Barcelona: Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix for Mercedes on Sunday, to chalk up his fourth victory in a row and wrest the Formula One championship lead from ‘gutted’ German teammate Nico Rosberg.
In what was also the fourth successive Mercedes one-two, and fifth win in five races for the dominant constructor, Hamilton took the chequered flag a mere 0.6 of a second ahead of his rival.
In a nail-biting finish to what had been a largely uneventful race, Rosberg piled pressure on Hamilton by slashing the Briton’s lead over the last six laps and looming ominously in his mirrors.
Hamilton, who now has 100 points to Rosberg’s 97 after his 26th career victory and leads the standings for the first time since 2012 when he was at McLaren, sounded increasingly anxious in radio traffic but held on for his first win in Spain. “I wasn’t fast enough really today, Nico was quicker,” the 2008 champion said during the podium interview. “Fortunately, I was able to keep him behind.”
Rosberg, who declared himself “a bit gutted” to finish second again and whose subdued body language alongside Hamilton on the podium more than backed that up, felt he would have got past with one more lap. “Lewis did a great job the whole weekend, just that little bit ahead,” added the German ruefully.
Daniel Ricciardo was third for champions Red Bull in the first podium finish of his F1 career after being stripped of his second-place for a fuel irregularity in his home season-opener in Melbourne in March.
“We did not have the pace on Mercedes... it is really nice to be on the podium and I am sure I will get to keep it this time,” said the smiling Australian, who had started third. “A lonely third was not a bad result in the end.”
Quadruple world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel, who started 15th after a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, ended a weekend of setbacks with a strong fourth place.
Ricciardo, as the best of the rest, crossed the line a massive 48.3 seconds behind Rosberg with Mercedes again in a class of their own and lapping all but four cars.
Sahara Force India collected three points on Sunday, but slipped to fourth in the team championship. Both Perez and Hulkenberg had started outside the top-10 from the grid. “It was quite a hard afternoon, so to come away with two points is not too bad. I had pretty strong pace in the race and my tyre degradation was okay, so I think we probably could have been a bit more aggressive with the strategy,” Perez said.
Meanwhile, Ferrari drivers and staff gathered to send a message of hope to Michael Schumacher and commemorate his first F1 victory at the Spanish Grand Prix with the team he led to five world championships.
Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen flanked new team principal Marco Mattiacci among about a hundred team members in front of a sign saying: “Remembering your first win with us #forzamichael.”