Supreme Hamilton wins Spanish GP, extends championship lead

Monday, May 14, 2018

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Barcelona, Spain (AFP) — Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in the world championship to 17 points yesterday when he roared to an imperious victory, as Mercedes scored a one-two triumph at the Spanish Grand Prix.

The defending four-time world champion dominated from start to finish, save for a spell during the mid-race pit stops, and clocked a series of record laps as he registered his second-successive win.

It was the 64th victory of his career — only Michael Schumacher on 91 has more — and came from his 74th pole.

He joined seven-time champion Schumacher and two-time champion Mika Hakkinen as a three-time winner in Spain.

“That's more like it guys, great job,” said Hamilton on team radio.

“Today I felt that synergy with the car that I have not felt all year, so now we have to do it again.”

Valtteri Bottas came home second in the second Mercedes ahead of Max Verstappen of Red Bull, who resisted late pressure from four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, as he led Hamilton by 17 points after the opening three races this year.

The German, who made a good start, was second until he took an ill-judged second pit stop, under virtual safety car conditions, midway through the race, dropping two places.

Bottas said: “Of course I wanted to fight for the win, but this is a good result for the team.”

Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fifth in the second Red Bull ahead of Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Spaniards Carlos Sainz of Renault, and two-time champion Fernando Alonso, of McLaren.

Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India came home ninth ahead of the impressive Monegasque Charles Leclerc of Sauber.

Only 14 of the 20 starters completed the race.

On a cooler day with intermittent sunshine and heavy clouds looming, the track temperature was 35 degrees Celsius and the air 15 when the race began.

Hamilton made a clean start from his 74th pole position but teammate Bottas was unable to resist Vettel, who took advantage of slip-stream on the straight to steer past the Finn into the first corner.

After overnight rainstorms, it was little surprise there was a safety car incident on the opening lap when Grosjean spun at Turn Three at high speed and then attempted to recover.

His Haas spun back across the track in a cloud of black smoke ahead of the oncoming cars — leaving Pierre Gasly and Nico Hulkenberg with nowhere to go as they plunged into the spinning Haas machine.

Clearly upset and crestfallen, Grosjean kept his helmet on as he slumped on some nearby steps before going to the medical centre for a check-up.

The field ran behind the safety car until the race restarted on lap seven, the champion bolting clear to build a lead while Bottas closed up to challenge Vettel for second.

By lap 10, a rapid Hamilton was breaking the lap record to move 3.8 seconds clear of Vettel, with Bottas third and Raikkonen fourth ahead of the two Red Bulls.

Hamilton maintained his stunning speed to extend his lead to 5.5 seconds by lap 13 and seven by lap 17.

Raikkonen reported loss of power shortly before Hamilton pitted from the lead after 25 laps, rejoining second behind Verstappen and ahead of Ricciardo, Vettel and Bottas. The luckless Finn climbed from his Ferrari and out of the race.

After 40 of the 66 laps, Esteban Ocon pulled up following an engine failure, bringing virtual safety car (VSC) conditions. Hamilton led Vettel by 12 seconds and stayed out as the German pitted, comparatively slowly, for fresh medium tyres and rejoined fourth.

When racing resumed on lap 43, Hamilton led Bottas by 15 seconds.

Verstappen, third, had damage to his front-wing endplate after a collision, but was told to continue despite loss of down-force and did just that as Hamilton, back to his best, controlled proceedings to the chequered flag.

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