Mercedes appear to have finally hit their stride in the 2018 Formula One season after Lewis Hamilton claimed a comfortable victory at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The defending world champion had to wait until the fourth round in Azerbaijan to pick up his first win of the campaign, but an imperious drive in Barcelona made it back-to-back victories for the Briton.
After making his pole position stick into turn one and waiting patiently during a six-lap period under the safety car, Hamilton rapidly stretched his lead over championship rival Sebastian Vettel, who had overtaken Valtteri Bottas at the start.
The safety car's appearance was brought about by a huge crash that saw Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly wiped out by a spinning Romain Grosjean on the opening lap.
With Vettel some way off Hamilton's pace and Kimi Raikkonen forced into retirement by an engine problem, the biggest challenge to Mercedes threatened to come from Red Bull’s decision to adopt a one-stop strategy.
But Mercedes, who pitted some 10 laps earlier than the two Red Bulls, managed their tyres to the finish, while Vettel's hopes were futher dashed by his own slow second stop under the virtual safety car.
That left the German to settle for fourth, as Bottas and Max Verstappen joined Hamilton on the podium.
Daniel Ricciardo was fifth, ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc.
The result sees Hamilton stretch his lead at the top of the drivers' standings to 17 points after five races.
HAMILTON HITTING FORM
The downbeat early-season mood at Mercedes is slowly being shaken off as they take their customary position at the top of the standings.
Hamilton becomes the first driver since Michael Schumacher – who won the race four times in succession from 2001 to 2004 – to claim back-to-back victories in Barcelona.
"Today, the car and myself – I felt that synergy today that I hadn't been feeling all year, so it's a good feeling," said Hamilton.
"This is when we're going to start to try continuing to apply the pressure.
"A one-two for the team. I hope we can continue."
Bottas claimed his first Spanish Grand Prix podium, while Verstappen’s race was compromised late on when he damaged his front wing running into the back of Williams’ Lance Stroll.
The safety car has helped add to the drama of the early part of the 2018 season and its appearance early in Sunday's race means it has been used in the opening five races of a championship for the first time.
But it was the virtual safety car that arguably had the biggest say in Sunday’s race.
Ferrari acted quickly to bring in Vettel as they looked to make gains with the rest of the field speed-restricted, but he was held up by Sergio Perez in the pit lane, limiting the benefits of the move and leaving the 30-year-old to miss out on the podium.
Later reports suggested Vettel may have been forced into the stop due to an issue with his rear tyres.
MORE TEARS FOR YOUNG KIMI FAN?
Last year's Spanish Grand Prix was where a young Kimi Raikkonen fan was famously caught on camera crying his eyes out following the Finn’s early retirement.
The boy was later invited into the paddock to meet his hero in a bid to cheer him up.
However, as a guest of F1 at this year's race, he will once again have been left downhearted after the 2007 world champion was forced out with an engine issue after 25 laps.
IN THE POINTS
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes): +20.593s
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull): +26.873s
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari): +27.584s
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault): +50.058s
6. Kevin Magnussen (Haas): +1 lap
7. Carlos Sainz (Renault): +1 lap
8. Fernando Alonso (McLaren): +1 lap
9. Sergio Perez (Force India): +2 laps
10. Charles Leclerc (Sauber): +2 laps
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 95
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 78
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 58
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 48
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 47
1. Mercedes 153
2. Ferrari 126
3. Red Bull 80
4. Renault 41
5. McLaren 40
Formula One's next stop will be its most iconic, as the season arrives on the streets of Monte Carlo on May 27.
