Five seconds: that was all it took for a lightning Lewis Hamilton to sweep past Valtteri Bottas and lay the platform for Mercedes’ fifth consecutive one-two finish, extending a start of unparalleled dominance to any Formula One campaign. No wonder “big boss” Dieter Zetsche, the chairman of Daimler, Mercedes’ parent company, could not stop smiling as he was borne aloft by his drivers in the Barcelona sunshine. Any resistance to this behemoth of a team appears futile. At this rate, with a 96-point lead in the constructors’ standings and not even a quarter of the season gone, staff at the Silver Arrows can start counting their annual bonuses by September.
Hamilton was peerless here, reacting to the lights with hair-trigger precision and holding off Bottas for his third straight win at the Circuit de Catalunya. Even at the re-start after a long safety-car period, imposed for a collision between Lando Norris and Lance Stroll, he set off on a tear, taking advantage of fresher tyres to seize an extra point for the fastest lap. A 76th victory was his, and with it a renewed grip on the championship. From the moment he launched out of Turn One in the lead, such an outcome never looked in doubt.
The less comfortable question is how much longer F1 can cope with this story of remorseless supremacy. There is gathering momentum behind the idea that Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ team principal, could be the sport’s next chief executive beyond 2020. His verdict on this remarkable quintuple of one-twos reflected a combination of emotions: sheer elation at his team’s feats, but also underlying concern over the competitiveness of the sport. “I’m in an awkward position,” he said. “We’re trying to push the benchmark every single day, every single year. Seeing this all come together gives a super satisfaction. But as a fan, the sport needs a certain unpredictability.”
Back in 1955, Mercedes withdrew from any involvement in F1, arguing they had nothing left to prove. They could do the same tomorrow, citing the same reason, and few would have any complaints. They are setting a standard that nobody, even in a sport of perpetual innovation, can live with. Max Verstappen is F1’s most aggressive, eyeballs-out driver in years but might as well have been in a different race, trailing home a distant third. Ferrari have a greater budget and more decorated history than anyone, Mercedes included, but they are being made to seem rank amateurs by their arch-rivals. All that Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, fourth and fifth, had to remember this Spanish Grand Prix by was a row over team orders.
Verstappen noticeably took his time in parc fermé, studying Hamilton’s car and wondering just what he had to do to beat such a machine. “I was looking to see what’s different to mine,” he said, grinning. It was a forlorn quest: Mercedes’ distinction lies as much in what you cannot see as what you can. In the coming weeks, the team are preparing to unleash more upgrades, refining an engine that is already the envy of the grid. In this game of catch-us-if-you-can, Mercedes are like an electric hare, offering hope but ultimately no reward to their frustrated pursuers.
At one level, Hamilton is relishing the serenity of life at the front. “This is the strongest team there has ever been, I think,” he said. “It will be very hard to break that.” But as a born racer, he finds that the experience of duelling with Bottas lacks the exhilaration of being closely-matched with rival teams. “It’s exciting when you arrive at the track and you’re competing against one or two other teams who are bringing their A-games. Racing within a team? It’s not really what F1 should be. People might be unhappy at the gap we have to the Ferraris – but it’s not our fault.”
In every department, Mercedes left the rest standing. Even at the first round of pit-stops, they took half the time that bungling Ferrari mechanics needed for Vettel and Leclerc. All that remained was an in-house fight for top billing. While Bottas had been expected to offer a fierce challenge, having taken pole by over six tenths, he was slow off the line, a mistake that he blamed on clutch problems.
The best racing was reserved for the first corner, which Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel entered three abreast. In his efforts to steal a march, Vettel locked up, creating a flat spot on his tyre that limited his speed and set up a needling tussle with Leclerc behind. The Ferrari pair have crossed each other already this year – in Bahrain, Vettel had to make way for a charging Leclerc – and the to-and-fro was equally intense here. First Vettel, with badly-degraded rubber, had to let Leclerc pass, before the young Monegasque was soon ordered to return the favour.
