BARCELONA, Spain -- 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.
As soon as Hamilton led into Turn 1 his victory did not appear to be in doubt, with the Mercedes able to open up a comfortable gap to the chasing Vettel behind. Vettel had beaten Valtteri Bottas into the first corner and stayed ahead after the first round of pit-stops, but Ferrari's decision to stop for a second set of medium tyres in the final stint ultimately relegated him to fourth. It capped off a disappointing afternoon for Ferrari, who saw Kimi Raikkonen retire after suffering a loss of power with a brand new engine which had been fitted to his car on Saturday morning.
Ferrari's loss was Verstappen's gain, as he claimed his first trip to the podium in what has been a messy and controversial season so far. 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.
Behind that were a group of drivers who completed fairly lonely drives to the chequered flag. After spinning after the VSC restart, Daniel Ricciardo came home a distant fifth in the other Red Bull and was the last driver still on the lead lap. Sixth was Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, who helped convert the team's strong pace into a healthy haul of points. Again, Haas will be left wondering what might have been if both cars had stayed in the race after Romain Grosjean spun out on the opening lap.
Spanish duo Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso claimed seventh and eighth, while Sergio Perez earned Force India two points. Azerbaijan Grand Prix star Charles Leclerc kept his name in the points-paying positions by rounding off the top ten for Sauber.
The win increases Hamilton's championship over Vettel to 17 points. While there was a huge element of fortune to his win two weeks ago in Baku, there was none about this one, and the reigning world champion signed it off with a rallying cry to his team after the race: "Fantastic job guys, this is more like it. Let's keep this up"
Drama at the start
Although the front six got away cleanly, there was chaos further back. The McLarens ran wide at either of the first two corners, bottling up the midfield runners. On the outside of Turn 3, Magnussen lost a bit of grip and had a wobble, forcing Haas teammate Grosjean into evasive action. The Frenchman spun across the track, kept his foot down on the throttle and was collected by Hulkenberg and Gasly. The contact eliminated all three drivers and brought out the Safety Car for six laps.
Grosjean is a man coming under increasing pressure after a poor start to the season and TV cameras showed him sitting disconsolate on the side of the race track before returning to the paddock. The Frenchman was summoned to the stewards after the incident.
Ferrari hands third to Verstappen
Vettel's second pit stop will likely be the biggest point of intrigue after the race. The German had seized the initiative off the line with a nice move around the outside of Bottas and stayed ahead until pitting on the 18th lap, which was earlier than anticipated. It appeared as though Mercedes was about to take the position back, with Bottas setting a series of purple sector times -- indicating the quickest of the race to that point -- on the next two laps, but a tardy stop saw him emerge just behind the four-time world champion.
Vettel stayed ahead in what had seemed like a logical one-stop race for all the drivers starting on the soft tyre, but Ferrari surprised everyone by bringing the German in for another set of medium tyres on lap 42. The stop occurred under VSC conditions and he emerged from it behind Verstappen and was ultimately unable to get close enough to the Dutchman to try and pass.
A processional race
The Circuit de Catalunya is one of the worst circuits for overtaking opportunities and unsurprisingly the race was low on on-track action. Overnight rain and a sky brimming with dark clouds before the race raised hopes of an unpredictable outcome, but it never materialised. The circuit still caught several drivers out throughout the race, with Williams rookie Sergey Sirotkin spinning out after a long period of driving slowly at VSC pace.
Esteban Ocon and Stoffel Vandoorne joined the list of retirees after both slowing to a halt during the race, both of which appeared to be related to a loss of power from their respective Mercedes and Renault engines.