Mercedes Made Right Call For "Perfect Result" - Valtteri Bottas

Phil Duncan

Phil Duncan

Vettel finished fourth at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Sunday, extending his winless run to three races and seeing Lewis Hamilton increase his lead to 17 points in the drivers' championship.

"Our tires didn't last as long as for the others, so we couldn't follow the same strategy", Vettel said. "We just need to understand why".

Lewis Hamilton eventually won the Grand Prix by a margin of over 20 seconds, highlighting the gulf between the two drivers this weekend. All three drivers were out of contention nearly immediately sustaining heavy damages, and warranted the need of a safety vehicle on the track at the start of Lap 2.

Ferrari's strategy let Mercedes off the hook for their slow stop to secure the first one-two of 2018 and Verstappen drove beautifully with a damaged vehicle to take the final step on the podium.

Kimi Raikkonen suffered an engine glitch about halfway through and was forced to retire his auto; his team-mate Sebastian Vettel suffered from peculiar strategy and didn't even make the podium. It had seemed as though the Dutchman had blown another opportunity for a strong finish when he collided with Lance Stroll just after a Virtual Safety Car period, but the damage to his front wing did not seem to seriously jeopardise his race from that point.

However, Hamilton poured cold water on any hope of a Ferrari win by putting the hammer down and leaving Vettel in the dust while the German came under pressure from Bottas.

Later in the race Verstappen was running fourth when he clipped his front wing on a Williams under the virtual safety auto, but the damage was not significant and he didn't have to make an extra stop. Haas driver Romain Grosjean lost control of his vehicle and spun in front of a chasing pack.

The Frenchman then collected the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly's Toro Rosso in a major smash, fortunately without injury, that brought out the safety vehicle for the first six laps.

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"I kept going. It was not bad".

All were unhurt, although Grosjean had to go to the medical centre for a precautionary check because the incident triggered the high impact alert in the auto. Starting from P14, Leclerc benefited from the eliminations of Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Gasly to push up into the top ten before maintaining a solid driving ability throughout the race.

"He (Grosjean) didn't look great in that scenario. He has to look at it and do some work on himself". Running third, Sebastian Vettel would be the first to make the switch when he pitted on lap 18. Advantage may be in the reigning champion's favour now but expect Vettel to fight back in Monaco in two weeks' time.

"I'm always on the worrying side and we'd been very good in winter testing here and when we went to Melbourne everybody said it was going to be an easy Mercedes one and then we had hard races so I think we were very good today but we need to stay calm and humble", Wolff said.

"A one-two for the team, we've got our Mercedes board [here] with us who have been supporting us from day one, so it's great to have them here and just see that true force within the team".

One of the leading lights of last year's championship, Esteban Ocon has yet replicate his 2017 form and continues to drop further behind his team-mate Sergio Perez.

New Zealand's Brendon Hartley did not take part in qualifying for Toro Rosso after crashing heavily in final practise.

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