Lewis Hamilton made it back-to-back wins as he lead Valtteri Bottas across the line to score a resurgent one-two for Mercedes-Benz in the Spanish Grand Prix.
Where Hamilton’s victory in the previous race in Baku had required a huge element of luck as well as the misfortune of several of his rivals, in Spain the four-times world champion was dominant.
He took pole position in qualifying in a Mercedes lockout of the front row, and was never seriously challenged from the moment the race began.
Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel ran strongly early on to split the two Mercedes off the start. However, just as Vettel did not have the pace to run with Hamilton, Ferrari’s strategy of bringing Vettel in for a late-race second pitstop during Virtual Safety Car conditions proved to be a spectacular own goal.
While on the day Vettel was probably not a realistic winning chance, second place – rather than his eventual fourth placing – had been eminently achievable.
Vettel lost second to Bottas due to a slow first pitstop from the Ferrari team, but got the position back when Bottas was likewise delayed in the pits.
Then Ferrari rolled the dice during the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) period prompted by Esteban Ocon’s Force India which stopped on the track. Vettel was the only driver to opt for a second stop under the VSC, and far from putting him in a position to challenge the race leader, it dropped him behind Bottas and Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.
Despite the Ferrari driver’s fresher tyres, and the fact that Verstappen had damaged his front wing when he hit the rear of Lance Stroll’s lapped Williams at the VSC restart, Vettel was unable to dislodge the Dutchman from the final step of the podium.
Verstappen’s team-mate Daniel Ricciardo endured an odd race, the Australian seemingly unable to run with Verstappen during the middle stages of the race but managing to set fastest laps at the end. Ricciardo ended up a distant fifth, the last driver not to go a lap down.