Motor racing-Hamilton ends F1 podium drought with third in Spain

By Alan Baldwin

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a return to the Formula One podium with Mercedes on Sunday but said his best result of the season and the team's improvement did not make him regret his move to Ferrari next year.

The seven-times world champion finished third at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, with team mate George Russell fourth, to secure his first podium since last October and a record-extending 198th of his career.

"This is the best weekend I’ve had all year, and for a long, long time, for like 15 races or something crazy," Hamilton told reporters.

"It’s good to be back, it’s good to have battles like today, it’s good to reassert and reaffirm."

The Briton made a great overtake on Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard he will replace next year, and also overtook Russell.

Team boss Toto Wolff, accused earlier this month in an anonymous email of sabotaging Hamilton, said it was good to see the Briton having a great weekend.

"It has been a while that he was on the receiving end and strategy had worked against him and today that was in his favour.

"So I'm happy that we have that podium for him."

Hamilton said he had no second thoughts about a move, announced before the start of the season, to a Ferrari with evident work to do. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were fifth and sixth after a double retirement in Canada.

"My job next year will be to start with the other team, and they are doing a great job. They have had a difficult couple of races but let’s not forget they had a race win in Monaco," he added.

"I don’t know what is wrong with their car and why they are in the position they are in. But it doesn’t make me second-guess (think twice about) my decision at all."

Mercedes were also fast in Barcelona last year, with Hamilton second and Russell third behind Verstappen.

Russell secured his first podium of the 2024 season in Canada two weeks ago but he said then that third place felt like a missed opportunity after he had qualified on pole position.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)