Reigning world champions Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes reconfirm their superiority over Formula 1 with a commanding victory at the Shanghai International Circuit.
Nico Rosberg had to settle with second position, but was not too happy with his team-mate during the Chinese Grand Prix, blaming Hamilton on intending to slow him down…
At least the Silver Arrows finished ahead of rival Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen gave chase throughout the race and yet it wasn’t really an entertaining Grand Prix.
Hamilton had made his intentions clear by aiming his car very aggressively towards Rosberg’s on the starting grid.
The pole sitter duly held his lead off the line, with Rosberg and Vettel stringing out behind the defending champion through the first stint.
The situation became more tense in the middle stint of the two-stop race, as both Rosberg and Vettel closed on the race leader.
A frustrated Rosberg got on the radio to Mercedes asking if Hamilton could speed up, as his tyres were wearing out too much whenever he got closer than two seconds away from his team-mate’s rear wing.
When Ferrari brought Vettel in for his second pit-stop ahead of the Silver Arrows, Rosberg was pitted a lap later in an effort to prevent the Malaysian Grand Prix winner getting an undercut on his new tyres.
But rather than his rivals’ earlier pit-stops putting Hamilton at a disadvantage, he was able to raise his pace considerably on his final laps on soft tyres.
Hamilton ran two laps longer than Rosberg and rejoined with a six-second cushion rather than the two-second advantage he had held prior to the pit-stops.
Rosberg reduced Hamilton’s lead slightly before the chequrered flag.
A safety car appearance with just two laps to go – caused by Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso parking on the pit straight in a cloud of smoke – made things even more comfortable for Hamilton, as the race finished under yellow caution.
Vettel was not a match for the Mercedes once all were onto medium tyres and dropped away in third place.
The Ferrari driver then came under late pressure from his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
The Iceman quickly cleared both Williams on the opening lap to make up for his qualifying frustration, and though he could not keep pace with the top trio initially, he ran long in his middle stint and made up lost ground.
Raikkonen was still 1.4 seconds behind Vettel when the late safety car came out and had to be content with fourth.
Williams ran a lonely and distant fifth and sixth with Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, a minute behind the leaders prior to the field being bunched up.
Lotus achieved its first championship points of the year with Romain Grosjean in seventh position, but it was a crazy race for his team-mate Pastor Maldonado.
Maldonado got ahead of his team-mate in the first pit-stop sequence, before going down the pitlane entry escape road at his second pit-stop.
A spin while trying to recover left him even further behind, and Pastor was then involved in a spectacular battle with the McLarens of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.
After several laps, this came to a conclusion when Button hit the back of the Lotus at Turn 1, ending Maldonado’s race and prompting a stewards’ investigation.
The race stewards didn’t take too kindly on Button and decided to add two penalty points on his license.
Despite that, McLaren still got its first double finish of the season with Alonso and Button’s battered cars P12 and P13.
Until his late engine failure, Verstappen was on course for eighth position, having sliced through the field with some very bold overtaking.
But his problem completed a terrible day for Renault and the Red Bull-owned teams.
Daniel Ricciardo had tumbled to P17 after a terrible start and was having great difficulty in coming back through the field to ninth between the Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson, which scored again.
Daniil Kvyat was also out early with a suspected engine failure, while Carlos Sainz Jr spun at Turn 1 in the opening laps and later lost time with a gearbox problem before finishing between the McLarens and Manors in P14.
Force India spent a while in the points as a unique three-stop strategy for Sergio Perez shook out, but in the end 11th was his limit.
A gearbox failure ended team-mate Nico Hulkenberg’s race.
So not a thrilling race but it’s fascinating to see that the same three drivers have finished on the podium three times already.
Lewis Hamilton is riding on a crest of confidence, while Sebastian Vettel appears to be a close challenger.
As for Nico Rosberg, he needs to turn this situation already and start reducing the points gap to his Mercedes team-mate.
Chinese Grand Prix, 56 laps:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1h39m42.008s
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 0.714s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 2.988s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 3.835s
5 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 8.544s
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 9.885s
7 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Mercedes 19.008s
8 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 22.625s
9 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 32.117s
10 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1 Lap
11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1 Lap
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1 Lap
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Renault 1 Lap
14 Jenson Button McLaren-Honda 1 Lap
15 Will Stevens Manor-Ferrari 2 Laps
16 Roberto Merhi Manor-Ferrari 2 Laps
17 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Renault Engine
– Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Mercedes Collision
– Daniil Kvyat Red Bull-Renault Engine
– Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes Retirement
1 Lewis Hamilton 68
2 Sebastian Vettel 55
3 Nico Rosberg 51
4 Felipe Massa 30
5 Kimi Raikkonen 24
6 Valtteri Bottas 18
7 Felipe Nasr 14
8 Daniel Ricciardo 11
9 Romain Grosjean 6
10 Nico Hulkenberg 6
11 Max Verstappen 6
12 Carlos Sainz 6
13 Marcus Ericsson 5
14 Daniil Kvyat 2
15 Sergio Perez 1
16 Jenson Button 0
17 Fernando Alonso 0
18 Roberto Merhi 0
19 Will Stevens 0
1 Mercedes 119
2 Ferrari 79
3 Williams-Mercedes 48
4 Sauber-Ferrari 19
5 Red Bull-Renault 13
6 Toro Rosso-Renault 12
7 Force India-Mercedes 7
8 Lotus-Mercedes 6
9 McLaren-Honda 0
10 Manor-Ferrari 0
Next race: Bahrain Grand Prix, April 17-19.