Lewis Hamilton hits cruise control in Formula 1 title race as Ferrari get strategy wrong in Spanish Grand Prix

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain celebrates after winning the Spanish Grand Prix. Picture: AP/Emilio Morenatti.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain celebrates after winning the Spanish Grand Prix. Picture: AP/Emilio Morenatti.
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Lewis Hamilton is back in charge of the world championship after a superb start fired him to victory at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton was handed a rare thrashing by Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in qualifying at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on Saturday, but the British star returned to his notorious best, winning at a canter.

British teenager Lando Norris crashed with Lance Stroll, which saw the introduction of a safety car with 20 laps to run.

But Hamilton remained in complete control, taking the chequered flag ahead of Bottas as Mercedes secured their fifth consecutive one-two.

Hamilton, who also scored a bonus point for the fastest lap, now leads Bottas by seven points in the title race.

Ferrari’s disappointing campaign continued as confusion reigned over their strategy with both drivers losing out to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who finished third.

Sebastian Vettel crossed the line in fourth, with team-mate Charles Leclerc fifth.

Hamilton, Formula 1’s fastest-ever man over one lap, will have been irked by the margin of his defeat to Bottas in the shootout for pole position.

But the Englishman made amends off the start line, drawing alongside Bottas within a matter of metres before making the move stick on the 300m charge to the opening bend.

Vettel was quick out of the blocks, too, switching to the outside of the Mercedes pair, with Bottas in a Ferrari-Hamilton sandwich.

Vettel went for glory, but locked up in the braking zone and ran off the track. Verstappen then sailed around the outside of the German at the next corner.

With Hamilton galloping into the distance the attention turned to Vettel, now on damaged rubber after his ambitious first-corner salvo.

Leclerc was all over the back of his team-mate, but Ferrari waited until lap 11 before giving the order for a wounded Vettel to move aside. Despite putting their drivers on different strategies, Ferrari dithered on whether to usher Leclerc aside.

The order eventually arrived on lap 33. By then both men had lost time duelling for position. Moments later Vettel stopped for a second time with Ferrari perhaps hoping Leclerc might be able to make it to the end.

But any advantage he might have had was wiped out when Norris biffed Stroll at the second bend. Stroll ended up in the gravel and Norris stopped on the track with damage to his McLaren.

The ensuing safety car effectively afforded all the drivers a free stop.