An ecstatic Lewis Hamilton savoured one of the rawest fights of his Formula One career after beating Sebastian Vettel to victory following a titanic tussle at the Spanish Grand Prix. Hamilton punched the air with visible delight as he produced a thrilling fightback to take what could be a pivotal win in this year's see-saw championship, having initially lost his lead to Vettel at the start of the race.
Hamilton will now head to the next round in Monaco a week on Sunday just six points shy of the man he is bidding to join on four world titles following a dramatic race in which the title protagonists diced on track for the first time this season. Indeed, it came within inches of ending in tears after Hamilton was forced off the circuit when he attempted to pass Vettel for the lead.
But after labelling the German's tactics "dangerous", Hamilton got his own back just a matter of laps later when he charged past the Ferrari driver like a steam train on the 220mph drag down to the opening turn.The victory, Hamilton's second of the season and the 55th of his career, was just what the doctor ordered after his drubbing in Russia a fortnight ago.
"It's been a really good weekend and a great way to bounce back from Russia," said Hamilton.
"It was the rawest fight that I can remember having in a long time.
"I loved it, and this is why I race. This is what made me get into racing in the first place, and this is what the sport needs to be like every single weekend.
"To have a close battle like that with a four-time champion is awesome. I have been racing for 24, 25 years and it feels like the first win.''
For much of the fifth round of the season here in Barcelona it looked as though it was going to be Vettel who would extend his title lead to 20 points after executing the perfect start to leapfrog his championship rival.
But an inspired strategic call from Hamilton's Mercedes team won him the race.
The virtual safety car was deployed when Stoffel Vandoorne crashed into Felipe Massa and Mercedes caught Ferrari on the hop by pitting Hamilton.
Vettel stopped one lap later, but emerged alongside Hamilton to lead to a fascinating on-track duel between the two leading talents of their generation.
It was a battle which Hamilton would ultimately win.
"That was an epic grand prix and racing simply doesn't go more wheel to wheel," Mercedes boss Toto Wolff added.
"The win was one for the whole team. It was an amazing drive from Lewis, great calls by our strategy team, good defensive driving by Valtteri [Bottas], the fastest pit stops of the race and a quick, consistent upgraded car. Everything clicked and came together for us.
"But this was Lewis's day with a supreme drive. People have been asking me if Lewis is now back. The truth is he has never been away, and today he showed it."