It was tough to know which way it was going to go, with a one or two-stop race dependent upon front tyre graining. At the beginning of the race it looked like the Soft tyre was very consistent - but when graining kicked in around 16-17 laps in, the team expected a struggle to make a one-stop work, although no decisions were required at that point.
If tyre degradation was not such an issue this year, wear of the thinner gauge Pirellis was, and the team could see that there was precious little tread left on the tyres that came off Valtteri's car after 19 laps. Lewis reported his tyres felt fine and so strong had his opening stint been that the team, under minimal pressure at that point, exercised caution by bringing him in after 25 laps to go onto the medium compound.
That put Max Verstappen's Red Bull into a temporary lead, the Dutchman running to half distance before pitting. Lewis came out just over 3s behind and found closing Verstappen down and overtaking much tougher than expected (the overtaking delta at Barcelona was estimated at 1.6s), proving that once more track position was king and swaying the team towards a one-stop with both cars.
It was perhaps surprising, then, when Vettel pitted a second time after 41 laps, letting Valtteri through into second place. The Ferrari came out narrowly behind Verstappen, with Vettel missing out on a podium for the second successive race.
While Ferrari's race tactics were widely questioned, the team strategists had their own view.
"We knew Vettel would be pitting, particularly as he came on the radio complaining about the tyres and his pace was offset. People may look at Ferrari and say they messed up tactically but they looked to have a very different car balance to us, so they may not have been able to go to the end of the race (49 laps) on those tyres."