The sun shone in Barcelona last Sunday, as the eyes of the world looked forward to the start of F1’s European season.
And the fans got a thrilling race - Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton storming to victory, his second in Spain – following a strategic race-long duel with his main rival Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
At lights out, Vettel got a great start from the front row and took the lead into Turn 1, with polesitter Hamilton slotting into second.
Behind them: carnage, as Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas tagged the right rear tyre of Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen – forcing him into Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, the pair retiring on the spot.
Further back, Williams’ Felipe Massa forced McLaren’s Fernando Alonso wide at Turn 2 – after the former teammates also made contact.
At the front, Vettel set a string of fastest laps, to pull out a 2.5 second gap – but Hamilton’s pace forced Ferrari to protect against a potential undercut.
Vettel stopped on Lap 14 for more softs, but Hamilton stayed out until Lap 21 – switching to the mediums for his middle stint.
From there, Bottas led but acted as rear-gunner, holding up Vettel, while Hamilton closed in. Vettel got past on Lap 25, but the damage was done.
On Lap 34, Massa attempted to pass McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne at Turn 1 – but the pair banged wheels, forcing the Belgian into the gravel trap, and the Virtual Safety Car to come out while he was recovered.
Hamilton stopped two laps later under the Virtual Safety Car, saving time – Vettel stopped the lap later, at full racing speed, and exited the pits just ahead of Hamilton, forcing the Brit off the track.
From there, it was a straight fight - and Hamilton bided his time, as the pair moved through traffic, making his move into Turn 1 on Lap 44.
Ferrari threatened to switch Vettel to a three-stop, to give him soft rubber to the end, but ran out of laps, as Hamilton came home to win.
“That’s how racing should be, that’s as close as it could be,” said a jubilant Hamilton. “Sebastian was incredibly close, incredibly fast.”
As broadcast on 16/05/2017.