Mercedes tyre fix put Hamilton back in business

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel during practice

After winning the first two races in 2018 Sebastian Vettel finished off the podium in China and Azerbaijan Credit REUTERS

Hamilton suggested earlier in the weekend that Ferrari had been "sandbagging" in practice, and repeated the claim, albeit more jokingly, after his qualifying success, as third-placed Sebastian Vettel fell just 0.132s short of pole on a late soft-tyre run.

Hamilton is now standing at the top spot in the drivers' championship, maintaining a lead of just four points over Vettel.

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso believes McLaren have a "realistic" shot of reaching Q3 for the first time this season after the team debuted an extensive upgrade package for the Spaniard's home race. "I believe our auto is very fast, we still need a bit more top speed but hopefully that will come". Hamilton has two of those wins (2014 and 2017), as well as six overall podium finishes in 11 starts, and he is understandably the favorite to make it back-to-back this weekend.

Hamilton edged out Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by less than a tenth of a second in a breathless qualifying hour at Barcelona.

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Ferrari has seemed the fastest vehicle overall in 2018, but in practice for the Spanish grand prix Mercedes and Red Bull were apparently ahead.

The see-sawing battle for supremacy between Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team continues as the Formula One championship enters its European phase in Barcelona, where Hamilton leads a Mercedes lockout of the front row.

"I was happy with the lap".

"We should be at least as fast as we are this year but just making racing better".

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"We were very quick". When it mattered in Q3 he set a blistering lap on his first run and with the pressure on promptly improved it.

Hamilton, whose Barcelona pole time is three seconds faster than last year's on a resurfaced track, expressed frustration that the 2019 rules will result in cars that are 1.5 seconds slower and "pull us back".

"It was good to work the SuperSoft tyre a bit better today, it felt like a better tyre for us so we have made some good progress in that area".

'We should be asked what we need to overtake. We expected Mercedes to be very strong and so they were. "If there is time and anyone wants to approach me or any of the drivers, I am sure we can give some good insight".

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"We made some changes for FP2 which didn't improve the vehicle", he revealed. Mercedes, on the other hand, have not challenged for the win, but were benefactors of a well times safety vehicle in Baku that allowed them to finish ahead of the Ferrari. Even if the start doesn't go in our favor, I think we always have a strong auto to keep fighting. I know everyone will be very, very happy.

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