After four races to open the Formula One season that have at times ebbed and flowed with a glorious unpredictability, it is not entirely surprising that it should be the sport’s long-standing test track that should return a flawless and dominant processional victory for Lewis Hamilton. But it was a win his team identified as crucial to his self-belief and confidence for his title defence.
For the British driver and Mercedes this was the controlled and perfectly orchestrated race they have craved all season. It was in stark contrast to Ferrari, whose tactics proved costly, with Sebastian Vettel’s fourth place dropping him 17 points behind Hamilton in the title fight. Valtteri Bottas backed his team-mate up in second, concluding Mercedes’ first one-two of the season, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen taking his first podium of the year in third.
After dominating in the season opener at Melbourne but failing to win after Vettel took advantage of a late virtual safety car, Mercedes admitted a software error had caused the miscalculation that had cost Hamilton. Since then they have struggled, largely with optimising the tyre temperature operating window but in Barcelona it clicked perfectly, especially for Hamilton who finished 20 seconds up the road from his team-mate.
The team principal, Toto Wolff, stressed the importance of the race for Hamilton. “The best ones are sensitive and fragile,” he said. “We came to Melbourne and our car performed well and suddenly you are behind a Ferrari. This is difficult to cope with and in the following races we struggled and all that adds up and was in all our minds. So having such a good weekend it was good for his confidence.”
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