MONTMELO (Spain) • Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix after a tight strategic battle with his championship rival, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, yesterday.
The Briton's Mercedes team called the Formula One race, one dictated by tyre performance, superbly after Hamilton had lost the lead to the German on the opening lap.
Having been out-thought on the pit wall by Ferrari for Vettel's wins in Australia and Bahrain, Mercedes pursued a singular route in Barcelona that proved ultimately successful.
The performance differential between the different types of tyres proved crucial and Hamilton's team took the best route to exploit it.
The hard compound Pirelli-supplied tyre proved too hard to be of any use at the track and the differential between the medium and the soft was much higher than usual.
The medium rubber was between seven-tenths and around two seconds a lap slower than the soft, meaning that, while it had to be used, the teams wanted to minimise the number of laps it was on the car.
SPANISH GRAND PRIX
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1hr 35min 56.497sec
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari +3.490sec
3 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull +1:15.820
4 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1 lap
5 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 1 lap
6 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1 lap
7 Carlos Sainz (Esp) Toro Rosso 1 lap
8 Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Sauber 1 lap
9 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso 1 lap
10 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas 1 lap
OVERALL STANDINGS - DRIVERS
1 Vettel 104 points
2 Hamilton 98
3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 63
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 49
5 Ricciardo 37
1 Mercedes 161 points
2 Ferrari 153
3 Red Bull 72
4 Force India 53
5 Toro Rosso 19
Mercedes had Hamilton on the quicker tyres in the final third of the race where he was able to make use of them to take the lead and the win from Vettel by 3.4 seconds.
The British driver immediately recognised the excellent strategic call Mercedes had made.
"Fantastic job this weekend thank you so much, the strategy was on point," Hamilton said. "I really, really appreciate all the hard work.
"That's how racing should be and I loved it. This is what the sport needs to be every single race... to have that close battle with him, a four-time champion, is awesome."
Mercedes' non-executive chairman Niki Lauda said: "Lewis saved the race with an incredible drive. The strategy was great, but it was the driver who won it."
The win was Hamilton's second in Barcelona and ended a run of 10 different winners in 10 years.
"I was eight seconds ahead and then... I don't know how we managed to lose that," said Vettel, who made the most of Hamilton's poor start.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo finished third, scoring the team's second podium of the year.
But he was more than a minute back from the leaders, who were in a two-horse race almost from the off.
Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who started third, retired on lap 40 with engine failure.
Kimi Raikkonen, fourth on the grid in the second Ferrari, broke his suspension after contact with Red Bull's Max Verstappen into turn one.
The Finn retired on lap two as did the Dutchman a lap later with left front suspension damage.
With the retirements of both their team-mates, it is now a battle between Hamilton and Vettel that is clearly also one that will decide the drivers' world championship.
Hamilton has narrowed the gap to Vettel to just six points, with 98 to the German's 104.
He has won at the Circuit de Catalunya only once before, for Mercedes in 2014 the year he went on to take his first title for the team and his second championship.
It his second win this season, having taken the flag in China, while his 55th career victory also brings him level with Vettel on two wins apiece this season.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE