Mercedes set the pace in practice for Spanish GP

How to watch F1 Spanish grand prix

The red lights' exodus saw the red vehicle of Sebastian Vettel push past Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas into the first corner, staggering the Mercedes-Ferrari running order.

Hamilton was uncertain whether this result would be a turning point in the championship given the challenge everyone is having with getting the tyres to work.

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

It was the 64th victory of his career - only Michael Schumacher on 91 has more - and came from his 74th pole.

"This is more like it guys, let's keep this up", a buoyant Hamilton said.

The victory will be hugely pleasing and of some relief to the Briton.

Still, there are a lot of good signs for Ferrari.

As you were: Mercedes took its first pole position since the season-opener in Melbourne.

Vettel was triumphant at the Monaco Grand Prix a year ago and will be desperate to prevail again as he looks to close the gap to Hamilton in the championship standings.

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Only 14 of the 20 starters completed the race after a major high-speed crash on the opening lap, triggered by a spin from Frenchman Romain Grosjean's Haas auto, and a sequence of retirements.

All three drivers were unhurt but it was an exceptionally risky incident and why Grosjean kept his foot on the gas as he span, causing smoke that unsighted the following drivers, seems inexplicable.

Hamilton has been desperate for a return to form over the single lap and with his Mercedes finally performing as expected and required he managed it superbly.

But Ferrari made a decision to stop for a second set of tyres is the last stint, a move which put Vettel down to fourth, and with Raikkonen out after his engine gave up the ghost it was a small points haul for Ferrari.

BC-CAR-F1-Spanish GP, 136Hamilton wins Spanish GP by 20 seconds, Vettel 4thAP Photo XDMV134, XDMV112, XDMV116, XLB112, XDMV114, XLB113Eds: APNewsNow.

Hamilton was relieved to be up front again. He was able to stay out a further eight laps, ultimately taking the medium rubber in a clean stop on lap 26. If it's cold, like it has been in the coolest days here, it could be hard, but we definitely go there on a high note - and we definitely don't take for granted the fact that we still have a mountain to climb. But in Spain, both Ferraris, Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso set their fastest time on the soft compound (the second fastest on offer in Barcelona).

Vettel defended the decision to pit for a second time behind a virtual safety vehicle, insisting staying out "was not an option". Potentially they may have believed with their first stop so early they could not make the flag with only one stop.

That left the German to settle for fourth, as Bottas and Max Verstappen joined Hamilton on the podium.

Verstappen was pleased to take third place despite a messy minor crash with a Williams auto behind the virtual safety vehicle on lap 4.

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