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Hamilton wins in Spain to go 17 points clear

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Phil Duncan

While Hamilton won in Baku, his dominant performance in winning from pole position in Barcelona leaves the championship leader confident Mercedes will be able to maintain that level.

Having jumped Valtteri Bottas at the start and then maintained second when the Mercedes had a slow pitstop, Vettel looked set to finish runner-up to F1 world championship rival Lewis Hamilton at Barcelona. Valtteri Bottas backed his team-mate up in second, concluding Mercedes' first one-two of the season, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen taking his first podium of the year in third.

Hamilton later added: "Today I felt a synergy with the auto that I hadn't been feeling all year".

Vettel claimed after the race that there was no choice but to pit for a second time, although that didn't stop fans believing it was very poor strategy.

But it's a reflection of how disappointed he's been with his form over the first four races of 2018 that today's outcome was such a relief for the four-time world champion. I know it sounds weird but today is the closest I think I've been but there are still areas that weren't quite flawless.

Hamilton got half the job done by securing pole on Saturday and, while there was plenty of action behind him at the start on Sunday, the Englishman had no problem holding onto first place.

Both Spanish drivers made it to the final qualifying session, with two-time champion Fernando Alonso eighth with McLaren and Carlos Sainz ninth with Renault.

Unlike some of the earlier races, the Spanish GP lacked the drama that we were looking forward to, but Mercedes certainly had something to look forward as the team performed brilliantly with a 1-2 finish. "I would like to hope it could be part of the turning point". Most of the action took place during a first-lap incident involving Romain Grosjean of Haas, Nico Hulkenberg of Renault and Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso, forcing all three drivers to retire and prompting the deployment of the safety auto.

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It was the first race since the opening event in Australia in which Mercedes were not on the back foot in the face of a faster Ferrari.

Grosjean, who struggled throughout the weekend, couldn't stop his auto from spinning across the track on Turn 3 and Hulkenberg and Gasly could not avoid colliding with him.

The historic likelihood of a Safety Car at Barcelona is as low as 20 percent but the new track surface may have an impact on that as well.

Ferrari's day went from bad to worse when Kimi Raikkonen suffered an issue with the vehicle and pulled over.

But Ferrari brought him in for a second pitstop when the virtual safety auto appeared just past half-distance, dropping Vettel from second to fourth.

Vettel struggled with tyre life throughout the race, and continued: "It's hard to say how it would have been without the [compound] change".

All eyes now turn to Monaco for arguably the most iconic of the season's races on May 27. Also suffering mechanical issues were Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Ocon for McLaren and Force India respectively.

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