There was a brief late flurry of drama when the McLaren of Norris, misjudging an overtake on Stroll, speared the Canadian and scattered gravel all over the racing line. A prolonged safety-car deployment ensued, but it was Hamilton who was quickest on the draw at the resumption, streaking away from Bottas in the closing stages. For Mercedes and their triumphant star, Monaco in a fortnight’s time cannot come soon enough. For the teams in their rear-view mirrors, there is simply scratching of heads at what they can possibly do to stem the tide.
That's all from me today...
...stay tuned for more from Oliver Brown out in Barcelona and analysis and reaction from the race on telegraph.co.uk/sport later today and tomorrow. Not a great race but still a fair amount to chew over until Monaco in two weeks.
Footage of the start
A deeper look at strategy
The moment Hamilton took the victory
The moment @LewisHamilton led home a fifth consecutive 1-2 finish for @MercedesAMGF1 ��— Formula 1 (@F1) May 12, 2019
An all-time #F1 record equalled at the #SpanishGP ����
And the champ goes back to the top of the standings �� pic.twitter.com/E87ulYa5U8
How good is this driver?
I'd love to see him and Hamilton in equal machinery before the latter retires.
He now sits above both Ferrari drivers in the championship. He has driven superbly since the middle part of last season. Canada onwards, really.
Well, there is no doubt that Ferrari have taken a backward step in 2019 so far...
They made a few mistakes here, Vettel was briefly ahead into turn one but locked up and that was as good as it got. The biggest problem is that they haven't got the pace at the moment.
Updated constructor standings
Updated driver standings
Hard to say anything other than it'll be a big surprise if Hamilton isn't leading by August
A 49th 1-2 finish for Mercedes. We go to Monaco - a track where Mercedes have not won for the last two years, struggling there. But given how they looked in the final sector here they have to be favourites.
Max Verstappen reacts to an excellent podium
It was a hectic first corner. From there on, the Mercedes cars were too quick. We were competitive, so just happy to be on the podium.
He moves into third in the standings. Mercedes lead the constructors' championship by 97 points after five rounds.
Bottas reacts to a fairly disappointing second place
It was pretty tight but I lost it at the start. There was some strange behaviour on the clutch. I lost it there. As a team it's incredible, a fifth 1-2 in a row is really good. I got some good points. Every single point is going to count this year, I am just keen to find out why the start was so bad and why that issue happened.
Hamilton reacts to his victory
I just have to put it down to this incredible team. This is history in the making, to have five 1-2s. I am very, very proud of that. It has definitely been a bit of hard first four races.
It was an interesting start. I saw the red car go around the back of the both of us. I had no idea whether they were further ahead and I knew Valtteri would be braking super deep.
I was trying to keep the tyres warm. I had not had a fastest lap all year so it was about time.
They needed that
Max Verstappen winning the popularity contest...
...that is the driver of the day. Can't see how it can be anyone other than Hamilton but Verstappen again did the business.
Grosjean does keep 10th for his first point of the season.
LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE 2019 SPANISH GRAND PRIX
And retakes the championship lead! Well, it was done at the first corner but from then he just had incredible pace. Bottas couldn't keep up with him. Verstappen doing what Verstappen does, beating both Ferraris for the final podium.
A formality for Hamilton, now. A superb drive throughout. Can Albon get past Grosjean? He looks too far behind now so it will be a double points finish for Haas if Grosjean keeps it in the right direction.
TWO LAPS TO GO
Hamilton strolling to victory again, here. He also has the bonus point for fastest lap. Ferrari nowhere. Albon gets the hurry up for 10th on the radio.
Lap 63 of 66 - Grosjean defending with his life...
...against Albon. He keeps the final point for now.
Lap 62 of 66 - Hamilton's lead still at 2.7...
...Mercedes very much holding station now. It will, barring any failure or something really weird, be a fifth 1-2 in a row. Ferrari look unlikely to make it onto the podium. Can't say that any of this fills me with optimism for the rest of the season...