|LeBron scores 44 points as Cavs level series against Celtics|
|Kaufusi re-signs with Melbourne Storm|
|LeBron James sets record for postseason field goals|
|Monchi: Alisson will only leave Roma if I come out of retirement!|
|No offers from Chelsea or Zenit, says Sarri´s agent|
|No Champions League pressure as PSG´s Tuchel calls for patience|
|Nationals´ Juan Soto hits homer in second career at-bat|
|Buffon to decide future in a week amid PSG speculation|
|Eli Apple embarrassed by 2017 antics, ready to move forward|
|Bills release Richie Incognito from reserve/retired list|
|Gentry and Pelicans want Cousins back in New Orleans|
|MLB extends Blue Jays closer Osuna´s administrative leave|
|Lloris, Jedinak and Kjaer ask FIFA to allow Guerrero to play at World Cup|
|Wolfsburg preserve Bundesliga status after play-off win over Kiel|
|Zidane was my idol and always will be - Wijnaldum|
|Liverpool ready to fly out of the blocks in Kiev - Henderson|
|Montreal Impact 0 LA Galaxy 1: Ibrahimovic sent off for slapping opponent|
|Real Madrid v Liverpool: Salah, Ronaldo lead the line in combined XI|
|Bertens keeps hat-trick hopes alive in Nuremberg|
|Monfils and Mannarino fail to fly the flag in Lyon|
|Morata, Fabregas, Herrera and more in Spain´s World Cup rejects XI|
|Reina to face FIGC hearing|
|Emery set to be appointed by Arsenal - reports|
|LeBron ´appreciative´ of hometown effort to put up statue of him|
|Cazorla leaves Arsenal after injury nightmare|
|Derby´s Rowett seeks permission for Stoke talks|
|Messi physically and mentally ready for the World Cup, Sampaoli proclaims|
|Murray expected to return at Rosmalen Grass Court Championships|
|More to Madrid than just Ronaldo - Robertson|
|Wolff: Red Bull and Ferrari favourites in Monaco|
|Iniesta hailed by Xavi as ´the most talented player in the history of Spain´|
|If you Googled ´European nights´, Liverpool would be top result - Klopp|
|Icardi cut from Argentina World Cup squad|
|Test recall a ´fantastic surprise´ for Buttler|
|Klopp needs Premier League to be a Liverpool great – Johnston|
|Salah is ´definitely´ world´s best - Lovren|
|Rhinos captain Watkins ruled out for eight months|
|No clue - Klopp defiant over Can to Juventus claims|
|Younis tips Babar for Pakistan greatness|
|Germany squad numbers hint at World Cup good news for Neuer|
|WATCH: Moto3 rider makes spectacular jump over crashed rival|
|Leaving out Morata ´painful´ for Spain boss Lopetegui|
|Gustard to leave England role for Harlequins|
|Nainggolan retires from Belgium duty after World Cup snub|
|Spain striker Morata misses out on World Cup selection|
|LeBron or Kawhi could lead Lakers to the Finals - World Peace|
|Serena steps up Roland Garros training ahead of French Open|
|Nainggolan left out of Belgium´s World Cup squad|
|The long goodbye: Iniesta sits alone in Camp Nou after final Barcelona match|
|Wane to leave Warriors at end of season|
|Dr Fury will see you now - Tyson plans future career in medicine|
|Harden, D´Antoni rue ´soft´ Rockets performance in Warriors drubbing|
|Liverpool players can change their lives in Kiev, says Gerrard|
|Real Madrid v Liverpool: Can great deeds of the past fuel the bid for Champions League glory?|
|Wash your mouth out! - Curry´s expletive outburst earns scolding from mother|
|Rakitic lost for words as Iniesta heads for Barcelona exit|
|Conte: Chelsea must overhaul squad to change style|
|Johnston: Liverpool can´t lose Suarez, Coutinho and Salah!|
|Messi: I like Griezmann, he´s one of the best|
|Ohtani says he´s not good enough for Home Run Derby yet|
|Mendy: France are eyeing World Cup glory|
|Scott accepts two-week ban for Walker punch|
|Braves rally for six runs in the ninth to defeat Marlins|
|MLS Review: Red Bulls upstage Atlanta thanks to Wright-Phillips brace|
|Warriors breeze past Rockets in game three|
|We have a quality squad – Man City chairman hints at caution in transfer market|
|Wise cruises to maiden PGA Tour victory at Byron Nelson|
|Matic: United can fight for Premier League and Champions League with experience|
|Golden Knights GM on Stanley Cup Finals berth: I don´t know how we did it|
|I did a ´s*** job´ defending LeBron James – Morris|