Mercedes restores order at top with Hamilton's win in Spain
By TALES AZZONI
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are not done just yet.
Hamilton put in a dominant performance at the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday, winning with ease and showing Ferrari that Mercedes remains the team to beat in Formula One.
Hamilton's strong run helped Mercedes re-establish order at the top of the field after seeing Ferrari dominate most of the early season.
"This is more like it," Hamilton said on the team radio. "Let's keep this up."
Valtteri Bottas secured a one-two for Mercedes at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while Max Verstappen completed the podium despite finishing the race with a broken front wing on his Red Bull.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who now trails Hamilton by 17 points in the drivers' standings, was only fourth after a change in strategy didn't pay off.
It was the first one-two of the season for Mercedes, which had struggled to keep pace with the Ferraris.
"Today, the car and myself, I felt that synergy which I hadn't been feeling for the whole year," Hamilton said. "It's a good feeling."
Hamilton was never challenged on the way to his 41st win from pole position, surpassing a record he shared with seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. It was Hamilton's 64th career win, leaving him 27 behind Schumacher's record of 91 victories.
"I remember like it was yesterday sitting at home playing this computer game as Michael," Hamilton said. "It's just very surreal to think that every now and then I keep coming up against Michael in terms of records. He has some serious records. It's hard to beat all of these records that he has."
Hamilton also became the first F1 driver to finish in the points in 30 consecutive races.
"This weekend we got ourselves on the right path," Hamilton said. "I would like to hope it could be part of the turning point."
Hamilton had also won in Azerbaijan two weeks ago, but that victory came mostly because of incidents involving his closest competitors, including a blown tire for Bottas, a mistake by Vettel and a crash between Red Bull teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen.
Ricciardo was fifth in Barcelona, ahead of Kevin Magnussen of Haas and the Spanish duo of Carlos Sainz of Renault and Fernando Alonso of McLaren.
Charles Leclerc of Sauber and Sergio Perez of Force India closed out the top 10.
Hamilton had a clean start, with Vettel moving from third to second by passing Bottas on the outside of Turn 1.
Hamilton pulled away early and was able to comfortably control the pace of the race through to the end, finishing more than 20 seconds ahead of his teammate.
Vettel gave away his position when Ferrari decided to go for an extra stop and give the German driver fresher tires. He lost time in the pits and came back onto the track behind Verstappen, and was unable to make up the difference despite the newer tires.
"For us it was not an option to stay out," Vettel said. "I think it was the right thing to do."
Mercedes was in front in Barcelona the entire weekend, setting the fastest time in all practice sessions and taking pole position with Hamilton - his first since the season-opener in Australia.
Vettel won in Australia and Bahrain, while Ricciardo was first in China.
It was a lukewarm Spanish GP, especially compared to the thrilling races seen in China and Azerbaijan. Most of the action took place during a first-lap incident involving Romain Grosjean of Haas, Nico Hulkenberg of Renault and Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso, forcing all three drivers to retire and prompting the deployment of the safety car.
Grosjean, who struggled throughout the weekend and had crashed behind the safety car in Azerbaijan, failed to stop his car from spinning across the track on Turn 3 and Hulkenberg and Gasly could not avoid colliding with him. Grosjean was later handed a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Monaco.
Verstappen was running fourth when he clipped his front wing on a Williams under the virtual safety car, but the damage was not significant and he didn't have to make an extra stop.
"I kept going. It was not bad. I don't think it affected me too much," Verstappen said. "It feels nice to be on the podium and nice to have a good, clean race."
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen retired near the halfway-point after losing power. McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne also retired because of a car failure, as did Esteban Ocon with Force India.
Teams will stay in Barcelona for two days of testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
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Updated May 13, 2018