Lap 61 of 66 - Romain Grosjean slipping down the field now...
...and in danger of slipping out of the points. He is yet to score any this year and it looks unlikely now. Currently in P10 but with Albon closing up.
Lap 60 of 66 - Ferrari and Red Bull pace...
...much of a muchness. Gasly on the softs hasn't made any impression. Vettel 1.5s behind Verstappen. Can he close up in these final laps?
Lap 59 of 66 - Sainz makes the move successfully this time...
...up into P8. Grosjean may be suffering with floor damage after running wide and over the bumps. Hamilton's lead is 2.4s but looks stable. The Mercs the only two in the 1.19s.
Grosjean fighting with Sainz now! Grosjean goes wide into turn two and gets a better run into turn three, keeping the position. Ha. Sainz being cheered pretty enthusiastically from the grandstands.
10 laps to go...
...Bottas has closed the lead to under three seconds now. Grosjean is out wide in turns one and two again, fighting with Magnussen. The Dane getting pretty feisty. Or just being feisty. As he is.
Lap 55 of 56 - Hamilton leads Bottas by five seconds...
...whatever went wrong for him yesterday I do not know. He has blown Bottas into pieces here.
Lap 54 of 66 - Hamilton is leading by a mile...AGAIN
He's 3.5s ahead of Bottas already. Verstappen close on the back of Bottas, though.
We're away again!
Hamilton puts his boot down early, before the final chicane. He gets a good getaway and keeps the lead. Gasly tries to get past Vettel but can't. I think the Haas cars touch into turn two and three and Grosjean goes wide! Magnussen goes around the outside of Gasly - or tries to - in turn five!
SAFETY CAR ENDING THIS LAP
...14 laps to go, then. Could be fun. It was dreadfully boring before, to be honest.
Lap 51 of 66 - the SC stays out...
...Albon now outside of the points and apparently 24s behind. He did stop, though, and needs to keep to a certain time.
They ARE letting the lapped cars through...
...makes sense. Still a decent amount of time left. Hamilton could be vulnerable, it's a long back straight. He probably wants to wait until the very last moment before putting his foot down. Mind you, it might give Bottas the chance to read what he's done.
The Stroll/Norris incident
Should Stroll have given him a bit more room? Should Norris have backed out? This might have worked out well for Gasly, on fresh softs, compared to those on mediums ahead.
There are a lot of lapped cars between Hamilton and Bottas...
...under the safety car. Would be good for them to get out of the way, so we have an interesting restart at the front. Will they let them through?
Lap 48 of 66 - Top 10 under the safety car
A poor weekend for Norris. Toro Rosso double stack their cars. It's a slow stop for Kvyat which holds up Albon, who has a very slow stop himself. Hmmm.
Hamilton and Bottas went onto the softs...
...Verstappen had just pitted before the incident and went on the medium tyres. Could be an interesting final few laps. Hamilton complains about the amount of gravel on the track, caused by Norris. Get the big brushes out!
Lap 47 of 66 - Hamilton pits under the safety car
It all happened in turn one and two between Stroll and Norris. Norris tried to send one up the inside, Stroll on the outside of turn two carries on and his rear left hits the McLaren's front right. Norris's fault, for sure.
Lap 46 of 66 - Bottas pits...
...onto the softs. Right, so no chance he was going to go to the end.
YELLOW FLAG!Norris and Lance Stroll have collided. Somewhere. They are both out. Norris pulls across the track with a load of gravel being dragged out.
Lap 44 of 66 - Vettel flying now...
...lapping 1.5 seconds quicker than the leader Hamilton. Hamilton needs to pit again according to Martin Brundle, his right rear is looking very worn. At risk of delaminating, he says.
Lap 43 of 66 - "No way he is going to the end"
Is what Verstappen is told about Leclerc. But the Ferrari on the hard tyres? Hmmm. Vettel, meanwhile sets the fastest lap.
