Ferrari took the chance to fit new medium rubber to Vettel's vehicle but the stop was slow and he emerged behind Verstappen in fourth place, sacrificing track position that proved a costly miscalculation and costing him second place. The defending four-time world champion dominated from start to finish, save for a spell during the mid-race pit-stops, and clocked a series of record laps as he registered his second successive win.
"I couldn't have done it without this incredibly team", Hamilton said post-race. The more confident I am the better the pace is.
Ricciardo, who crashed with Verstappen in Azerbaijan, had a tough start to his weekend in Barcelona by hitting a tire barrier midway through the first session, losing a lot of track time.
As a potential explanation for the lack of pace, Vettel added that perhaps Ferrari's upgrades for Spain had not been as significant as those of other teams.
"To think that is my 64th, it still feels like a first, special and unique in its own way". Mercedes chose to pit Bottas a lap after Vettel in one stop strategy with the driver emerging second overall, despite a slow pitstop where he lost 1.4 seconds in the process. "I don't think it affected me too much", Verstappen said.
The victory bodes well for Mercedes for the rest of the season as the performances in Barcelona - where most teams bring significant auto updates - usually set the tone for the rest of the races on the European portion of the calendar. He foresaw an "interesting race" on Sunday.
A good starting position is crucial in Spain as there are not many overtaking opportunities. Grosjean was later handed a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Monaco. Vettel, or Raikkonen, could just do what Alonso did in 2013 and get that Ferrari over the line first, but due to driver error and (what looks like) poor strategic calls, the race might just be an uphill battle.
Mercedes was fastest in all three practices in Barcelona, with Hamilton and Bottas leading the timesheets. He and Verstappen were six tenths off the pole time. Got a decent lap, but it's a shame it's only four hundred.
For the British driver and Mercedes this was the controlled and perfectly orchestrated race they have craved all season.
"It felt special today, it felt strong", he added.
Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean spun, but kept his right foot planted, creating a thick smokescreen.
"It was a really good qualifying".
"We were just not quick enough".
Both Red Bulls went long into their first stints and Hamilton had caught Verstappen who held the lead by lap 32 but was not under pressure, having a solid lead over Vettel.
Magnussen survived the lap one drama to take sixth, a whopping 50 seconds behind Ricciardo, but a comfortable 35 seconds in front of Renault's Carlos Sainz Jr. Instead, the physical wear of the tyre will be the factor that forces drivers to pit as the thinner tread on this weekend's Pirelli tyre gets left on the track surface. "So that's a positive thing".
There was some disquiet with the rear-view mirrors Ferrari mounted on the halos. Reducing the amount of tyre changes limits the risk over the race and for that reason teams will always err towards a one-stop if possible.
Brendon Hartley of Toro Rosso did not make it to qualifying because the team was not able to fix his auto after a crash in the final minutes of Saturday's practice.
"If I had braked, the vehicle would have spun the same way". The rear end fell apart as the auto was being hoisted by a crane.
"It's the greatest feeling to come here and have that kind of performance and a convincing win", the Briton told reporters after taking the chequered flag more than 20 seconds ahead of second-placed Bottas. By pitting so early, Ferrari was also committing to a two-stop strategy that ultimately proved to be slower than the one-stops utilised by Mercedes and Red Bull. Should stand. With AP Photos.
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