At race start, the action immediately got tense between the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers. Vettel outgunned Hamilton, who started pole, to lead the race into turn one. Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen cama together at turn one. Raikkonen was tapped from behind by Bottas and that pushed him into Max Verstappen’s Red Bull which meant the Iceman had to pull over to the side of the track with broken front left suspension. The Red Bull, too, went off track and had to retire from the race. Vettel led from Hamilton, then Bottas, Ricciardo, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. Another incident at race start involved Williams’ Felipe Massa and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who made contact at turn two. The contact resulted in a front-right puncture for the williams and an early pitstop for a new front wing.
Vettel and Hamilton were matching each other’s pace as everyone else tried to keep up in the early stint. As the first stop window opened, Vettel pitted after Hamilton, as Mercedes decided to pit him early for an advantage. The gap stayed around the 2 second mark between the two race leaders in the early going and then it looked as though the Mercedes man was trying to close with the intention of pulling off an “undercut” by pitting early to emerge in front. Ferrari reacted, bringing Vettel’s car in on lap 14, fitting another set of softs. Vettel rejoined behind Ricciardo. At the start of lap 16, he passed the Red Bull under braking and set a fastest lap of 1:24.901.
Hamilton pitted again on lap 21, while Vettel was attacking Bottas who was doing everything he could to keep ahead. Lap 35 and Vettel dived to the left, went onto the grass and got by at Turn 1, so the Vettel-Hamilton duel was back on. Hamilton was 0.4 down but on the harder rubber. On lap 33, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne closed the door on Massa and went off the track; it became a Virtual Safety Car period.
At the mid-point juncture, Hamilton came in for new tyres on lap 37 with Vettel going in for mediums soon after. The brief stop saw both race leaders bounce back into the battle for the top spot in a matter of a lap. Vettel passed the Mercedes on the straight and yet again the duel resumed. Vettel pushed as hard as he could, but couldn’t shake off his pursuer in the first two corners. The German managed to hang onto the race lead. Moments later, Bottas retired from the race from an engine failure as the front runners were trying to get by the backmarkers.
As the leaders cleared the backmarkers, Hamilton got a clear track ahead to push Vettel to the brink. He made good use of his soft tyres to pass Vettel (on mediums) at turn 1 on lap 44. But the fight wasn’t quite over, because Vettel’s rival had to look after his softer tyres. However, the laps were running out and there weren’t enough laps to attempt one final assault.
In final few laps before the flag, Hamilton could not be overtaken by the Ferrari and vettel would settle for second. Ricciardo took the final podium spot in third as a consolation prize for Red Bull.
Force India cars of Perez and Ocon were fourth and fifth, bringing 22 points for the team’s constructors’ cause. Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth for Renault, another fine performance from the German to ensure consistent points scoring for the French squad. Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat ensured more points for Toro Rosso, with seventh and ninth places.
Sauber made it into the points, courtesy of Pascal Wehrlein’s eighth place, while Romain Grosjean scored a precious point for Haas with a tenth place finish.
The next Grand Prix shifts to the Principality in Monaco, from 25 – 28 May.
2017 Formula 1 Spanish GP results
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:35:56.497
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI +3.490s
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING +75.820s
4 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA +1 lap
5 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA +1 lap
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT +1 lap
7 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO +1 lap
8 94 Pascal Wehrlein SAUBER +1 lap
9 26 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO +1 lap
10 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI +1 lap
1 Sebastian Vettel 104
2 Lewis Hamilton 98
3 Valtteri Bottas 63
4 Kimi Räikkönen 49
5 Daniel Ricciardo 37
6 Max Verstappen 35
7 Sergio Perez 34
8 Esteban Ocon 19
9 Felipe Massa 18
10 Carlos Sainz 17
11 Nico Hulkenberg 14
12 Romain Grosjean 5
13 Pascal Wehrlein 4
14 Kevin Magnussen 4
15 Daniil Kvyat 4
1 MERCEDES 161
2 FERRARI 153
3 RED BULL RACING 72
4 FORCE INDIA 53
5 TORO ROSSO 21
6 WILLIAMS 18
7 RENAULT 14
8 HAAS 9
9 SAUBER 4