Spanish GP: Sebastian Vettel defends Ferrari pit-stop strategy

Spanish GP: Sebastian Vettel defends Ferrari pit-stop strategy

Spanish GP: Sebastian Vettel defends Ferrari pit-stop strategy

Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in the drivers' World championship to 17 points on Sunday when he roared to an imperious victory as Mercedes scored a one-two at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Bottas led the first session and defending champion Hamilton the second at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

"If I had braked, the auto would have spun the same way". Daniel Ricciardo was second and Max Verstappen third.

"It could be quite a defining moment for the season", Verstappen said.

The team principal, Toto Wolff, stressed the importance of the race for Hamilton.

The leading cars navigated the opening metres without drama before the error-prone Romain Grosjean, once labelled a "first-lap nutcase" by Mark Webber, lived up to that title by sparking a huge crash after he lost control of his Haas at Turn 3 and slid back across the track in a cloud of tyre smoke. But Hamilton was quick to offer caution whilst still celebrating Mercedes' first 1-2 finish of the season.

In total, six cars failed to finish.

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While Vettel was a quarter of a second behind Hamilton, Raikkonen was a further three-tenths back of the pacesetter.

So too did his team, winners of both crowns for the past four years but whose dominance is now under a more sustained attack than ever from closest rivals Ferrari and a resurgent Red Bull. "When Lewis was coming behind Max (Verstappen) he had a brand-new tire, Max had a tire that had done 27 laps, and it's just so hard to overtake here". "We're hoping that this year's Spanish Grand Prix will be a good race for us, but we know that it will be tough".

Home ground favourite McLaren's Fernando Alonso started the race in a good P8 but after the Lap 1 shuffle he was pushed back to P11 then worked himself back to his original position by the end of the race. Stewards gave him two penalty points and imposed a three-place grid drop for the next race in Monaco. The Frenchman then collected the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly's Toro Rosso in a major smash, fortunately without injury, that brought out the safety vehicle for the first six laps.

Vettel's second slow stop was not helped by Sergio Perez entering the pits at the same time for Force India, but he claimed: "It was my mistake".

Raikkonen conceded the supersoft tyres, which have given teams a headache this weekend, continued to pose a challenge for Ferrari, and he highlighted the thinner tread being used this weekend as a possible factor. Starting from P14, Leclerc benefited from the eliminations of Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Gasly to push up into the top ten before maintaining a solid driving ability throughout the race.

Verstappen's stop nine laps later unleashed Hamilton and the Briton reeled off the remaining half of the race in a controlled fashion, to triumph at the Spanish Grand Prix for a third time.

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