Lewis Hamilton claimed a crushing victory at the Circuit de Barcleona-Catalunya to lead a Mercedes F1 one-two and extend his drivers’ championship lead to seventeen points.
His winning margin of 25 seconds is the largest of the season so far and the largest in Spain for eight years. He also became the only man in F1 history to finish in the points in 30 consecutive Grands Prix and established a new record of 41 Grands Prix wins from pole position, one more than Michael Schumacher.
In a race which had reduced strategy options and a gradually-decreasing threat of rain, the reigning world champion was rarely threatened en route to his 64th Formula One win. His main championship rival Sebastian Vettel fell foul of an prolonged pit stop under the virtual safety car to finish down in fourth.
“Today, with the car and myself, I just felt that synergy that we haven’t been feeling for the whole year. It’s a good feeling,” said Hamilton.
With Vettel running in second early on, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen benefited from Ferrari’s extended pit stop to finish second and third, with Verstappen claiming his first podium of the season despite suffering major front wing damage at the virtual safety car restart.
“The car was working really well,” said Verstappen. “It’s really hard to pass, but we just stayed close to everyone in front of us. We got the luck with Kimi [Raikkonen] retiring but the degradation of the tyres was really good. I think that gave us third position today.
“I think he [Bottas] was a bit too far away, but I had to keep pushing because I had Sebastian [Vettel] behind me and I just wanted to see how my front wing was holding on, but it seemed alright!”
Daniel Ricciardo finished a distant fifth, whilst Kimi Raikkonen failed to see the chequered flag after encountering a technical problem half-way through the race.
The Mercedes pair got a mighty launch off the front row at lights out, but Vettel was able to sneak into the slipstream of Bottas before swooping around the Finn on the outside of turn one to claim second place. Raikkonen held third ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo.
Things were more chaotic further back; Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz came together at turn two, whilst at turn three, a twitch for Kevin Magnussen caused Romain Grosjean to lift, lose grip and spin his Haas. The resulting spin collected Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, eliminating all three from the race.
The safety car was deployed to allow the marshals to clear up the wreckage, only pitting for the start of lap seven.
Alonso took advantage of being the only man to start on the high-degradation super soft tyre by passing Esteban Ocon at the restart, but there was worse news for his McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, who was handed a five-second time penalty for failing to stay left of the bollard when he ran onto the run-off at turn two on the opening lap.
Any threat to Hamilton’s race lead was negated by the a series of fastest laps by the Mercedes driver, and he opened up a six second lead in the first seven laps of the restart.
Unable to do anything about the pace of Hamilton, Ferrari reacted by bringing Vettel into the pits for medium-compound tyres at the end of lap seventeen, however both Mercedes drivers were able to respond by setting the fastest sectors of the race. The chance for an ‘overcut’ was on for Bottas.
Bottas was the first Mercedes into the pits, but a one-to-two second delay on his pit stop denied him the chance to relinquish the position from Vettel.
Kimi Raikkonen had stayed out for a longer first stint, but before he could make it to his first pit stop, his Ferrari developed a problem at the end of lap 24 and he was forced into race retirement.
Meanwhile, Hamilton made his first stop of the race – several laps later than both Vettel and Bottas – for the medium tyres, and rejoined in between the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo, who had stayed out even longer.
Esteban Ocon’s chances of securing a points finish were hampered by a disastrous first pit stop; the right-rear wheel failed to attach and he was kept in the pit box for a long time whilst the issue was resolved, dropping him to the back of the field.
The Red Bull’s long first stint came to an end around half-way through the race. Verstappen and Ricciardo pitted on laps 34 and 33 respectively to rejoin the race in fourth and fifth, some eight seconds behind third-placed Bottas.
Hamilton was now released from his Red Bull sandwich and was able to control – and increase – his ten-second lead over Vettel.
Ocon’s race went from bad to worse on lap forty. The Force India pulled off the track with a suspected hydraulics problem, prompting the deployment of the virtual safety car.
Ferrari were the only front-runners to take a chance on a switch in strategy; they brought Vettel in for fresh medium tyres, but a delay in the stop placed the sole Ferrari behind Verstappen.
Vettel’s chances of passing the Red Bull were increased when – with the virtual safety car very close to ending – Verstappen jumped the gun and tagged the back of the lapped Lance Stroll, creating noticeable damage to the endplate of his front wing.
The damage, however, wasn’t enough to drastically hamper the performance of the RB14 and Verstappen was permitted to stay on track.
“For us, it was not an option to stay out,” said Vettel after the race.
“We were going through the tyres quicker than the other today. Obviously, it looks different, it looks wrong, but from the inside I think it was the right thing to do.”
Ricciardo lost the opportunity to battle with Vettel when he spun under the virtual safety car, whilst Alonso capitalised on the timing of the ending virtual safety car by passing Sauber’s Charles Leclerc at turn one for eighth place.
On lap 45, Vandoorne became the sixth retirement of the race when he pulled over with transmission problems, denying McLaren the opportunity of a double points finish.
With both Mercedes drivers free to drive at whatever pace they desired, Hamilton and Bottas were able to stroll to a one-two finish, their first of the season, with Verstappen finishing 26 seconds off the race lead in third.
Vettel took fourth ahead of Ricciardo, whilst Magnussen finished a lonely race in a solid sixth place for Haas.
Renault’s Carlos Sainz and McLaren’s Alonso took points despite their lap one tangle, and Sergio Perez took advantage of the virtual safety car to fit fresh tyres and overtake Sauber’s Charles Leclerc for ninth in the final laps of the race.
Leclerc profited from a very strong start and solid race pace to hold on to tenth place and take back-to-back points finishes for Sauber.
All Photos: Motorsport Images
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SPANISH GRAND PRIX, 66 Laps
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +20.593s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault +26.873s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +27.584s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault +50.058s
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari +1 Lap
7 Carlos Sainz Renault +1 Lap
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault +1 Lap
9 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes +2 Laps
10 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari +2 Laps
11 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes +2 Laps
12 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda +2 Laps
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari +2 Laps
14 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes +3 Laps
15 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault DNF
16 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes DNF
17 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari DNF
18 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari DNF
19 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda DNF
20 Nico Hulkenberg Renault DNF