World champion Lewis Hamilton hailed a potential turning point in his season after victory in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix extended his lead over Formula One title rival Sebastian Vettel to 17 points.
Hamilton coasted to back-to-back wins by a 20-second margin in Barcelona, leading home team-mate Valtteri Bottas on a superb afternoon for Mercedes made even better by Vettel’s failure to make the podium.
The German had been running second when called in for a second pit stop by Ferrari, having complained of fading tyres, but the decision cost him and Vettel finished fourth, behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
“This is when we are going to start applying some pressure,” said Hamilton, who has gained 34 points on Vettel in the last three races.
“It’s early to say but I hope it can be part of a turning point. Race by race we are understanding the tyres more. But we still have improvements to make and performance to add to the car.”
Hamilton had made a slow start to his title defence and his first win of the season, in Azerbaijan last month, owed much to luck, but the Briton believes he is finally in tune with his car.
“I’m nearly in the groove,” he added. “I felt really comfortable in the car. The more comfortable I am, the more the pace shows.”
Vettel defended the decision to pit for a second time behind a virtual safety car, insisting staying out “was not an option”.
“It obviously looks wrong, but from the inside it was the right thing to do,” he said. “Overall it has been a decent weekend, we just need to understand what to do with these tyres.”
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 car restart.
Red Bull colleague Daniel Ricciardo was fifth, ahead of Kevin Magnussen for Haas. The next race on the calendar is the Monaco Grand Prix on 27 May.