An overjoyed Lewis Hamilton has said he had no idea how the 2018 Spanish Grand Prix would play out, but was glad to finally claim a dominant victory.
Victory never looked in doubt for Hamilton after he successfully led away from pole into Turn 1, beating Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by 20 seconds. Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire his Ferrari with an engine problem on lap 25.
But Ferrari's misjudgement saw Max Verstappen take advantage - despite an earlier coming together with Lance Stroll (him again) resulting in a virtual safety auto - to take his first podium of 2018 for Red Bull. "Today, the vehicle and myself, I felt that synergy today, which I hadn't been feeling for the whole year, so it's a good feeling".
By Lap 54, Hamilton was leading by 17.7seconds on medium tyres and one pit stop.
In Barcelona, Verstappen did a fine job holding off Vettel and restored some credibility to seal a second podium of the season.
Currently, talks with Lewis Hamilton have been delayed and there is speculation Valtteri Bottas might be replaced by Daniel Ricciardo, a Mercedes junior, or even Fernando Alonso. "People probably think it was an easy race and I was cruising but I wasn't cruising".
There was no way that Verstappen could have challenged Hamilton for the top position on the podium.
"I think you can only really take it one race at a time", he explained.
The safety auto 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.
Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India came home ninth ahead of the impressive Monegasque Charles Leclerc of Sauber. Most of the action took place during a first-lap incident involving Romain Grosjean of Haas, Nico Hulkenberg of Renault and Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso, forcing all three drivers to retire and prompting the deployment of the safety vehicle. Bottas had done enough on track to move back ahead of the Ferrari only for a sticky rear tyre to contribute to a slow stop and leave Vettel running ahead. Vettel, or Raikkonen, could just do what Alonso did in 2013 and get that Ferrari over the line first, but due to driver error and (what looks like) poor strategic calls, the race might just be an uphill battle.
Grosjean, who struggled throughout the weekend and had crashed behind the safety vehicle in Azerbaijan, failed to stop his auto from spinning across the track on Turn 3 and Hulkenberg and Gasly could not avoid colliding with him. The contact eliminated all three drivers and brought out the Safety Car for six laps.
But Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says he "fully understands" his rivals' decision.
"If you look from outside it's easier, but inside the auto, we were going through the tyres too quick".
Vettel, pictured, was the first of the leaders to stop for fresh tyres, but was the only one who needed to stop again, which cost him two places.
After another incident on Lap 44, Esteban Ocon retired after Verstappen went into the back of his auto, while McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne lost power on his vehicle and was also forced to retire.