Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix Emilio Morenatti

'I don't remember having a race like this'

MOTORSPORT: Lewis Hamilton says his battle with Sebastian Vettel at the Spanish GP was the "rawest he can remember" after overtaking the German with 22 laps remaining to claim victory.

In the battle F1 has been waiting a decade for, Hamilton and Vettel went wheel-to-wheel in Barcelona with the Brit coming out on top to claim the 55th win of his career.

In a ding-dong contest, first Vettel forced Hamilton wide at Turn One after he emerged from his second stop next to the Mercedes.

But, on the faster soft tyres, Hamilton made no mistake six laps later as he swept past the medium-shod Ferrari in the race's decisive move. "That's why we race," Hamilton said. "It was the rawest fight I can remember."

"I don't remember having a race like this for a long time where I was able to be on the limit as hard as I was and stay in a battle," he added.

"It's been a long, long, long time so I used up a lot of energy and I'm looking forward to lying down after this.

"I've been racing for 24, 25 years and it feels like the first win."

Hamilton started on pole ahead of Vettel but it was the German who got the better start to lead into Turn One.

 

Third-place getter and Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo (right) celebrates on the podium with winner and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton
Third-place getter and Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo (right) celebrates on the podium with winner and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton Manu Fernandez

Vettel remained ahead after the first round of pit stops but Mercedes' decision to pit Hamilton a second time under the Virtual Safety Car on lap 37 proved decisive.

Vettel pitted a lap later but three-time world champion Hamilton had made up eight seconds and the two bumped wheels as the German rejoined the track into Turn One.

Hamilton ran wide but managed to pass Vettel on lap 44 to regain the lead and go on to claim victory.

The Brit now trails Vettel by just six points in the Drivers' Championship and their fight looks set to last the season with both Mercedes' and Ferrari's updates appearing to have matched each other in terms of time gained.

Championship leader Vettel bemoaned the eight seconds he lost to Hamilton in the second stops but felt the Scuderia could not have done any more.

"It was very close when we came out. I was just guessing on the braking but there was no room for him. I don't know if we touched. It was really close," he said.

"I think our tyre choice was the right one, obviously Lewis sits behind, he has nothing to lose, there's no threat from behind so he might as well try to mirror the strategy from the first stop onwards.

"I'm here to race. Off-track I don't see why you can't have a good time. (Lewis and I are) not best friends but we have a very strong connection. We both love racing.

"On track I didn't want him to win today, I wanted to win. It didn't work, I'm not happy with that. But at the same point you have to respect if other people do a good job and drove a good race. I've nothing to moan about."

It wasn't as happy a day for several other drivers, including Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen who crashed out.

Verstappen and Raikkonen believe they would not have crashed at the start of the race had Valtteri Bottas not tagged the Ferrari at Barcelona's first corner.

Verstappen and Raikkonen, who finished first and second respectively in last year's Spain race, dropped out on the first lap on Sunday when they came off worse from a three-car tangle over third place at Turn One.

Raikkonen was sent on a collision course with Verstappen's Red Bull on the outside after contact with the Mercedes, with both cars suffering race-stopping suspension damage.

"It's just unfortunate," Verstappen told Sky Sports F1. "I tried around the outside and I think if Valtteri didn't touch Kimi we would have given each other space.

"Kimi couldn't control the car and slammed into me."

Stewards investigated the incident but ruled that no driver was wholly to blame. But Raikkonen was also of the view that Bottas had triggered the chain reaction.

"There was nothing me or Max could have done, when you get hit from behind in that way there's no way to avoid the collision," he said. "I'm pretty sure Valtteri had enough space."

Bottas, who later retired with a mechanical failure on his car, also described the incident as unfortunate.

"I was inside for Turn One, Kimi came from outside and tried to overtake from there," said the Mercedes driver.

"There was nowhere to go. It was unlucky. It was all a little too close and tight. There was no more space."

Speaking to Sky F1, Mercedes chief Toto Wolff said: "His race was pretty much gone after contact in Turn One."

The crash allowed Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo to cruise home in third.

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