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Lewis Hamilton 'close' to new deal with Mercedes

17 May 2018

Nine stars from the current Formula 1 grid will drive in this week's two-day post-race session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with nine teams also devoting time to test drivers - Mercedes are the exception, having chose to use their 2018 race line-up. When the race resumed, Hamilton seemingly got into a groove setting the fastest lap on the seventh lap and began widening the gap between him and Vettel.

But despite his growing confidence and an increased "synergy" with the auto, Hamilton was careful not to overstate the significance of his second successive win.

Sebastian Vettel won two of those three opening races as Ferrari threatened to mount a serious challenge to Mercedes' dominance of the sport over recent seasons.

The Italian was only 0.068s behind his more experienced rival but was running the hypersoft tyre, which is two steps softer than Bottas' own set.

But Vettel struggled with tire wear and Ferrari chose to bring him in for an extra stop. Bottas was in first place with just three laps remaining when his right-rear tyre blew to deny him the win in the most frustrating fashion.

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Bottas didn't take long to reclaim the position, this time on supersofts.

Just before Raikkonen exited the race, a television commentator remarked on how extraordinary it was to see the young (and easily provoked) Max Verstappen not make a single error all weekend.

In the 25th lap, Raikkonen's engine had had enough of the Spanish outing and gave way. But that was an inherited triumph that Hamilton himself described as "empty".

Red Bull Racing might not be leading the grid, but these two are certainly the cars to watch.

Red Bull brought in Ricciardo first on the 33rd lap, then Verstappen a lap later. Hamilton set blindingly fast sector times throughout the race regardless of tyre-type, and it is going to be dashed hard for Vettel to claw back this advantage.

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Further down the leaderboard, Sauber's rookie Charles Leclerc, who has impressed many so far this season, was keeping two-time world champion Alonso at bay in exciting fashion.

Bottas hit the front as the half hour mark struck.

Ferrari, not wanting to take a risk on tyre life, called Vettel into the pits.

Now 17 points clear of Vettel after five races, he has some margin of comfort and pointed out that even in races where he has not had a great afternoon this season he has still managed to bank solid points.

There was also more track time for Robert Kubica, who followed his FP1 run for Williams with a full day of testing and completed almost two race distances.

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Lewis Hamilton 'close' to new deal with Mercedes