Hamil­ton wins, with a lit­tle help from his friends

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - JOSEPH WILSON

MONTMELO, SPAIN — Thanks to su­pe­rior strat­egy and some help from his team­mate, Lewis Hamil­ton tight­ened the early ti­tle race in For­mula One af­ter beat­ing Se­bas­tian Vet­tel to win the Span­ish Grand Prix on Sun­day.

Hamil­ton saw his ad­van­tage of a pole po­si­tion evap­o­rate when Vet­tel beat him to the first cor­ner, but Mercedes’ de­ci­sion to have Hamil­ton fin­ish the race on faster tires al­lowed the Bri­tish driver to over­take Vet­tel’s Fer­rari with more than 20 laps left.

Hamil­ton would have had to leave his chal­lenge un­til late if not for some as­sis­tance from team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas, who held up Vet­tel be­fore the Finn’s Mercedes broke down in a puff of smoke.

“This was the rawest fight I have felt in a long time. This is what the sport is meant to be, this is why I race — to have bat­tles with him for the cham­pi­onship,” Hamil­ton said. “I just re­ally have to con­grat­u­late and thank my team. They did a won­der­ful job with the strat­egy and the pit stops.”

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 three­time 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.

Vet­tel had a great surge 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, Kimi Raikko­nen and 2016 race win­ner Max 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.

Af­ter Vet­tel and Hamil­ton had both pit­ted, Vet­tel hunted down Bot­tas now in the lead and en­gaged him in a lap-long duel. Vet­tel even­tu­ally got by on a third try, but by then Hamil­ton had pulled back some valu­able sec­onds.

The two ti­tle ri­vals jousted af­ter Vet­tel came out of his sec­ond pit stop just inches ahead of the hard­charg­ing 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.

“If we had had the same tires on, it prob­a­bly wouldn’t have been as ex­cit­ing” Hamil­ton said. “At the end I was able to man­age the soft tires.”

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 go­ing 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 stay in front, but as soon as I was alone he just flew past.”

Force In­dia pair Ser­gio Perez and Este­ban Ocon fin­ished fourth and fifth, re­spec­tively, the best re­sult for both driv­ers this year.

Nico Hulken­berg (Re­nault), Car­los Sainz (Toro Rosso), Pas­cal Wehrlein (Sauber), Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) and Ro­main Gros­jean (Haas) rounded out the points.


Britain’s Lewis Hamil­ton, driv­ing a Mercedes, leads Se­bas­tian Vet­tel of Ger­many, driv­ing a Fer­rari, dur­ing the Span­ish Grand Prix on Sun­day.

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