Lewis Hamilton came out on top in a thrilling tactical battle to beat Sebastian Vettel to the line at the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.
Vettel surged ahead of pole-sitter Hamilton from lights out to lead after turn one, but Mercedes flipped their strategy to take first place, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo claiming third – his best performance of the season.
It is Hamilton’s first win in Barcelona since 2014 and just the second of the Briton’s career at this circuit, closing the gap to championship leader Vettel to just six points.
Hamilton regained first place from the Ferrari driver on lap 44 and held on comfortably despite his soft tyres degrading as Vettel’s medium compounds maintained condition.
It was not all good news for Mercedes, though, as a crash sparked by Valtteri Bottas resulted in the retirements of Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen after just one corner.
The Finn, who picked up his first F1 victory at Sochi last time out, did not sustain any damage and faced no action from the race stewards, but an engine issue resulted in his eventual retirement.
Much of the talk ahead of the race was centred on the respective upgrades brought in by the two leading constructors, but it was the driving and strategy that will provide the lasting impression.
MERCEDES TRIUMPH IN STRATEGICAL BATTLE
In an attempt to avoid being undercut by Mercedes, Vettel pitted on lap 15. However, a surprise move saw Hamilton go in for a set of medium compound tyres six laps later, suggesting he would run a two-stop strategy.
Bottas held off Vettel for a short while until the extended DRS zone helped the German get right on the his tail down the pit straight and he darted down the inside with an excellent move at turn one on lap 25.
The duo were boxed at the end of the virtual safety car deployed after Stoffel Vandoorne’s collision with Felipe Massa, meaning Vettel had mediums and Hamilton switched to softs.
The Ferrari driver held the three-time champion off at turn one on lap 38, but Hamilton got the job done six laps later with the German saying over team radio: “No chance, no chance. Like a train.”
— Circuit BCN-CAT (@Circuitcat_eng) May 14, 2017
TURN ONE DRAMA COSTS KIMI AND MAX
The 2016 Spanish Grand Prix saw Verstappen become the youngest driver to win an F1 race in a dream debut for Red Bull’s senior team. This year it could not have gone much worse.
Verstappen was at the end of a chain of contact that ended his and Raikkonen’s race. Bottas clipped the rear-right wheel of Raikkonen as he went down the outside of the Mercedes at the first corner and the Ferrari bounced into the Dutchman.
The Red Bull driver and Raikkonen were unable to stay on the track and driving over a bump led to irreparable suspension damage.
ALONSO’S WEEKEND ENDS IN DISAPPOINTMENT
After a miserable Friday saw reliability issues beset Fernando Alonso’s McLaren once again, the Spaniard sprung a surprise by reaching Q3 for the first time this season and qualifying seventh.
It was an outcome that delighted the home crowd, but contact with Massa at turn two on the opening lap sent him into the gravel and out of the top 10.
The two-time world champion was never in the running for points on the 11th anniversary of his first Spanish GP win from there, but he did set his fastest lap of the day at the death.
Despite that, his participation in the Indianapolis 500 rather than at the Monaco Grand Prix in a fortnight will no doubt be a welcome distraction.
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) May 14, 2017
JOY FOR FORCE INDIA
With Bottas and Raikkonen failing to finish in Barcelona, Force India took full advantage.
Sergio Perez claimed fourth and Esteban Ocon followed him home in fifth, meaning they are now the only team to have scored points with both drivers in every race this season.
Meanwhile, Williams missed out on the top-10 spots with Massa 13th and Lance Stroll the last runner in 16th.
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +3.490s
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +75.820s
4. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1 lap
5. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 lap
6. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1 lap
7. Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) +1 lap
8. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) +1 lap
9. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) +1 lap
10. Romain Grosjean (Haas) +1 lap
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) – 104
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 98
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 63
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) – 49
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) – 37
1. Mercedes – 161
2. Ferrari – 153
3. Red Bull – 72
4. Force India – 53
5. Toro Rosso – 21
The most prestigious race in the F1 calendar – it’s the Monaco Grand Prix. At a venue where overtaking is limited, it is set fair for another fascinating tactical battle on the famous street circuit.