Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton managed to jump his team mate Valtteri Bottas at the start of the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix and duly went on to take a confident win in Barcelona to make it five 1-2 victories for the Silver Arrows in a row in 2019.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen picked up third place, after further signs of disharmony at Ferrari demoted Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc to fourth and fifth at the line respectively.
The race saw a second-half safety car after a clash between Lando Norris and Lance Stroll, which sparked a flurry of pit stops as teams frantically recalculated their tyre strategies but which in the end did not unduly interfere with the top five finishers.
Hamilton jumps ahead of Bottas at the start
The two Mercedes cars of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton that lined up on the front row in Barcelona were sparkling in the brilliant sunshine. Saturday's cool and breezy conditions were a distant memory as the race got underway in much more summer-like weather, but whether the soaring temperatures would change the balance of power among the teams on the grid remained to be seen.
If anyone was feeling the heat when the lights went out it was polesitter Bottas, who struggled to get a good launch which ended up costing him the lead in the long drag down to turn 1. Sebastian Vettel attempted to take advantage of the siltation only to run wide at the first corner, dropping him behind Max Verstappen in the Red Bull and leaving him struggling on flat-spotted tyres to fend off his Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc.
Pierre Gasly has also briefly run wide through the opening corners but he retained sixth place ahead of the two Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen who were followed by Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon rounding out the top ten.
There were no early casualties or retirements to report throughout the field, although McLaren's Lando Norris had a terrible start and dropped six places. Kimi Raikkonen had fallen to the back after running wide in the Alfa Romeo at turn 4, but it didn't take him long to catch and pass the two Williams cars. He then quickly overhauled his team mate Antonio Giovinazzi, who had started well down the order after being hit by another gearbox change penalty overnight. The Italian subsequently became the first driver to pit on lap 7, switching to the hard compound in a desperate and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to conjure up a miracle via a clever strategy.
Hamilton soon pulled out a safe two second lead over Bottas at the front. However neither of the Mercedes men seemed inclined to run away and hide from Verstappen and the rest of the field, likely mindful of tyre degradation at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and therefore understandably prioritising longevity at this early stage.
Tension at Ferrari as Leclerc proves faster than Vettel
However it didn't take long for signs of impatience to emerge among the Ferrari ranks. After ten laps, Vettel had dropped almost ten seconds behind Hamilton, and behind him Leclerc was chomping at the bit. Confident that he had better pace than his team mate, he nipped at Vettel's rear wing and pleaded to be allowed past so that he could carry the fight to the leaders. Vettel resisted, but the team pit wall eventually issued the command to swap over, and on lap 12 Vettel duly complied - albeit likely through gritted teeth under the helmet. Once released, Leclerc wasted no time in proving his point by pulling away from the four-time champion. However the race leaders were now even further out of sight down the road, and it was becoming painfully clear that the newly upgraded Ferrari simply lacked the hoped-for pace to match Mercedes this weekend.
An increasingly anguished Vettel spammed the Ferrari pit wall with pleas to allow him to pit and change the tyres that he had flat-spotted at the start, They finally acquiesced on lap 20 and brought him in for a new set of mediums, but an issue on the left rear wheel dropped Vettel to tenth place. The Ferrari decision forced Red Bull to respond and they called in Verstappen next time by; they opted to fit a second set of softs to the RB15, committing him to making a second stop later in the race. Verstappen was able to return to action in fifth place ahead of the Grosjean, and Gasly and Kvyat also soon pitted
A now-quicker Vettel made quick work of passing Albon and then Magnussen to surge back into the top six. Leclerc then pitted in lap 26, and in a surprise move he opted for the hard compound to ensure he could make it to the finish without a further stop. Another delay on the left rear meant he came out only just in front of Vettel, and the difference in tyre types and temperatures meant there was another heated discussion at Ferrari about swapping their cars around for a second time. While that protracted debate was raging, Bottas came in next time by followed by Hamilton on lap 28. Both of the Silver Arrows went for medium tyres and comfortably rejoined the race in their previous positions at the head of the field after problem-free services.
Ferrari swaps back Vettel ahead of Leclerc
Ferrari finally bit the bullet on lap 36 and ordered Vettel up to fourth place ahead of Leclerc, but the delay had been costly. The top three - Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen - were now a long way out of reach. At least neither Ferrari was under any pressure from Gasly in sixth, followed by Grosjean, Kvyat, Magnussen and Albon. Carlos Sainz remaining tantalisingly out of the points in 11th in the McLaren ahead of Renault's Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo himself was soon lapped by race leader Hamilton. Other cars that had already gone a lap down included both Racing Point cars of Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll which were painfully lacking pace, as were the two Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. It went without saying that the brace of Williams drivers were in their customary position at the bottom of the timing screens. However it was more of a surprise to see Norris among them in 15th place, just ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who had been required to start the race from pit lane after changing to a different specification front wing after a mishap in Saturday's qualifying session.
Now the question was how well the tyres would last. Hamilton told the Mercedes engineers that he felt it would be stretch to get to the finish on his current set of mediums. Sure enough, his rear tyres were looking visibly damaged. Almost as if in response, Ferrari came to the same conclusion and summoned Vettel in for a second time for new mediums on lap 41. He came back out in sixth just behind Gasly, immediately using his fresh rubber to dispatch the Red Bull driver. Verstappen was in two laps later, finally bolting on new soft tyres after two batches of mediums, and Bottas was likewise in on lap 46.
Norris/Stroll clash triggers safety car
Before Hamilton could follow suit, fate took a hand in the proceedings when Norris clipped the back of Stroll going through turn 2, sending both cars spinning off into the gravel. A full safety car ensued, which for Mercedes meant it was a no-brainer to bring Hamilton in for a 'free' pit stop. A number of other teams and drivers made the same call, including Leclerc who ditched the hard tyres albeit for mediums as he apparently had no more soft compound tyres left in the locker.
Despite the frenzy of activity, the running order behind the safety car had a familiar look to it once the lapped cars were allowed to clear the scene. Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen continued to lead followed by Vettel, Leclerc, Gasly, Grosjean, Magnussen and Kvyat, with Sainz finally into the points after leap-frogging Albon for tenth. Hulkenberg was now ahead of team mate Ricciardo and Perez in the sole remaining Racing Point, with the disappointing Alfas and the inevitable Williams bringing up the rear.
Hamilton duly nailed the restart to hold the lead from Bottas, with Vettel throwing himself into a whole-hearted but ultimately unsuccessful bid to best Verstappen. Also quickly back up to speed was Magnussen, who touched wheels with Grosjean as he took over seventh place and went on to fight a big battle for position with Gasly, which finally went in favour of the Red Bull. Grosjean meanwhile had a second foray through the turn 1 run-off, this time after clashing with Sainz who eventually pressed the advantage and took the position. Grosjean's day continued to darken when he was subsequently passed by Kvyat, dropping him down to tenth place with five laps remaining.
However there was no drama at the front, with Hamilton now in cruise control of the race as he went on to take his third win of the season, and also his third in a row in Spain. Together with the bonus point for setting the fastest lap in the race, he reclaimed the lead in the world championship standings by seven points from Bottas, who had successfully held on to second place ahead of Verstappen, Vettel and Leclerc.
Gasly had also managed to pull away from Magnussen in the final laps to secure sixth place. The final points went to Sainz, Kvyat and Grosjean, with Albon just missing out and Ricciardo in 12th after the team had allowed him to pass Hulkenberg at the restart. Raikkonen finished in 14th place, a late overtake on Perez providing little comfort after a disappointing day for the Alfa Romeo team which also saw Giovinazzi come home in 16th ahead of the two Williams.