Lap 42 of 66 - Vettel puts one down the inside of Gasly...
...in turn 10. Nice move, decisive. It could shake up a bit around the final podium position with three drivers on different tyres and different strategies. Verstappen needs to stop again. Vettel has just stopped and is 15s behind Leclerc - on the hards - with 24 laps to go.
Lap 40 of 66 - Lando Norris...
...in P15. Points not looking likely today. His team-mate Carlos Sainz is in P11 but nearly 10s away from Albon ahead.
Vettel stops and goes onto the mediums. He's out in P6 marginally behind Gasly. Could cause a few problems for him.
Lap 39 of 66 - Not going to say this is definitely the most boring race of the year...
...so far. But it's definitely in the top one. Worth trying to find a video of the start, though.
Lap 38 of 66 - Hamilton's lead increases to 9.3s...
...as he and Bottas have to make their way past backmarkers.
Lap 37 of 66 - Top 10 after everyone has stopped
Lap 36 of 66 - Hamilton leads by 8.7s from Bottas
Finally, Leclerc lets Vettel through at turn four.
Lap 35 of 66 - Vettel still cannot get by...
...and seemingly Leclerc hasn't been told to get out of the way. Ferrari, apparently, still not sure of who is on what strategy and making a bit of a mess of it, really. Oh well, it's nice to watch.
Lap 33 of 66 - Vettel closes up...
...but it's not enough. Hamilton has enough time to pit and get out ahead of the Ferraris. Not good for this race or the hopes for the rest of the season.
Lap 32 of 66 - the pace of the Mercedes
is ominous. Vettel scrapping with Leclerc for fourth but the Monegasque is having none of it.
Lap 31 of 66 - Hamilton wants information on how quick Bottas is going...
...think he has him covered. Mercedes in a class of their own currently.
Lap 30 of 66 - Bottas sets a lap 1.3s quicker than Hamilton's...
...he needs a few more of those. The gap is now 8.2s. Leclerc is losing time to Vettel directly behind him. Time for another switch?
Lap 29 of 66 - Top 10 and gaps
- BOT +10.0
- VER +12.9
- LEC +23.1
- VET +24.7
- GAS +34.4
- GRO +47.3
- HUL +49.6
- MAG +50.5
- KVY +52.8
Lap 28 of 56 - Both Mercedes came out on medium tyres...
...which will have to last 33 laps. A fair while but should be fine, given the pace advantage they have. Verstappen is on the softs, by the way, so will stop again.
Lap 27 of 66 - Bottas pits...
...having fallen back even further. He's out head of Verstappen but not by a huge amount, a second or two. Hamilton pits at the end of the lap, he's in a race of his own now.
Lap 26 of 66 - Leclerc pits...
...but it was another slow stop. He comes out on the hard compound tyres, ahead of Vettel but behind Grosjean. Vettel will be closing up onto the back of him very shortly. Strange decision, there, with Vettel going so well. They are not planning to two stop Vettel, are they?
Lap 25 of 66 - saying that...
...Hamilton was 1.1 quicker than Bottas on the last lap. He's disappearing up the road. Again, Leclerc was a further second slower. Not sure if it's traffic or not but this is not shaping up to be a very interesting race at the moment. Vettel going quickest in sector three on his fresh tyres and indeed sets the fastest lap.
Lap 23 of 66 - Vettel's pace is good on the mediums...
...Bottas lost another 0.7s on that lap. Worrying. Still, he was nearly a second quicker than Leclerc, which tells you all you need to know.
Lap 22 of 66 - Bottas does seem to be fine...
...but just quite a bit slower than Hamilton right now. He still has plenty of gap to Verstappen, should he stop, though. For now.
Has Bottas got a problem here?
He's dropping back at a great rate of knots. Perhaps he's caught traffic. He's now 7.4s behind, again a second behind Hamilton. Perhaps his tyres are going off.
