Lewis Hamilton cruises to Spain victory

But it was a win his team identified as crucial to his self-belief and confidence for his title defence. It was clear, then, that they were the team and driver to beat.

The win increases Hamilton's championship over Vettel to 17 points. Mercedes have not been able to get the most from their vehicle since the opening round in Melbourne and have been repeatedly out-paced by Ferrari.

While Hamilton reported drizzle on his visor on lap 21, Bottas' pace surged, over 1.2 seconds faster than Vettel.

"If it's cold, like it has been in the coolest days here, it could be hard, but we definitely go there on a high note". Unusually for a race in the Pirelli era, it was tyre wear and not degradation that was the limiting factor with the tyres and it seems Ferrari was not confident there was enough rubber left on Vettel's second set of tyres to see him to the end of the race. "This is a good way to start the weekend".

"I never believed we could a one-stop but we could". Our ambition needs to be that we're better off rather than worse off. "I needed this pole because I haven't had one for a while".

Hamilton echoed the optimism coming from Wolff.

"I felt a synergy with the automotive that I hadn't been feeling all yr", stated the Briton who was claiming his 64th profession victory and third in Spain on the Circuit de Catalunya. "This is when we are going to start applying some pressure".

"It is a little early to say, but I would like to hope it could be a turning point".

"Our understanding of the vehicle and the improvements that we're making are important too". "People probably think it was an easy race and I was cruising but I wasn't cruising".

Vettel lost second to Bottas due to a slow first pitstop from the Ferrari team, but got the position back when Bottas was likewise delayed in the pits. It has been a constant learning process with the tyres, getting them working in a very narrow window. The next race on the calendar is the Monaco Grand Prix on 27 May.

Ferrari had pitted Vettel on lap 18 but Hamilton stayed out for a further eight laps and emerged with a comfortable 10-second gap on the German. Ferrari took the chance to fit new medium rubber to Vettel's auto but the stop was slow and he emerged behind Verstappen in fourth place, sacrificing track position that proved a costly miscalculation and costing him second place.

Both collided with the Haas and were forced out of the race, while the safety auto was deployed as the debris was cleared.

Wolff sympathised with his rivals at the Scuderia. "Ferrari did the opposite".

"Sebastian's front left was really bad, they needed to pit, and we were a little bit anxious that structurally we could have a failure, so that's why we made a decision to pit Lewis as well", said Wolff.

Just the #912 Porsche and #4 AMG remained on the leading lap, and the pair battled with iron wills through rain and traffic for an hour before the 911 could eek out a 20-second lead in the final 30-minutes.

  • Angelo Rivera