Lewis Hamilton took a dominant victory in the Spanish Grand Prix as he led home a Mercedes one-two while Ferrari dropped points.
Starting from pole position for only the second time this season, Hamilton eased away at the front once racing resumed after a first-lap incident triggered by Romain Grosjean. The championship leader was in a league of his own and pulled out a significant lead over Sebastian Vettel in the opening stint, with teammate Valtteri Bottas putting pressure on the Ferrari behind.
Vettel held on to second place after his first pit stop, but both he and Bottas appeared set to two-stop while the Red Bulls behind were running longer. A Virtual Safety Car period to recover Esteban Ocon’s stricken Force India saw Vettel pit for a new set of medium tires – as all of the front-runners were using after starting on softs – but dropped him to fourth place on the road.
Overtaking is famously difficult on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and Vettel was duly unable to regain any positions as Bottas managed his pace in second and Max Verstappen had fresh enough tires to hold on to third. Verstappen was hampered by a damaged front wing after running into the rear of Lance Stroll’s Williams when the VSC ended on Lap 42, but still had the pace to keep the Ferrari at bay.
Red Bull felt Vettel would have been unable to get to the end without the extra stop and should have also dropped behind Daniel Ricciardo, but pitting under the VSC limited his time loss and Ricciardo then spun when racing resumed, leaving him over 20 seconds adrift of Vettel in fifth place.
Bottas was switched to a one-stop race as a result of the slower laps under the VSC and gaining track position, but he was still wary of losing performance in the closing laps and Verstappen tried to close in. That situation was in stark contrast to Hamilton, who was running at a quicker pace throughout and maintained a lead of around 20 seconds for the majority of the second half of the race.
“I felt that synergy today which I hadn’t been feeling the whole year,” Hamilton said immediately after jumping out of the car. “So it’s a good feeling.”
Ferrari’s missed podium came after Kimi Raikkonen had been forced to retire with an apparent power unit problem when running fourth, as Verstappen noted a bad smell from the rear of the Ferrari. Raikkonen had yet to pit on lap 24 when Verstappen made the observation, and less than a lap later the Finn slowed and had to return to the garage.