Lap 20 of 66 - Verstappen pits...
..as Hamilton sets a new fastest lap. Nearly two seconds quicker than Bottas!
Top 10 after Vettel and Verstappen have stopped:
Lap 19 of 66 - Ferrari mechanics out in the pits for Vettel...
...in he comes with medium tyres. Two stop, then? He was slow to get away there, a second or two lost. He comes out ahead of Sainz and in P10. Behind Albon and Kvyat.
Lap 18 of 66 - Leclerc on a bit of a charge...
...for the final podium spot, currently held by Verstappen. Vettel's race looks done on these tyres. Hamilton is nearly four seconds ahead of Bottas but he is coming up to lap the Williams cars ahead. Ouch. Already?
Lap 16 of 66 - Vettel wants to change his tyres...
...and says he doesn't care if he comes out in traffic. His last lap was over 1.5s slower than Hamilton's. "Pit me when you can," he says.
It's all quite quiet out there at the moment...
...with Hamilton pounding away in the low 1.21s. Vettel is now 3.8s away from Leclerc ahead of him. Ferrari just do not have the pace. Anyway, here are a few more images from the start, where it all got a bit tasty.
Lap 13 of 66 - Sainz and Ricciardo battle...
...for P11. Lando Norris still down in P16. Hamilton has increased his lead to 3.4s. Waiting for the first pit stops, now.
Images from the start...
...Vettel got very wide and Bottas nearly lost his rear end on exit.
Meanwhile, Leclerc is already 2.3s ahead of Vettel after being let through. How much time was he losing?!
Lap 11 of 66 - Vettel given the order to let Leclerc pass
...and he does, on the pit straight.
Lap 10 of 66 - Leclerc closes up on Vettel...again
Leclerc has a little look again into turn one! He's close but backs out. Ferrari losing bags of time here. Mattia Binotto is shown on the pit wall. Wonder what he's thinking now.
Lap 9 of 66 - Leclerc closes up on Vettel...
...as Hamilton increases his lead to nearly 3s.
Lap 8 of 66 - Top 10 and gaps
- BOT +2.5
- VER +4.8
- VET +7.5
- LEC +8.3
- GAS +11.4
- GRO +16.8
- MAG +20.5
- KVY +21.5
- ALB +23.1
Lap 7 of 66 - Giovinazzi pits...
...and puts on the hard compound tyres. Interesting. Leclerc is still around a second behind Vettel but he does get DRS on the pit straight...he has a little look at the end of the straight. Time for another Ferrari switch?! Probably, given Vettel's flatspotted tyre.
Lap 6 of 66 - Ferrari falling back...
...Vettel is 2.5s behind Verstappen now. Leclerc a second behind his team-mate.
Lap 5 of 66 - Hamilton sets a new fastest lap...
...and he's two seconds ahead now. Verstappen has fallen a bit further back. Time for the classic field spread you get around this track.
He's how they lined up going into the first corner...
...Vettel was actually marginally ahead there, I think. Obviously on a much worse line, mind you and then he locked up, so...
Lap 3 of 66 - Bottas sets a new fastest lap...
...but Verstappen isn't too far behind. Hamilton still on the pace.
Lap 2 of 66 - Hamilton leads by 1.9s
Norris down to P16. Raikkonen right at the back, somehow. Verstappen quite close to Bottas by the end of the lap...are Red Bull contenders here?
THE 2019 SPANISH GRAND PRIX IS GO!
Superb star from Hamilton who leads going into the first corner, side by side with Bottas but he got JUST the better getaway. Vettel is nearly level to the right of them both. Bottas gets squeezed as Vettel locks up and has to get out of it. Hamilton leads!
Vettel moaning about a flatspot on his front right. Not surprised after the lock-up. He did well to keep it going in the right direction. Verstappen up into third, by the way.
Bottas takes his place on pole...
...and will have to wait a while for the grid to form up. Nearly time.
Formation lap gets going...
