Belfast Telegraph

Hamilton sees latest win as turning point in quest for fifth title

 

By Phil Duncan

Lewis Hamilton hopes to look back at his emphatic victory in Spain as the turning point that fired him to a fifth Formula One world championship.

While there was more than a hint of fortune about the opening victory of his title defence in Azerbaijan a fortnight ago, there could be no denying Hamilton's win here at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

The 33-year-old British driver was in a class of his own as he galloped to a 21-second triumph - lapping the field up to fifth - while his main championship rival Sebastian Vettel faltered to only fourth place. Hamilton's championship lead now stands at 17 points.

Arriving in Spain, Ferrari boasted the grid's most complete package, but Hamilton's display was a return to the Mercedes of old with Valtteri Bottas following his team-mate home to secure the world champions their first one-two finish of the campaign.

Hamilton conceded that he will head to the next round in Monaco with caution rather than in expectation following his poor display at the principality last year, but the 64th win of his career will, for the first time this term, provide him with optimism that he can outdo Vettel in their tug of war for glory.

"I would like to hope that this race could be part of a turning point," Hamilton said. "I said that I wanted to come here and win the way that I won, and when I came across the line I was just happy that I did as I planned to.

"The team have been working very hard to understand the tyres and how the car works, so I think it all came together this weekend.

"We definitely go to Monaco on a high note, but we know that we still have a lot of work to do. That said, I will sleep like a baby tonight." Hamilton should have kick-started his season with a victory at the opening rubber in Australia before a strategy mix-up by his Mercedes team gifted Vettel the win.

He was at his very best in Melbourne but was then, by his own admission, off-colour in Bahrain, China and even Baku despite his victory.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted Hamilton's confidence had taken a knock.

"The best ones are very sensitive and fragile and that is something we know and he knows," Wolff said.

"He was solidly in the lead in Melbourne and suddenly he was behind the Ferrari. It is difficult to cope with and in the following races we struggled.

"But having such a good weekend here, and winning by a solid margin, is very important for his confidence."

FIA Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix, Leading Positions: 1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1hr 35mins 29.972secs, 2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:35:50.565, 3 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:35:56.845, 4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:35:57.556, 5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:36:20.030.

World Championship Standings: Drivers: 1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 95pts, 2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 78, 3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 58, 4 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 48, 5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 47.

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