Spanish Grand Prix driver ratings: Hamilton ideal, Verstappen on song, Vettel struggles

     Lewis Hamilton won a chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix

GETTY Lewis Hamilton won a chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix

"I needed this pole", said the four-times world champion.

"That's more like it guys", said Lewis Hamilton, after he crossed the line to ensure a commanding victory in the Spanish GP here on Sunday.

"Mercedes" for the first time in the season took all the first row in qualifying. "This weekend, we got ourselves on the right path". The team did an exceptional job. "If we are not able to see that then we are more than blind", said the German.

He continued, "I was much happier with the vehicle".

"Third, I think it was a poor weekend in terms of reliability". That happiness and that uplift from inside that I have that feeling. Once again, Ferrari's strategic decisions have been called into question.

Sebastian Vettel's strategy of making a second pit stop under a Virtual Safety Car period failed to come to fruition, as he dropped from second to fourth.

Out came the safety auto with Hamilton then executing a masterful restart to leave Vettel for dust before establishing a comfortable cushion over his rival.

Hamilton was uncertain whether this result would be a turning point in the championship given the challenge everyone is having with getting the tyres to work.

"This is more like it", Hamilton said on the team radio. Ferrari 126, 3. Red Bull 80.

"I know they went softer but.the working range is far narrower than it was previous year". But we still have improvements to make and performance to add to the auto. Obviously, if you look from the outside it's easy.

When the safety auto went in on Lap 7, he then streaked away from Vettel in second, setting multiple lap records, and was able to take his only pit stop eight laps later than the German with no concerns of being leapfrogged.

"They have been changed a bit, the tyres, for whatever reason. For sure, second is not ideal but for us today, it couldn't be better for us as a team".

"They appear to be a lot harder than past year", he said. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) - +0,4395.

Unusually for Barcelona, it was a race of attrition with six retirements. "We came to Melbourne and our auto performed well and suddenly you are behind a Ferrari".

Verstappen's team-mate Daniel Ricciardo endured an odd race, the Australian seemingly unable to run with Verstappen during the middle stages of the race but managing to set fastest laps at the end.

However, Bottas - not Vettel - wound up as his nearest rival as Ferrari opted to service its driver for fresh Mediums when the Virtual Safety Car was triggered on lap 42 after Esteban Ocon halted due to mechanical failure. Luckily for Verstappen, the damage was only to his front wing endplate and didn't limit his performance too much.

Hamilton, however, remained untroubled in the clean air out front and had 16 seconds on Bottas and 26 on Verstappen in third by lap 50.

This marks Verstappen's first podium of the 2018 season. Ricciardo took fifth ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso, who all finished one lap down on the mighty Hamilton. Following a safety auto appearance, Hamilton got the whole shot on the restart and rabbited away. Grosjean was punished with a three-place grid penalty for the next round in Monaco.

Mexican Sergio Perez of Pressure India made a late overtaking transfer on Sauber's Charles Leclerc for ninth, but it surely had been one other spectacular drive by the younger Monagesque.

Hamilton, who also holds the record of 74 pole positions, had started from the top slot for only the second time this year.

Only 14 of the 20 starters completed the race after a major high-speed crash on the opening lap, triggered by a spin from Frenchman Romain Grosjean's Haas vehicle, and a sequence of retirements.

Grosjean's spin and crash were being investigated by the race stewards after the race. The Haas driver collected Pierre Gasly and Nico Hulkenberg in the process.

And finally, it wasn't only a Ferrari power unit that suffered troubles.

After a "disappointing" start that saw him finish second, eighth and fourth in the first three races of the season, Hamilton got back to his winning ways at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix a couple of weeks ago. Esteban Ocon, who ran a good race till a delayed pit-stop ruined his chances, had to retire after his vehicle ran out of power.

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