Hamilton wins incident-filled Spanish GP
Hamilton survives incident-filled opening lap to win Spanish Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton moved to within six points of Sebastian Vettel after beating his championship rival in a titanic tussle at the Spanish Grand Prix yesterday.
Pole-sitter Hamilton lost the lead to Vettel at the start only to regain it from the Ferrari driver in the final stages of a compelling race to seal his second victory of the year.
Hamilton punched the air in delight as he crossed the line.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo completed the podium places after Valtteri Bottas retired with an engine problem.
Hamilton had vowed to take inspiration from Bottas' lightning quick start in Russia a fortnight ago, but it was Vettel who was fastest out of the blocks.
Despite starting on the dirtier side of the track, Vettel drew alongside Hamilton on the long run down to turn one before hugging the inside line to take the lead.
Hamilton was second, but there was chaos behind as Bottas bumped into Kimi Raikkonen, who, in turn, ran into Max Verstappen.
While Bottas survived the incident, Raikkonen's front-left suspension was in tatters, and, although Verstappen limped back to the pits, his race was over, too.
Fernando Alonso, starting in seventh after a miraculous performance in qualifying, dropped four places on the opening lap after he was edged off the track by his former Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa at turn two.
Up front, Vettel was 2.2 seconds clear of Hamilton at the end of an incident-filled opening lap, and that was how it stayed as the two championship protagonists traded times.
Ferrari were the first to blink as Vettel came in for his first stop at the end of lap 14.
Vettel took on the soft tyre, the quickest, but less durable of the three compounds available here this weekend.
It was expected that Hamilton would pit on the following lap, but the British driver was told to stay out as Mercedes switched up their strategy.
"We are creating opportunities later in the race," Pete Bonnington, Hamilton's engineer, told the Briton from the Mercedes pit wall.
Hamilton eventually stopped at the end of lap 21, taking on the more durable medium rubber, and exited the pit lane nearly eight seconds adrift of Vettel.
The German, however, had greater cause for concern in the form of the other Mercedes with Bottas, yet to stop, holding him up.
But, on lap 25, Vettel made his move. He threw Bottas a dummy before taking to the grass on the 200mph run down to turn one and edging his way past for the lead of the race once more.
It was the pass of a champion and his Ferrari mechanics celebrated in their garage.
McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne then crashed into Williams' Massa at turn one.
Vandoorne's race was instantly over and, with his car discarded in the gravel, the virtual safety car was deployed.
Mercedes sensed an opportunity and hauled Hamilton into the pit lane for his second and final stop. On went the soft tyres and Hamilton was released.
Ferrari were somewhat caught on the hop and, when they reacted to Hamilton's stop, they put the slower medium compound on Vettel's car.
As the German raced away from the pit lane, he emerged wheel-to-wheel with Hamilton.
The British driver attempted to pass his rival around the outside, but Vettel held firm and Hamilton ran off the track.
"That was dangerous," a breathless Hamilton said over the team radio. "I was more than half alongside him, and he pushed me wide."
The stewards noted the incident, but took no action.
Hamilton was not about to give up, however, and after gaining once more on the Ferrari, he seized his opportunity on the 44th lap.
And, with the combination of a tow and DRS, he sailed around the outside of Vettel at turn one to reclaim the lead. "I had no chance," said Vettel over the radio. "He was like a train."
There was not stopping Hamilton after that, as he claimed his second win this season, 3.4sec clear of Vettel.
- PA SPORT