The top two lapped everyone, with the exception of Red Bull’s third-placed Australian Daniel Ricciardo, and their mutual respect shone through afterwards with some light banter.
With both men now behind Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes left the Finn out on track as Vettel was unable to get past when he caught up. Bottas nudged Raikkonen into Verstappen, with the contact damaging the front suspensions of the Ferrari and Red Bull. Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.
“He was so fast out in front and it was such a push to keep in touch with him and not let him pull away”.
Ferrari quickly followed suit, but Hamilton had closed the gap and the pair bumped wheels when a startled Vettel re-emerged from the pit lane and held firm. “This is what the sport needs to be every single race and this is why I race, this is what got me into racing in the beginning so to have that close battle with him, a four-time champ, is awesome”.
Sunday, Lewis Hamilton took the Chequered Flag and is back in contention for a 4th drivers’ world title on his dramatic win at Barcelona.
“But obviously I lost out on the start, I’m not quite sure exactly what it was”.
Bottas managed to contain Vettel for some time, while Hamilton cut short the German’s lead by around 2 seconds per lap. Vettel had to struggle being behind the other Mercedes auto of Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton now started to clock lap times that were in close proximity to that of Vettel, despite the fact that the Mercedes was running on slower medium tyres.
The virtual safety auto was deployed when Alonso’s team mate Stoffel Vandoorne broke his car’s suspension in a collision with Massa on lap 34.
“He came out of the pits and I was a bit surprised that it was so close”, Vettel added.
Hamilton took 14 seconds lead against Vettel.
Mercedes, instead, chose to leave Hamilton out and fitted him with Medium tyres at his stop.
“An unfortunate start to the race which ultimately finished it also”, Verstappen said. He then nursed the ageing set of tyres to finish around 3.5 seconds ahead of the Ferrari.
Bottas, who claimed his maiden F1 victory in Russian Federation last month, retired when his engine failed while he was running third.
Sergio Perez finished fourth with his Force India team-mate Esteban Ocon an impressive fifth. Nevertheless, the Spanish GP was the first race this season that he actually completed.
Much of the talk ahead of the race was centred on the respective upgrades brought in by the two leading constructors, but it was the driving and strategy that will provide the lasting impression.