Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton scored a dominant victory in Formula 1’s historic 1000th Grand Prix event.
Hamilton led from lights to flag to score his second win of the 2019 season. Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas had to settle with second with Sebastian Vettel third for Ferrari.
Hamilton made a clean getaway from the start and got into Turn 1 first ahead of pole sitting Bottas, while Charles Leclerc went by his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel to claim third position.
As the midfielders squeezed through the Turn 6 hairpin Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat caught a brief rear-end oversteer moment, bouncing off Carlos Sainz Jr’s McLaren and then interlocking wheels with Sainz’s team-mate Lando Norris, who was pitched into the air.
That prompted a brief virtual safety car deployment so that debris – including part of Sainz’s front wing – could be cleared.
Hamilton edged away at around half a second a lap in the initial phase of the race while the majority of the frontrunners settled into tyre-conversation mode – all except for Vettel, who was shaping up to pass his team-mate. Leclerc, for his part, was told to push harder or give way.
Ferrari quickly firmed up that team orders into a directive to let Vettel by, and Leclerc reluctantly complied at the beginning of lap 11 of 56.
But despite the position swap Vettel made few inroads into the advantage of Bottas, let alone Hamilton, even though he was clearly pushing his car’s limits – even snatching a front-left brake and running wide at the Turn 14 hairpin on lap 13. Leclerc wasted no time in telling his engineer that he, now, was being held up.
As the Mercedes disappeared into the distance, fifth-placed Max Verstappen joined the hunt for the podium by pitting for hard Pirelli compound on lap 18. That prompted Ferrari to pit Vettel to cover the potential undercut, and indeed when Vettel emerged on his new set of hards he was barely ahead of the Red Bull.
Verstappen made a DRS-assisted pass on the back straight and was ahead into Turn 14, but ran slightly wide and Vettel edged him onto the grass at the exit to reclaim what was now fourth position.
Ferrari was now committed to a long stint for Leclerc since he would inevitably leave the pits behind this battle – and when he did stop for hards, five laps after his team-mate, he was nearly 11-second adrift of Verstappen.
Bottas pitted for hards on lap 22, followed by Hamilton one lap later, and as the world champion departed the pitlane the gap between the two Mercedes had shrunk to 1.5 seconds.
But Hamilton extended his advantage again and strung out the gap beyond five seconds, and within ten laps of pitting his only concern was whether Bottas had set the fastest lap of the race and thereby secured an extra point.
Red Bull moved first to trigger the next rash of stops on lap 36, bringing Verstappen in for fresh mediums. Ferrari responded by pitting Vettel a lap later for similar rubber, and next time round Mercedes brought both Hamilton and Bottas in for mediums as well.
That meant Bottas emerged in third position behind the out-of-sequence Leclerc and had a fight on his hands. For almost two laps Leclerc denied him until Bottas launched a textbook DRS-assisted move into Turn 14.
Once clear, Bottas pulled away as Leclerc fell into the clutches of his own team-mate. Ferrari brought Leclerc in for mediums on lap 42 and he was slow out of the box, leaving the pits in fifth place and over 15-second behind Verstappen.
Though Leclerc tried to chip away at the margin, he reported gearbox issues later in the race – though Ferrari reassured him there was no problem – and Verstappen remained a distant speck.
Sixth-placed Pierre Gasly had a lonely race in the Red Bull, running immediately behind his team-mate in the opening laps, but it was probably too much to expect him to run 19 laps on the softs. By the time he pitted he was well adrift of the battle with the Ferraris.
With two laps to the flag, Gasly was in enough space for Red Bull to swap him onto soft tyres for a tilt at the fastest lap. He set personal bests in the first two sectors and went purple in the last to take the bonus point.
Renault split its strategy by bringing Nico Hulkenberg in early to swap from soft to hard tyres on lap 12 while leaving Daniel Ricciardo out for a long first stint on the softs. The outcome for Hulkenberg was rendered moot when he was forced to retire five laps later.
Ricciardo then had a relatively uneventful run to seventh as the final three points-paying places became the most hotly contested positions in the race.
Sergio Perez combined a strong start – he gained four places on the opening lap – with a 20-lap first stint on mediums to secure eighth place from P12 on the grid. Behind him Kimi Raikkonen also ran a long first stint on mediums, fell behind the early-stopping Haas entries when he did stop, then made the best of fresher rubber to go by both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean to claim ninth.
Magnussen and Grosjean started ninth and tenth but stopped to get rid of their soft Pirellis early, before the race was ten laps old, and lost track position as a result. After dropping behind Raikkonen, Grosjean ran P10 ahead of Magnussen in the second stint until both cars made early second stops.
This gave the Haas drivers further work to do to overhaul the likes of Lance Stroll and Alexander Albon. Grosjean came close to getting the job done but had to obey blue flags for Leclerc on the final lap, enabling Albon to hold on and secure the final point for Toro Rosso despite starting from the pitlane having changed chassis after his huge practice crash.
So not the best race to celebrate the 1000th Formula 1 event but in terms of the championship, this is looking good for Mercedes. Three races in and three victories. Congratulations to the Brackley-based outfit with this Grand Prix achievement.
Chinese Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 56 1:32:06.350
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 56 6.552s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 56 13.744s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 56 27.627s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 56 31.276s
6 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 56 1m29.307s
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 55 1 Lap
8 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 55 1 Lap
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
10 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 55 1 Lap
11 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
12 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 55 1 Lap
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
14 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 55 1 Lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 55 1 Lap
16 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 54 2 Laps
17 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 54 2 Laps
18 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 50 Not running
– Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 41 Retirement
– Nico Hulkenberg Renault 16 Retirement
1 Lewis Hamilton 68
2 Valtteri Bottas 62
3 Max Verstappen 39
4 Sebastian Vettel 37
5 Charles Leclerc 36
6 Pierre Gasly 13
7 Kimi Raikkonen 12
8 Lando Norris 8
9 Kevin Magnussen 8
10 Nico Hulkenberg 6
11 Daniel Ricciardo 6
12 Sergio Perez 5
13 Alexander Albon 3
14 Lance Stroll 2
15 Daniil Kvyat 1
16 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
17 Romain Grosjean 0
18 Carlos Sainz Jr. 0
19 George Russell 0
20 Robert Kubica 0
1 Mercedes 130
2 Ferrari 73
3 Red Bull-Honda 52
4 Renault 12
5 Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 12
6 Haas-Ferrari 8
7 McLaren-Renault 8
8 Racing Point-Mercedes 7
9 Toro Rosso-Honda 4
10 Williams-Mercedes 0