Montmelo: Lewis Hamilton beat Sebastian Vettel to win the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday, tightening Formula One’s intense title fight.
Vettel edged past the pole-sitting Hamilton at the first corner, but the British driver overtook Vettel’s Ferrari with more than 20 laps left while running on a faster set of tires as Mercedes’ pit strategy paid off.
“What can I say? Fantastic job. The strategy was on point with the pit stops,” Hamilton told his team via radio after crossing the finish line.
Hamilton’s second win in five races this season cut Vettel’s lead from 13 points to six heading into the Monaco GP.
It was the three-time world champion’s 55th career victory and his second at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya after first winning here in 2014.
Daniel Ricciardo brought his Red Bull across in a distant third place to complete the podium, his best result of the season.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and 2016 race winner Max Verstappen of Red Bull collided on the first turn, knocking both drivers out of the race.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas also dropped out after his Mercedes engine failed midway through the race.
Vettel had a great jump from second on the grid, going past Hamilton to the first right-hand turn and staying in front just as his Ferrari partner’s race ended.
Starting from fourth and fifth, Raikkonen and Verstappen came together when trying to squeeze around the first turn with Bottas alongside them. Bottas nudged Raikkonen into Verstappen, with the contact damaging the front suspensions of the Ferrari and Red Bull.
“It all started when I got hit, my car jumped a bit and you cannot control after that,” Raikkonen said.
Before he broke down, Bottas gave Hamilton some critical help by holding Vettel up through a thrilling lap-long duel. Vettel eventually got by, but by then Hamilton had clawed back a few valuable seconds.
The two title rivals jousted after Vettel came out of his second pit stop just inches ahead of the hard-charging Hamilton. They brushed going through the first of two turns, with Hamilton going off momentarily as Vettel defended his position.
The teams’ tire strategy then came into play.
While Vettel used his two sets of faster tires first before finishing on the more long-lasting but slower ones, Hamilton used his more conservative tires after his first pit stop, allowing him to finish on the faster set.
Moments after Bottas saw his hopes of adding to a maiden win in the previous round go up in smoke, Hamilton closed in on Vettel on his faster tires and never looked back after blowing by on lap 43.
“I was surprised that when I came out we were so close,” Vettel said. “I was doing what I could to say in front, but as soon as I was alone he just flew past.”