Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya marks the start of Formula 1’s European season, following the opening run of flyaway events.
And there, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton reset his early season tyre struggles in stunning style, the Brit storming to a dominant victory from pole position – leading teammate Valtteri Bottas home for the Silver Arrows’ first one-two result for 2018.
At lights out, Hamilton got a great start, and took the lead into Turn 1, but Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel passed Bottas for second, while Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, ahead of both Red Bulls.
Behind the lead pack, carnage – as Haas’ Romain Grosjean was squeezed by his teammate Kevin Magnussen, forcing him to take evasive action and spin, his planted throttle then sending him back into traffic.
…where he collected Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, forcing the Safety Car to be deployed.
At the restart on Lap 7, Hamilton set a string of fastest laps, building a 6.9 second gap by Lap 16. Vettel pitted on the next lap for the medium tyres to protect against Bottas behind – but the Finn’s own stop on Lap 19 was 1.4 seconds slower, leaving him in third.
On Lap 25, Verstappen passed Raikkonen for second – but the Finn’s car was terminal and he retired. On the same lap, Hamilton pitted from the lead - dropping behind Max Verstappen for nine laps before the Dutchman’s stop.
On Lap 40, Force India’s Esteban Ocon lost power and stopped on track, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car while his car was recovered. Which Ferrari pounced on, pitting Vettel for more mediums one lap later, expecting the Silver Arrows to stop again, but at full racing speed.
At the same time, Verstappen tagged the Williams of Lance Stroll, causing damage to his front wing, which later stabilized after debris flew off the car. The Virtual Safety Car ended on Lap 43.
At which point, Vettel chased Verstappen – but just didn’t have the pace to close the gap. Hamilton, out front, the star of the day, as he cruised to his second win of 2018, his 64th overall.