However, Vettel - now trailing race victor Lewis Hamilton by 17 points in the drivers' standings - says rapid tire wear had become an issue for the team and that they had no choice but to bring him in for that costly second stop. This 74th career pole is a return to competitive form just when he needed it, having been outpaced over the single lap at Bahrain and China by his team-mate Bottas, and by Vettel in the last three races.
Assessing what this victory means going forward is difficult as Barcelona has always been a strong track for Mercedes, mostly because of the use of harder tyres which suit their auto more than Ferrari and Red Bull. Alonso often starts well in Spain, and as the only driver on super-softs he should get a better launch from the line than the rest of the top ten.
It lifted Mercedes 17 points clear of Ferrari in the Constructors' championship and, after four mediocre outings in 2018, boosted confidence ahead of the glamorous Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks time. Ricciardo was the first of the Red Bulls to pit on lap 34 with Verstappen coming in a lap later, the team committing to a one-stop strategy. The team has worked so hard to understand how the vehicle and the tyres work. He wasn't fast enough to keep pace with Hamilton up front but looked quick enough to at least secure second place.
Vettel gave away his position when Ferrari made a decision to go for an extra stop and give the German driver fresher tires.
"We will savor the result, but our thoughts are already turning to Monaco, to the struggles we had there past year and to how we can make sure not to suffer a repeat", Wolff said. "So we need to stay calm and humble, because it can be a different ball game again next time". "We had it in the past, Shanghai was trading track position versus fresh tyres".
"Not to say that we know everything, we don't anything about engineering the vehicle, but we know how the cars feel, how to drive the cars, and their limitations to overtake". "This weekend, definitely we got ourselves onto the right path and I think the team just did an exceptional job, managing all aspects and improving in all areas". "I am happy to go back to "normal" tires in Monaco as we seemed to struggle a little bit more than the others". He also has a record 30 successive races in the points.
Hamilton, however, remained untroubled in the clean air out front and had 16 seconds on Bottas and 26 on Verstappen in third by lap 50.
Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene has called on the team to be calm in its analysis of the performance and Vettel agrees with that approach. The teams for the change, including Ferrari and Mercedes, feel that the research that's been done by the new technical team at F1 headed by Ross Brawn justifies the modifications. "Calmly, we need to analyze the reasons, and they are various, which prevented us from exploiting the potential we demonstrated in the previous races".