Formula One

Hamilton holds off Rosberg charge in Spain

Lewis Hamilton made it four wins in a row following a closely contested tussle with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg at the Spanish Grand Prix.

A 26th career win sees Hamilton take the lead in the World Championship to become the third most successful British driver ahead of Jim Clark, making up for lost ground after retirement at the season- opening Australian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo took third to claim his first podium of the season, ahead of team- mate Sebastian Vettel in fourth.

The reigning World Champion demonstrated a brilliant drive from 15th place to finish ahead of Valtteri Bottas and the Ferrari’s of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton led from start to finish, but unlike the previous race at China, he had to endure a tense fight with Rosberg. A clean get away off the line saw Hamilton take a 2.6 second lead over Rosberg by lap 13 – 18 seconds ahead of the rest of the pack.


However by the time Hamilton made his first stop on lap 18, the German had closed the gap to a mere 1.6 seconds.

Rosberg held out for three more laps as Mercedes split their tyre strategy similarly to Bahrain, putting Rosberg onto the ‘hard’ tyre whilst Hamilton received the ‘mediums’.

Hamilton was told over the radio that he needed to maintain a four second gap to his team-mate, who in turn was advised that he had to get the margin down to 2 seconds in order to win.

Despite delays in both pit stops, Hamilton emerged 4.8 seconds ahead of Rosberg when the German pitted two laps later. Rosberg made short work of closing on the Briton in the final stint and was able to activate DRS for the penultimate laps, but was unsuccessful in his attempts to find a way through.

A further 50 seconds down the road from the duelling Mercedes pair, Ricciardo finally made his way onto the podium for the first time in his career following the controversial decision to exclude him from his home race in Melbourne.

The Australian initially lost out to Bottas off the line, before taking advantage of a faster car to jump the Williams driver at the first round of stops.

Bottas himself had looked on course for fourth place, before Vettel pulled off a bold late pass to complete a superb recovery drive following his five-place gearbox penalty. Nevertheless fifth place for Bottas signalled an impressive performance from the young Finn.

Home favourite Alonso took the cheers from the crowd as he claimed sixth place ahead of Raikkonen with three laps to go.  The Finnish driver had held the advantage for the majority of the race, only to lose out to Alonso’s fresher tyres late on.

Raikkonen was left fuming with a strategy call which allowed Alonso to pit first, despite Raikkonen having track position as the pit stop window loomed.

The dubbed “Iceman” demanded an explanation from his Ferrari team. At the end of the race Raikkonen asked on the radio “who made these calls?” complaining that he was receiving “second choice” treatment, before walking away from TV interviews when asked about the situation.

Romain Grosjean took Lotus’ first points and best result of the season with eighth place, in a much improved performance from the Enstone based outfit.

The same could not be said for his team-mate Pastor Maldonado, who following his qualifying crash and starting at the back of the grid, tangled with the Caterham of Ericsson early on to receive a five second stop and go penalty on his way to finishing 15th.

The Venezuelan driver is now tied on the most penalty points for this season, sharing the top of the table with Marrusia’s Jules Bianchi, both on four.

Force India had another solid race weekend, completing the top 10. Drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg squabbled for position throughout the race, before Perez claimed ninth from his German team-mate on lap 52.

McLaren suffered a third pointless Grand Prix finish in a row as Jenson Button beat Kevin Magnussen to 11th by just 0.6 seconds, ahead of the second Williams of Felipe Massa.

Following another race dominated by Mercedes – lapping everybody up to Alonso in sixth, Hamilton said: “It’s fantastic to get my first win here after eight attempts and it’s really difficult to put that feeling into words right now.

“In all my career, I’ve never before had a car or a performance gap like this, Nico drove a fantastic race and I struggled to keep him behind, but I just managed it at the end.

“I still have a bit more time to find from the car because it’s very, very close with Nico. But it’s a great feeling to be leading the Championship.”

The 2008 World Champion takes a three point lead going into the Monaco Grand Prix, hoping to win for a second time around the streets of Monte Carlo and extend the distance between himself and his Mercedes team-mate.

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