Raikkonen, Stroll, Kubica, Russell and Hulkenberg on the medium tyres. Everyone else on softs.
Earlier in the week...
...I predicted a Hamilton-led Mercedes 1-2. Will it happen today? It'd be a fifth 1-2 in a row. Starting to get a bit boring?
Track conditions with just under five minutes to go...
The tow could be a big factor...
...and just the quality of the start generally. I don't think the top five will be the same come turn three or four.
It's a HUGE run down to Turn 1 at @circuitcat_eng, almost five times that of Baku's ��— Pure Pit Wall (@PurePitWall) May 12, 2019
With 564.7m to play with, we should see some moves at the start…
Who's your pick for leading the pack at the end of Lap 1?#UnfairAdvantage ���� #SpanishGP#F1pic.twitter.com/izK73BEDXL
Wonder if we'll get anyone outside of Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen and Leclerc finishing in the top five today? They have made up positions 1-5 in every race so far.
Strategy in a bit more detail
#SpanishGP strategies. Quickest strategy on paper for the 66-lap race tomorrow is a two-stopper. Start on the soft tyre for 22 laps, do another soft stint for 23 laps, then medium to the end. (1/3)— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) May 11, 2019
Teams will probably aim for a one-stopper though: especially as it’s quite hard to overtake @Circuitcat_eng. The theoretically fastest one-stopper is: start on the soft tyre for 27 laps (managing it carefully) and then switch to the hard until the finish. (2/3)— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) May 11, 2019
A less marginal strategy – which is quite close anyway on overall race time – is to start on the medium for 30 laps, then switch to the hard for the final 36 laps. However, nobody in the top 10 of the grid will be able to try this. (3/3)— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) May 11, 2019
15 (or so) minute klaxon
George Russell put in a very good performance yesterday...
Massively out-paced his team-mate and managed to close the gap from Williams to the car in front. Lando Norris thinks a few drivers will be pushed onto two stop strategies. Let's hope it actually makes the race a bit more interesting.
Christian Horner says Red Bull can fight Ferrari...
...and that tyre degradation will be something to watch out for. Much hotter conditions today.
"Lewis is my best friend"
Is what man on the grid Neymar says. Is he? It's news to me. He won't be drawn on who he thinks will win the Champions League final. His English isn't that great to be fair.
Martin Brundle and Jenson Button start their grid walk
"It's a tough track to overtake but I think it's not so straightforward with one-stop," says Daniel Ricciardo on the grid. Ferrari will almost certainly try something a bit different with one of their cars.
The final starting grid...
30 minutes until lights out...
Here are the times of the top 10 in qualifying yesterday. Full starting grid coming up.
- Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1min 15.406secs
- Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:16.040
- Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:16.272
- Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:16.357
- Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:16.588
- Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull 1:16.708
- Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:16.911
- Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:16.922
- Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:17.573
- Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:18.106
It just got a bit tasty in the pit lane...
...as Lewis Hamilton came up on the back of Sebastian Vettel on the pit entry.
Vettel has just been driving really dangerously in the pit entry. To then do burnouts to the line. [I could have] crashed into it.
Is what he said. Didn't see the whole incident but it didn't look dangerous to me.
...21 out of 28 times the pole man has won the Grand Prix here. Ferrari have, however, had the advantage in sector one this weekend. The rest of the lap has been waaaay down on Mercedes though.
Where has their pace gone since winter testing? Well, it looks like Mercedes got their act together and started understanding their car a bit better, really. Also, when Ferrari have had the chances (Bahrain, perhaps Baku) they have not taken them. It's slightly worrying that they are this far behind here, though. They seem to be running a lower downforce set-up and struggled in the medium and slow speed corners.
Perhaps the two best helmets on the grid today?
Has Bottas got Hamilton where he wants him?
