Hamilton pips Bottas to top Spanish GP third practice

Florence Fletcher
May 14, 2018

There were big cheers from the crowd for Hartley, in his first full season in F1, as he climbed from the wreckage of his auto.

By lap 10, a rapid Hamilton was breaking the lap record to move 3.8 seconds clear of Vettel with Bottas third and Raikkonen fourth ahead of the two Red Bulls.

Lewis Hamilton took six of the nine victories in Europe previous year to take a stranglehold on the championship, but although he is pleased with the result in Spain, Wolff said he is not getting overexcited just yet. It has been a constant learning process with the tyres, getting them working in a very narrow window.

"That's more like it guys, great job", said Hamilton on team radio. "The best ones are sensitive and fragile", he said. In China, he couldn't manage more than eighth place after an ill-timed safety vehicle and a subsequent collision caused by Max Verstappen.

"For us it was a flawless result today", he added.

"Tomorrow it will be very close between the top three teams".

Hamilton echoed the optimism coming from Wolff. "There is nothing we could have done differently today, but we need to try and keep pushing".

"It's a bit early to say, but I would like to hope it could be part of the turning point", he said. I'm almost in the groove.

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"It will be close", he said.

Though Bottas appeared comfortable in second place at the chequered flag, Toto Wolff admitted Mercedes were concerned after noticing blisters on his tyres in the last few laps.

There have been some suggestions that Pirelli's decision to change to thinner tyre treads for the Spanish weekend benefitted Mercedes while hampering Ferrari.

The British driver clearly felt he had exactly the vehicle he needed beneath him but Mercedes managed their team perfectly as well.

Vettel managed to take second place from Bottas at Turn 1 on the opening lap and just held on to the position in the first round of pit stops. A Virtual Safety Car period to recover Esteban Ocon's stricken Force India saw Vettel pit for a new set of medium tires - as all of the front-runners were using after starting on softs - but dropped him to fourth place on the road. "We have had it in the past - in Shanghai, it was [a question of] trading track position for fresh tyres". "Ferrari did the opposite". The fans will have wanted more but at this stage in the season, this untroubled procession is exactly what he and Mercedes required.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory in Barcelona.

Lewis Hamilton eventually won the Grand Prix by a margin of over 20 seconds, highlighting the gulf between the two drivers this weekend.

Alonso pulled off the overtaking move of the race, passing Esteban Ocon's Force India around the outside of the fast Turn Three at the re-start after the early safety auto, and then had to fight past Sauber's Charles Leclerc to take eighth, passing him with a wily move on the virtual safety vehicle restart. Sauber's Charles Leclerc put in another sterling performance to claim a point in 10th.

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