and British grands prix. Victory here will have given the defending champion the impetus he has felt has been lacking for the past three races.
Hamilton held his lead from lights out but Vettel made up a place on the drag race down to turn one passing Bottas for second. But racing was immediately interrupted by the safety car when Nico Hülkenberg and Pierre Gasly were collected by Romain Grosjean in the Haas who went off and spun back across the track through the third corner.
All three drivers were unhurt but it was an exceptionally dangerous incident and why Grosjean kept his foot on the gas as he span, causing smoke that unsighted the following drivers, seems inexplicable. Racing resumed on lap seven, with Hamilton holding his lead through the restart.
The British driver was able to stretch out a comfortable lead out and when Ferrari opted to stop Vettel on lap 18 for the medium tyre, Hamilton was seven seconds clear. Mercedes brought Bottas in two laps later but Vettel was just able to maintain second after the dived in front of Kevin Magnussen and the Finn when he emerged from the pits.
Hamilton, however, remained strong on his original soft rubber and maintained his pace out front. He was able to stay out a further eight laps, ultimately taking the medium rubber in a clean stop on lap 26.
Both Red Bulls went long into their first stints and Hamilton had caught Verstappen who held the lead by lap 32 but was not under pressure, having a solid lead over Vettel. Ricciardo was the first of the Red Bulls to pit on lap 34 with Verstappen coming in a lap later, the team committing to a one-stop strategy.
With Hamilton once again in clean air out front he held the lead on Vettel at over ten-seconds, when the virtual safety car was deployed after Esteban Ocon’s retired at the side of the track on lap 41. Ferrari took the chance to fit new medium rubber to Vettel’s car but the stop was slow and he emerged behind Verstappen in fourth place, sacrificing track position that proved a costly miscalculation and costing him second place. Potentially they may have believed with their first stop so early they could not make the flag with only one stop.
After a difficult start to the season Verstappen could not even buy a trouble-free race and he lost some front wing after clipping the Williams of Lance Stroll on the restart after the VSC, although he was able to continue without stopping again.
Hamilton, however, remained untroubled in the clean air out front and had 16 seconds on Bottas and 26 on Verstappen in third by lap 50. Mercedes had opted to keep both drivers out through the VSC and to one-stop them both and it had paid off. Hamilton had been serene in his control with Bottas squarely at his back they returned the result Mercedes have been looking for all season.
Daniel Ricciardo was fifth in the second Red Bull; Magnussen in the Haas in sixth; Renault’s Carlos Sainz in seventh. Fernando Alonso managed further points in eighth, with Force India’s Sergio Pérez in ninth. Sauber’s Charles Leclerc put in another sterling performance to claim a point in 10th. Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire his Ferrari with an engine problem on lap 25.