Hamilton rules from the start in Spain

Image by Andy Hone/LAT

Hamilton rules from the start in Spain

Formula 1

Hamilton rules from the start in Spain

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Lewis Hamilton dominated the Spanish Grand Prix from start to finish to retake the drivers’ championship lead from teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Mercedes was untroubled converting its front-row lockout into an unprecedented fifth one-two finish in the race, but Hamilton was out to make amends for his 0.6-second drubbing by Bottas in the fight for pole, scything past the Finn at the first turn and controlling the race thereafter.

It was an imperious display from the Briton, who collected his first point for fastest lap of the season to take a seven-point advantage over Bottas in the title standings.

“I just have to put it down to this incredible team,” Hamilton said. “This is history in the making to have five one-twos, so I’m very proud to be a part of that and proud of everyone’s hard work.

Bottas finished a comfortable second, but the Finn lamented a clutch problem that left him vulnerable at lights-out.

“There was some strange behavior of the clutch — it was biting, releasing, biting, releasing — which I never felt before,” he said. “I lost it there.

“I got some good points – every single point is going to count this year – but I’m just keen to find out why the start was so bad and why the issue happened.”

Max Verstappen completed the podium after slicing past Sebastian Vettel in a first-lap scuffle, and Red Bull Racing found it had the race pace to stay ahead of both Scuderia drivers for the duration of the race and secure its second podium of the year.

“Of course the Mercedes cars were too quick today, but I could do my own pace,” he said. “We were competitive and I could get myself on the podium.”

It was a costly result for Ferrari, which arrived in Barcelona hoping to make good on its preseason practice pace at the same circuit but left with confirmation it had fallen well behind Mercedes — and perhaps to level with Red Bull Racing.

Big move by Vettel at the start didn’t pan out. Image by Zak Mauger/LAT

The damage was done at the start. Vettel, who qualified third, attempted to hang around the outside of Bottas as he defended against Hamilton on his inside, but the German locked up and slid across the track behind both. He almost collected teammate Charles Leclerc in the process, and the lost momentum allowed Verstappen to slip past into third.

The lock-up neutered Vettel’s pace, and Ferrari had him surrender fourth to Leclerc. Sebastian begged his pit wall to change his flat-spotted tires as soon as possible, and his engineers obliged at the end of Lap 19, switching him to new mediums and onto a two-stop strategy. It triggered Verstappen to do likewise, the Dutchman taking another set of new softs.

The remainder of the front-runners had to choose whether to cover the two-stop or attempt to finish the race with a single tire change. Leclerc adopted new hards on Lap 25, locking in a one-stop strategy, but Bottas and Hamilton hedged their bets by taking new mediums with an eye to conserving to the flag.

Ferrari eased Vettel’s way past Leclerc and the German decided to pull the second-stop trigger early, at the end of Lap 40 — Verstappen followed on Lap 43 — and with another set of mediums was sufficiently fast to push Mercedes into covering, but as it did so a crash between Lando Norris and Lance Stroll neutralized the finale of the front-running gambles.

Norris had attempted to slide down Stroll’s inside at Turn 2, but the young Briton slid into the Racing Point’s left rear, punting him off the track and sending himself careening into the gravel. Both cars retired on the spot, triggering a safety car that allowed for a final mad dash for points.

Hamilton blitzed the Lap 53 restart and sprinted away from Bottas, while Verstappen and Vettel, equipped with the same tires of similar age, held station.

Leclerc, however, having switched to mediums and dropped to fifth during the caution, was forced to defend against an aggressive Pierre Gasly, whose soft tires were up to temperature fast enough to challenge in the first sector before the Ferrari driver could activate his own rubber.

Haas pair Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen brought alive in the battle for seventh and eighth, sparring on the restart and clipping wheels in Turn 1. They went side-by-side at the same corner again on Lap 57, but the Frenchman was unable to find a way past the hard-defending Dane, bailing into the run-off area and coming under fire from McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who passed him on the brakes into Turn 1 on Lap 59.

Daniil Kvyat lined up next, reliving the afflicted Grosjean of ninth, and the Haas driver spent the rest of the race defending his solitary point from Alex Albon.

Albon held off Renault teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg in places 11th to 13th, with Alfa Romeo teammates Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi sandwiching Sergio Perez in places 13th and 16th.

Williams duo George Russell and Robert Kubica finished last of all in 17th and 18th.

 

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