It looks easy to say that, with a lead of over 0.6s in qualifying yesterday. Hamilton didn't get it together on his first hot lap in Q3, making a very scruffy go of it. By the time the second runs were underway, the track conditions had worsened and nobody really improved, so that was that. Still, Bottas is a man driving with a new confidence. Beating one of the finest drivers over a single lap is proof of that indeed.
Still, Bottas was on pole in China and lost out at the first corner, there, too. A good start is essential. What chance of seeing a collision between them? Hamilton admitted that he perhaps wasn't aggressive enough in Baku two weeks ago, so perhaps he may get his elbows out now.
Lewis Hamilton could end his glittering F1 career at Ferrari, suggests Mercedes team principal
In a moment of striking candour, Wolff acknowledged here in Barcelona that the temptations of Ferrari might prove too strong for his star driver, recently signed to a two-year contract extension worth £40 million a season, to resist. “We have to acknowledge that is in every driver’s head to drive for Ferrari,” he said. “It is the most iconic marque in Formula One. Even within the team we have discussed it. You have to be open-minded – drivers will explore these opportunities. We have always been very transparent with Lewis on this discussion. We would love him to stay. If ever we part, it will be very positive, no drama.”
How will the relationship between these two develop...
At the moment it's a nice, easy one without too much trouble. But if Bottas continues to take the fight to Hamilton then it may deteriorate.
Lewis Hamilton has smoothed out many of his rougher edges as a five-time world champion, but he still retains a weakness as a conspiracy theorist.
Pressed on the prospect of a fearsome challenge this season from a team-mate, with fellow Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas one point clear in the world championship ahead of Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix, he could not resist rekindling the fires of his infamous 2016 duel with Nico Rosberg, which he lost at the final race.
Driver standings after four races...
Things are now a bit worse for Nico Hulkenberg...
...as he starts from the pit lane due to a front wing change infringement. In other words, the replacement wing was a different spec to the one it replaced. Antonio Giovinazzi will also start in the pit lane due to an unscheduled change of gearbox.
Nico Hulkenberg had a pretty rough qualifying session yesterday...
...he had a shunt which broke his front wing, which then lodged under his car. He did make it out with a few minutes to spare but his lap time was not quick enough to get him out of Q1.
Bottas' pole lap from yesterday
Worth a watch.
Good afternoon F1 fans...
...and welcome to our liveblog for the Spanish Grand Prix. Before yesterday's qualifying session it looked to be a battle between the two Mercedes drivers. And so it turned out: Lewis Hamilton and championship leader Valtteri Bottas had to do battle on a track where the silver arrows have dominated for quite some time.
Going into this weekend there were many who said that this is an important weekend for Bottas. Yes, he leads the championship from Lewis Hamilton by a single point but he has struggled relative to Hamilton at this track. And this is a track where the Briton has excelled - finishing over 20 seconds ahead of Bottas last year.
So, when the Finn qualified over six-tenths of a second up on Hamilton it was another marker laid down to the five-time world champion. It is one he has to respond to if he wants to retake the championship lead. With Ferrari being some way off Mercedes at this round (more on that later) it looks like it's a fight between the two Silver Arrows in Spain, with the start perhaps being the crucial moment, given how difficult it is to overtake around here.
After missing a lot of running in final practice, Bottas was happy to take pole. Impressively so, it's three in a row.
"I really enjoyed that. I enjoy the adrenaline rush we get from those laps. I’m very pleased. Practice 3 was difficult obviously with the spin, so I just forgot that and moved on."
“It was a great qualifying. One of my best, if not the best. It’s such a nice feeling when you succeed with a lap like that… The car was so good and I could really 100% trust it and really do with it whatever I wanted to and it’s a good feeling,” he said immediately afterwards.
Still, if Sebastian Vettel nails his start and gets ahead of both Mercedes then the race could be interesting. More likely, though, is that Vettel and Charles Leclerc in the other Ferrari will have to be more worried about Max Verstappen, who qualified in fourth position, splitting them on the grid.
Further back Haas were the best of the rest and will look to score some decent points - heaven knows they need to.