Formula One: Hamilton ends his pole drought in style

Lawrence Cooper
May 14, 2018

BC-CAR-F1-Spanish GP-Vettel, 521 Vettel's struggles continue with 4th place at Spanish GPAP Photo XDMV126, XLB113, XLB111, XDMV108Eds: With AP Photos. Vettel got off to a great start this season, winning the first two races, but his fortunes have changed for the worse.

An overjoyed Lewis Hamilton has said he had no idea how the 2018 Spanish Grand Prix would play out, but was glad to finally claim a dominant victory.

Hamilton now leads Vettel by 17 points in the title race.

Mercedes has struggled compared to Ferrari at times this season, with Sebastian Vettel winning the opening two races and taking three consecutive pole positions as the Scuderia had a more consistent auto. "We tried our best, but something was missing and we need to improve on this".

"But it took everything from us to get this result, and to get a one-two in qualifying is fantastic". The Virtual Safety Car was out after Ocon's car was in smokes parked at the side after a power unit issue.

He had won in Bahrain and in the season-opener in Australia, when he wasn't as dominant as Hamilton but took advantage of a safety auto to win on race strategy. He wasn't fast enough to keep pace with Hamilton up front but looked quick enough to at least secure second place.

Vettel gave away his position when Ferrari chose to go for an extra stop and give the German driver fresher tires.

When racing resumed Vettel was first of the leading group to pit but the Mercedes pair stayed out on what turned out to be a one-stop strategy, with Hamilton immediately smashing the lap record. On the outside of Turn 3, Magnussen lost a bit of grip and had a wobble, forcing Haas teammate Grosjean into evasive action.

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"For us it was not an option to stay out", Vettel said. "We had problems finding the right balance of the auto and we were struggling with the front tires".

That was perhaps no more evident than at the Spanish Grand Prix where Vettel fell from the podium after a qualifying position of third to finish fourth - although Ferrari themselves took the brunt of the blame from fans. "I think it was the right thing to do".

"The team have been working very hard to understand the tyres and how the vehicle works, so I think it all came together this weekend".

Bottas got his chance under a Virtual Safety Car on Lap 42 - Sahara Force India's Esteban Ocon stopped on track with a mechanical problem - as Ferrari elected to pit Vettel a second time to take on new Medium compound Pirellis.

Lewis Hamilton took six of the nine victories in Europe previous year to take a stranglehold on the championship, but although he is pleased with the result in Spain, Wolff said he is not getting overexcited just yet. "We need to have a look".

Though Bottas appeared comfortable in second place at the chequered flag, Toto Wolff admitted Mercedes were concerned after noticing blisters on his tyres in the last few laps.

"So, it was definitely important, and I am happy too especially because I had such a busy week coming into this weekend". But today we had them working.

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