Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix to chalk up his fourth victory in a row and wrest the Formula 1 championship lead from ‘gutted’ German teammate Nico Rosberg, as Mercedes asserted their supremacy over their rivals.
In what was also the fourth successive Mercedes one-two, and fifth win in five races for the dominant constructor, Hamilton took the chequered flag a mere 0.6 of a second ahead of his rival.
In a nail-biting finish to what had been a largely uneventful race, Rosberg piled pressure on Hamilton by slashing the Briton’s lead over the last six laps and looming close in his mirrors.
Hamilton, who now has 100 points to Rosberg’s 97 after his 26th career victory and leads the standings for the first time since 2012 when he was at McLaren, sounded increasingly anxious in radio traffic but held on for his first win in Spain.
The 2008 world champion said afterwards, “A big thank you for my team, they have done an incredible job this year. The support here is the best I have ever had and my first win in Spain means everything to me.”
Hamilton added, “I was not upset, I was not fast enough today, Nico was quicker, I struggled with the balance and needed to rely on my engineers. I was moving my settings up and down and fortunately I was able to keep Nico behind.”
Rosberg, who declared himself “a bit gutted” to finish second again and whose subdued body language alongside Hamilton on the podium more than confirmed that description, felt that “he would have got past with one more lap”.
He summed up his afternoon, “I think one more lap and I could have given it a good go! Unfortunately that was it and I am bit gutted but still, second place, second in the championship and many more races to go. I will go to Monaco to go one better and try and repeat the win from last year.”
Daniel Ricciardo was third for champions Red Bull in the first podium finish of his F1 career after being stripped of his second-place for a fuel irregularity in his home season-opener in Melbourne in March.
“We did not have the pace on Mercedes…it is really nice to be on the podium and I am sure I will get to keep it this time,” said the smiling Australian, who had started third on the grid. “A lonely third was not a bad result in the end”.
Ricciardo, as the best of the rest, crossed the line a massive 48.3 seconds behind Rosberg with Mercedes again in a class of their own and lapping all but four cars.
Quadruple world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel, who started 15th after a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, ended a weekend of setbacks with a strong fourth place, “Definitely, it was more fun than the last race when I had to let people by. All in all it was the maximum we could do.’
“The start was bad, I lost a place but was able to get it back towards the end of the lap. I was stuck in the train and could not really feel how far we could go today but once I went on the Hard tyre we could catch people a bit and we realised we had the pace. I think fourth was the best we could do today,” concluded Vettel.
The 26-year-old German had arrived at the first European race of the season with a different chassis to the previous four grands prix, in which he had made just one podium appearance, but Red Bull remained an age away from Mercedes.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was one of those passed by Hamilton, finishing seventh and just behind Spanish teammate Fernando Alonso – last year’s winner – in sixth.
“It was tough,” said the Spaniard. “Nothing surprised us, we had very low grip throughout the race. We struggled with the start and did not make any places on the first corner and we were stuck in traffic for 90% of the race. We are in a similar position [as before Barcelona] unfortunately.”
“The gap this year is amazing from the Mercedes, 40 seconds, so fair play and we need to raise our game because Mercedes are showing the potential of these cars,” warned Alonso.
Finland’s Valtteri Bottas took fifth place for Williams, while Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa sank from ninth at the start to 13th at the finish.
Bottas told reporters after the race, “I’m really happy for us – 10 points is very good. All the time we were in the points and today we got the maximum out of the tyre strategy and me from the car. It was a shame in the end that Vettel came so quickly but we got the points.”
Frenchman Romain Grosjean handed Lotus their first points of the season, with eighth place, ahead of Force India’s Mexican Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg in ninth and 10th respectively.
Grosjean said of his first points scoring afternoon of the season, “It was not one of the easiest races I have had in my career. We had thousands of problems during the race but it was good to fight with … Ferrari.”
“I think the guys deserve a beer tonight, they have worked so hard and it is good to be back in the points. The start of the season has been more difficult than I could have [imagined] in my nightmares but everyone is working hard to succeed. We will try and take the momentum from this race into Monaco,” ventured the Frenchman.
Only two drivers retired, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi, in a 66 lap race that testified to the surprising reliability of the cars in the new V6 hybrid turbo era.
Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, who crashed in Qualifying and started last for Lotus, was handed a five second stop/go penalty for causing a collision with Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson.
A final word to Mercedes Executive Director (Technical) Paddy Lowe: “Lewis and Nico racing is exactly how we want it. Those guys were racing each other right to the ragged edge, each one trying to find the weakness of the other. Every single lap was a racing lap for both guys and I think the fact we saw 0.6 of a second between them on the 66th lap shows just how close it was throughout.” (GP247-AFP)
Subbed by AJN.Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya – Sunday, 11 May 2014
|2||6||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||66||+0.6 secs||2||18|
|3||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||66||+49.0 secs||3||15|
|4||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||66||+76.7 secs||15||12|
|5||77||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Mercedes||66||+79.2 secs||4||10|
|6||14||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||66||+87.7 secs||7||8|
|7||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Ferrari||65||+1 Lap||6||6|
|8||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||65||+1 Lap||5||4|
|9||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||65||+1 Lap||11||2|
|10||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||65||+1 Lap||10||1|
|11||22||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||65||+1 Lap||8|
|12||20||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren-Mercedes||65||+1 Lap||14|
|13||19||Felipe Massa||Williams-Mercedes||65||+1 Lap||9|
|14||26||Daniil Kvyat||STR-Renault||65||+1 Lap||12|
|15||13||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus-Renault||65||+1 Lap||22|
|16||21||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||65||+1 Lap||13|
|17||99||Adrian Sutil||Sauber-Ferrari||65||+1 Lap||16|
|18||17||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Ferrari||64||+2 Laps||18|
|19||4||Max Chilton||Marussia-Ferrari||64||+2 Laps||17|
|20||9||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham-Renault||64||+2 Lap||19|
|Ret||10||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham-Renault||34||+32 Laps||20|
|Ret||25||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Renault||24||+42 Laps||21|