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Mercedes set the pace in practice for Spanish GP

Mercedes set the pace in practice for Spanish GP

It appeared as though Mercedes was about to take the position back, with Bottas setting a series of purple sector times - indicating the quickest of the race to that point - on the next two laps, but a tardy stop saw him emerge just behind the four-time world champion.

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 now leads the 2018 F1 championship with 70 points, while Sebastian Vettel is a close second at 66 points.

Vettel, who won three straight poles, will start third, followed by Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Spanish drivers Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Fernando Alonso of McLaren finished seventh and eighth respectively in qualifying, while Renault's Carlos Sainz beat Romain Grosjean in the second Haas auto to finish ninth.

Behind Vettel and Ricciardo, Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was in no-man's land, way behind the top five, but well clear of the rest, led by Carlos Sainz's Renault and McLaren's Fernando Alonso, who recovered well after being delayed by the first-lap incident.

The Spanish Grand Prix takes place Sunday at 9AM ET from Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas was second, in 1:16.213, with Vettel third and 0.132 off the pace.

"I'll have a good sleep and come back tomorrow fresh, anything is possible", he said.

Hamilton was supremely above Ferrari's concerns, as he converted his first pole position since the opening race in Australia into a first-lap lead. We should be at least as fast as we are this year but just making racing better.

Hamilton also became the first F1 driver to finish in the points in 30 consecutive races.

By Lap 54, Hamilton was leading by 17.7seconds on medium tyres and one pit stop.

Vertappen held off Vettel for a first podium finish of the season despite damaging a front wing when he ran into Lance Stroll's Williams after the virtual safety vehicle restart. All the top three teams were seemingly heading towards a one-stop strategy, but this threw a spanner in the works. "It worked out for Ricciardo and Verstappen in Shanghai and this is probably what they were thinking and I fully understand why they did it". "I've not had pole for a while", Hamilton said. Azerbaijan Grand Prix star Charles Leclerc kept his name in the points-paying positions by rounding off the top ten for Sauber. "It is a little bit disheartening as I don't really know what I could have done more".

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg was surprisingly eliminated in the first qualifying session on Saturday. Vettel led for 41 laps in Baku before the rogue Red Bull boys brought out the safety auto that changed everything.

Of note, Scuderia Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley did not take part in qualifying after a big accident in FP3.

"Today I think was okay".

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