Hamilton on top in crash-hit F1 practice

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton

But it was a win his team identified as crucial to his self-belief and confidence for his title defence.

Hamilton now has 95 points to Vettel's 78 after five rounds of the 21-race championship.

The win returned Hamilton to the top spot in the drivers' standings, four points clear of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who finished fourth.

Hamilton coasted to back-to-back wins by a 20-second margin in Barcelona, leading home team-mate Valtteri Bottas on a superb afternoon for Mercedes made even better by Vettel's failure to make the podium.

Speaking after his victory Hamilton stated that he was pleased with his vehicle and also praised the supporters. Hamilton described it as a relief that they finally had the tyres working after second practice, when he was quickest, a feat he repeated in the final session yesterday.

Hamilton was uncertain whether this result would be a turning point in the championship given the challenge everyone is having with getting the tyres to work. "The best ones are sensitive and fragile", he said. We didn't have winning pace today, that's why we didn't win.

"I am feeling really good in the auto at the moment". Overall, there are three things we must be able to see.

Hamilton echoed the optimism coming from Wolff.

"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.

"This is when we're going to start to try continuing to apply the pressure. I hope we can continue".

"I think we have the same tyres in France and Silverstone so it's important that we find an answer".

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"I'm almost in the groove", he added. I don't know how many times he spins on a race weekend.

Hamilton, whose Barcelona pole time is three seconds faster than last year's on a resurfaced track, expressed frustration that the 2019 rules will result in cars that are 1.5 seconds slower and "pull us back".

An announcement before or during the Monaco Grand Prix later this month is now expected.

Most teams brought significant updates to their cars as F1 returned to Europe after races in Australia, Bahrain, China and Azerbaijan.

Hamilton stayed out until lap 25 and slotted back in behind the yet-to-stop Verstappen, who had profited from the exit of Kimi Raikkonen mere minutes before.

Vettel, having jumped Bottas off the line, was running second as late as lap 41 of 66 but dropped to fourth when a second stop for fresh tyres behind a Virtual Safety Car backfired.

Mercedes held firm to their one-stop plan.

In total, six cars failed to finish.

Wolff sympathised with his rivals at the Scuderia.

Ferrari and Vettel clearly felt the consequences of the decision - but so did Mercedes, who capitalised to take both first and second place. "Ferrari did the opposite".

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