Hamilton beats Bottas at Spanish GP; Verstappen pips Ferraris to podium

BARCELONA, Spain -- Lewis Hamilton saw off a late Safety Car restart to beat Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas at the Spanish Grand Prix, where both Ferrari drivers failed to finish on the podium.

Bottas had beaten Hamilton to pole position on Saturday but had a slow getaway, with Hamilton winning the race down to Turn 1. He did not relinquish the lead again, despite some late drama caused by the deployment of a Safety Car 20 laps from the finish. Although that raised hopes of a thrilling finish, Hamilton never came under serious pressure and led home comfortably ahead of his teammate for the 76th victory of his Formula One career. 

That means Mercedes has claimed a remarkable five consecutive one-two finishes to start the 2019 season, which had looked set to be one of the closest in recent memory the last time F1 visited the Circuit de Catalunya for winter testing. The result inflicted further misery on Ferrari, which saw both of its drivers lose to Red Bull's Max Verstappen in the battle for third on a weekend that was supposed to mark a resurgence for the Italian team as it introduced an engine upgrade.


It was another race that featured a pivotal moment at the start. Hamilton had a better getaway off the line than Bottas, but so did Sebastian Vettel, starting on the row behind. The three drivers went three-wide toward the opening corner, with Hamilton on the inside, Bottas in the middle and Vettel on the outside. Hamilton held his line to lead into Turn 1, while Bottas and Vettel both had wobbly moments, and they did well to keep the car pointing the right direction. Vettel's moment left him out of position, and Verstappen was on hand to capitalise, sweeping around the outside of the Ferrari driver with a lovely through move on Turn 3.

From that point, the Ferrari drivers battled with each other. After a few laps of genuine racing, Vettel, who flat-spotted his tires in the first corner, moved over to give Leclerc fourth position. Ferrari then split its strategies, putting Vettel on a two-stop to match the Mercedes and Red Bulls, while Leclerc adopted a promising-looking one-stop. The only problem with that was that Vettel emerged behind Leclerc on faster tires and was then the one being held up. Again, Ferrari allowed its drivers to race, but after a number of close shaves into Turn 1, Leclerc let Vettel pass at Turn 4 on lap 37.

The race was blown wide open in the final stages, when McLaren rookie Lando Norris collided with Racing Point's Lance Stroll as the pair started their 45th lap. Stroll had caught Norris down the main straight and had edged in front on the inside of Turn 1, but they tangled through Turn 2, sending them both into the gravel trap and out of the race. Norris tried to get going again and dragged gravel across the road at Turn 2/3 but eventually pulled to the side of the track to retire.

That led to the deployment of the Safety Car. Hamilton was able to pit for fresh tires without losing the lead, but it closed the field right up behind him and gave Bottas the chance to also take on fresh tires. Leclerc's one-stop strategy also went out the window, as restarting on older, harder tires than the rest of the field would have seen him lose positions at a rapid rate. As a result, he was shuffled back from third to fifth.

The Safety Car stayed out until lap 52. The restart was well managed by Hamilton, who comfortably held the lead ahead of Bottas. Verstappen managed to keep Vettel at bay, but there was drama farther back. Gasly got alongside Leclerc and almost made a move stick but lost the battle as the pair went through the first two corners. Behind that, the two Haas drivers made contact, with Grosjean going wide and losing a position to teammate Magnussen, who briefly challenged Gasly before the Red Bull driver reclaimed his place on the racing line.

The Haas drivers were not finished with their battle for seventh position. Two laps later, Grosjean pulled up to the rear of his teammate again at Turn 1, but Magnussen slammed the door shut. That forced Grosjean into an almost identical trip across the run-off area, but he was able to rejoin the track without losing a position to Carlos Sainz. However, Grosjean's race unraveled from that point, as it left him at risk, and on the next lap, he was defending from Sainz -- once again, the Frenchman was forced wide by contact but was able to hold on to the position when he rejoined the circuit at Turn 3. A lap later, he lost a position to Sainz before being passed by Kvyat. He would cling to 10th position, the final points-paying position, despite late pressure from Toro Rosso rookie Alexander Albon, who finished ahead of Renault duo Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg.

Kimi Raikkonen recovered from an off on the first lap to finish 14th, ahead of Sergio Perez and Antonio Giovinazzi. Williams was absolutely nowhere in the race, being the only two who finished a lap down on the leaders, which happened just 19 laps after the start of the race.

F1 heads to Monaco for the next round of the championship, where Mercedes has struggled in recent years. However, on its current form, the team will fancy its chances of securing a sixth consecutive one-two victory.