x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Lewis Hamilton wins Spanish Grand Prix to take championship lead from Nico Rosberg

Lewis Hamilton wins the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday to chalk up his fourth victory in a row, wresting the Formula One championship lead from Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

It was all Lewis Hamilton at the Circuit de Catalunya as the British driver cruised to victory for Mercedes at the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg, passing the German in the drivers' championship in the process. Lluis Gene / AFP
It was all Lewis Hamilton at the Circuit de Catalunya as the British driver cruised to victory for Mercedes at the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg, passing the German in the drivers' championship in the process. Lluis Gene / AFP

BARCELONA // The nervous smile on the face of Lewis Hamilton as he stood atop the podium yesterday at Circuit de Cataluyna told the story.

He had won the Spanish Grand Prix, his fourth triumph in a row, and moved to the top of the drivers’ championship standings for the first time in almost two years.

Yet, the 2008 world champion knew he had been fortunate. As in Bahrain a month ago, he had taken victory despite the fact that his Mercedes-GP teammate Nico Rosberg, who finished second, ultimately had the stronger car.

Though he was victorious, the Briton was in no way blinded by the success of the best winning streak in his career.

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“Nico did a fantastic job today, he was very quick. I struggled to keep him behind and was grateful I was able to,” he said.

Track position was the key.

Hamilton converted his pole-position start into the lead, and ran around two seconds ahead of Rosberg in the first stint.

The key to the race was the first round of pit stops.

Hamilton took on another pair of soft tyres on Lap 18 – both Mercedes cars had started on them – while Rosberg took the harder compound three laps later.

It meant that Rosberg would be on the softer, quicker tyre at the end of the race. Drivers must use both tyres during the race distance, and to give himself a chance of passing his teammate, he had to stay within touching distance over the second stint to have full benefit of the tyre advantage he would hold at the end.

He did exactly that, staying within five seconds of Hamilton, and he began to hunt down his teammate in the final laps after the final pit stops had been completed.

He got within 0.6 seconds of Hamilton, who was struggling with tyre wear, and the German lamented afterward that had the race been 67 laps long, rather than 66, he would have won, such was his superior speed at the end.

“The race pace was good, the best thing to do was switch strategies and it worked out perfectly,” Rosberg said. “But this is a really difficult track to get close to the guy in front.”

It was the fourth successive one-two finish for the Mercedes mates.

Hamilton moves to the next round, at Monaco on May 25, leading the championship by three points, but he sounds nothing like a confident leader.

“I think I have a bit of work to do over the next few weeks,” he said. “We struggled last year in Monaco and struggled at this race.

“I have to find out where I am losing the time and apply it at the next race.”

As the Mercedes duo enjoyed their private duel at the front, Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed a lonely drive to third place in his Red Bull Racing car.

World champion Sebastian Vettel put in his best performance of the season, storming from 15th on the starting grid following his gearbox problems in qualifying to finish fourth in the second Red Bull car, passing the Williams of Valtteri Bottas late in the race.

Fernando Alonso gave his Spanish countrymen something to cheer with a late pass of Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen to finish a distant sixth, though it was still his worst result in Barcelona since 2009.

gcaygill@thenational.ae

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