Spanish GP: Sebastian Vettel defends Ferrari pit-stop strategy

Bottas bosses Barcelona opening practice as Hamilton settles for second
Mercedes tyre fix put Hamilton back in business
Author

14 May, 2018

Lewis Hamilton led a comfortable Mercedes one-two at the Spanish Grand Prix, as Max Verstappen beat Sebastian Vettel to the final step of the podium. Vettel was the only driver to opt for a second stop under the VSC, and far from putting him in a position to challenge the race leader, it dropped him behind Bottas and Max Verstappen's Red Bull. Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was soon past the second Mercedes and Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari, just about held of both Red Bulls.

"Today, the auto and myself - I felt that synergy today that I hadn't been feeling all year, so it's a good feeling", said Hamilton.

After edging out Bottas for pole, Hamilton roared off the line to retain his lead on the 200mph charge to the opening bend, while Vettel got the jump on Bottas after a gutsy move around the outside of the Finn.

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. During the pitstop phase, Bottas was able to leapfrog Vettel and secure a 1-2 for Mercedes.

It was a fairly straightforward win for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.

"I think as a team this weekend was ideal". Starting on pole, the 33-year-old briefly relinquished the lead when he went in to pit on lap 26, but stormed ahead to snatch victory and now leads the title race by 18 points.

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Lap 59 saw Perez pass Sauber's Charles Leclerc to increase his team's points haul for the race.

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.

Only 14 of the 20 starters completed the race after a major high-speed crash on the opening lap, triggered by a spin from Frenchman Romain Grosjean's Haas auto, and a sequence of retirements. It had seemed as though the Dutchman had blown another opportunity for a strong finish when he collided with Lance Stroll just after a Virtual Safety Car period, but the damage to his front wing did not seem to seriously jeopardise his race from that point. It was gutsy, especially after the criticism they received after failing to take advantage of the safety auto to pit Hamilton in China.

The big one: Spinning in one of the fastest corners on the calendar on the opening lap of the race is always a recipe for carnage, and so it proved when Romain Grosjean lost the rear of his Haas in Turn 3. What had looked at first sight like questionable strategy was actually, they said, just the auto going through its tyres quicker than others.

Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff agreed that Ferrari had been in worse shape for tyre wear, and said it had been a concern for his team too.

After another incident on Lap 44, Esteban Ocon retired after Verstappen went into the back of his auto, while McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne lost power on his vehicle and was also forced to retire.


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