Lewis Hamilton has taken the Formula One World Championship lead after his fourth consecutive Grand Prix victory to head home Nico Rosberg in a close Mercedes one-two, with Daniel Ricciardo taking what he hopes will be a first F1 podium he can keep at the Spanish Grand Prix.
It is the 26th victory of Hamilton’s career and his first at the Spanish Grand Prix.
It was the fourth Mercedes 1-2 in a row this season, an almost unprecedent run of domination in modern F1. Even in the Schumacher/Barrichello Ferrari years such consistency was rare. Ferrari did five 1-2s in a row at the end of 2002, but there are few other similar examples.
Barcelona showed that Mercedes has increased its lead over its rivals and now the prospect is very real that the battle between Hamilton and Rosberg will be the championship story, with prospects receding for any other drivers to get in on the act.
Hamilton made a good start – and Rosberg another poor one – to take a racing line in to the first corner, quickly establishing a comfortable two-second lead over his team-mate in the opening laps as the Silver Arrows stretched away from their pursuers.
As has been the case this season the Brackley team opted to give Rosberg a different strategy, with the German taking a set of the slower hard tyre at his first stop whilst Hamilton remained with the faster option. It was then up to Rosberg to minimise the time lost in the middle stint and keep in touch with the race leader before Hamilton made the mandatory switch to the hard tyre for the final phase of the race.
At this stage Hamilton pitted two laps earlier, setting quick sectors and forcing Rosberg in to pits as the German did not want the gap to increase.
Rosberg made his final stop for a new set of mediums and emerged back on to the circuit four seconds behind his team-mate and set about ending Hamilton’s running streak with twenty laps remaining. Reducing the gap by one and a half seconds in two laps, Rosberg was in the hunt for his second victory of the season but had to be mindful of the twelve laps still to run.
With Rosberg scratching away at the lead he found himself within 0.5s as the lap board ticked to ‘two to go’. The German, though, was unable to find a way past his Championship rival and finished second to complete the fourth Mercedes one-two in succession.
Hamilton now takes the Championship lead by three points, whilst Mercedes hold a 113 point lead over Red Bull.
Behind the Mercedes pair and forty-eight seconds down the road was Ricciardo after a strong drive to his first Formula One podium, since being disqualified from second in Australia. He was jumped on the start line by the more powerful Williams at the hands of Valtteri Bottas and after being held up throughout the first stint of the race his Red Bull team opted to pit him early and under-cut the Finn. The move was a success, with Ricciardo having a twelve-second margin over the Williams following the stops.
It was almost the breakthrough result for Williams, whose race today was not against Ricciardo but instead to beat the Ferrari pair. Bottas was able to keep the Ferrari bay at bay with ease, finishing ten seconds ahead of them at the finish but his mirrors were filled by somewhat of a surprise. After dropping the ball a few times, the Grove squad almost got the kind of result the car’s potential merits.
Sebastian Vettel was a contender for driver of the day, having started fifteenth and spending the first stint sat behind thirteenth placed Jenson Button dived in to the pits the first of anyone, taking the hard tyre and setting himself up for a three-stop race in which he could push every lap, pass cars and emerge in fourth at the flag.
His second and third stops allowed him to make full use of the medium tyre, driving in a care free manner to stick his RB10 on the inside of anyone in his path. When Fernando Alonso, also on a three-stop race, pitted for the final time, Vettel swept around the outside of turn one to take seventh place from the home-favourite.
He then made little work of Kimi Raikkonen before reducing a seven second gap to fourth placed Bottas in four laps.
Vettel launched his move down the inside of Bottas in to the turn ten hairpin, completing the pass and a fantastic turnaround from his starting position.
With Bottas taking a strong fifth place, the next battle came between the Ferrari pair. Raikkonen held the intra-team battle lead over Alonso for the duration of the race, until the Spaniard made use of his fresher tyres and took sixth place with three laps remaining.
Romain Grosjean picked up Lotus’ first points of 2014 after a quiet drive to eighth place. The Frenchman held fifth place in the first phase of the race but was unable to keep the Ferrari pair and Vettel behind.
The points scoring positions were completed by the Force India duo, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, who had a race long battle with the Mexican eventually coming out on top.
Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, Race, 66 Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 66 laps 1hr 41m 05.155s
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes +00m 00.6s
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +00m 48.9s
4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bul +01m 16.5s
5. Valtteri Bottas Williams +01m 19.0s
6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +01m 27.4s
7. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1 lap
8. Romain Grosjean Lotus +1 lap
9. Sergio Perez Force India +1 lap
10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1 lap
11. Jenson Button McLaren +1 lap
12. Kevin Magnussen McLaren +1 lap
13. Felipe Massa Williams +1 lap
14. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +1 lap
15. Pastor Maldonado Lotus +1 lap
16. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +1 lap
17. Adrian Sutil Sauber +1 lap
18. Jules Bianchi Marussia +2 laps
19. Max Chilton Briton +2 laps
20. Marcus Ericsson Caterham +2 laps