Lewis Hamilton answered his critics with a commanding drive in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, with a lights-to-flag victory, his fifth Grand Prix success this season.
The McLaren driver withstood pressure from the two Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Rakkonen with ease, lapping consistently and making no mistakes. In fact, Lewis dominated the Chinese Grand Prix weekend with fastest laps in the opening practice sessions, taking pole position and setting the race’s quickest lap. Victory was the perfect result for the Briton.
Hamilton can win the drivers’ title if he finishes no less than fifth in Brazil in two weeks time and the pressure is on Felipe Massa, as this is the Brazilian’s home race. Sunday’s result in Shanghai was a very disappointing result for Massa, as he struggled to match the strong pace from his title rival, but at least he still has the chance to take title in Sao Paulo. Though the odds are looking long for Felipe.
Kimi Raikkonen finished in third after giving chase to Lewis Hamilton since lap one. The Finn was unable to stop the pace of the leading McLaren and in the closing stages of the Grand Prix, Raikkonen handed over second position to his Ferrari team-mate Massa, to help out the Brazilian in his bid for the world championship. Despite giving way, by finishing second and third Scuderia Ferrari extend their constructors’ championship lead over McLaren-Mercedes with only one race remaining.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso finished fourth for Renault. The Spaniard briefly lost the place to McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen through the first few corners, before repassing the Finn into the hairpin further around the opening lap. Alonso couldn’t repeat his success in Singapore and Japan, however his strong finish in the top six means he has secured the Renault team’s fourth place in the constructors’ championship.
Kovalainen fell behind the Renault after being overtaken and although he might have had the opportunity to fight back by running a longer fuel strategy at the final pit stop, that right-front puncture on lap 34 destroyed his chances of a decent points finish.
The Finn was able to get back to the pits for some new Bridgestones but by then, he lost track positions and was forced to retire with six laps left to the chequered flag. This was a bad result for Heikki, as Lewis Hamilton and the team needed him to help out in winning the two titles.
The BMW Sauber pair finished in the top six with Robert Kubica using a long opening stint to regain lost ground after a disappointing qualifying session in which he started 11th. Kubica finished close behind his team-mate Nick Heidfeld (who was penalised for impending David Coulthard during qualifying), but by finishing in sixth the Pole is now out of the running for the drivers’ world championship.
Timo Glock used a one-stop strategy to take seventh for Toyota, ahead of Renault’s Nelson Piquet Jr, who also gained track positions by adopting a very long first stint.
Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel finished in ninth, ending his impressive points scoring run since the European Grand Prix while David Coulthard in the main Red Bull-backed car, was tenth.
So Lewis Hamilton will take a seven-point advantage into the final round of this season’s Formula One World Championship. The McLaren driver can afford to take a conservative approach by not risking for the Grand Prix victory in Sao Paulo next month with either fifth position or better will get the job done. For Felipe Massa, the pressure is on his young shoulders and the Brazilian will need home and team support if he has the chance to take the title for himself. The conclusion to this year’s world championship will be thrilling, unlike the race itself in Shanghai. Who will win their first drivers’ crown? Roll on November 2 in Interlagos, Sao Paulo to find out!
Race results from the Chinese Grand Prix:
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h31.57.403
2. Massa Ferrari +14.925
3. Raikkonen Ferrari +16.445
4. Alonso Renault +18.370
5. Heidfeld BMW Sauber +28.923
6. Kubica BMW Sauber +33.219
7. Glock Toyota +41.722
8. Piquet Renault +56.645
9. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1:04.339
10. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault +1:14.842
11. Barrichello Honda +1:25.061
12. Nakajima Williams-Toyota +1:30.847
13. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1:31.457
14. Webber Red Bull-Renault +1:32.422
15. Rosberg Williams-Toyota +1 lap
16. Button Honda +1 lap
17. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari +1 lap
Fastest lap: Hamilton, 1:36.325
Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 50 laps
Sutil Force India-Ferrari 14 laps
Trulli Toyota 3 laps
World Championship standings, round 17:
1. Hamilton 94
2. Massa 87
3. Kubica 75
4. Raikkonen 69
5. Heidfeld 60
6. Alonso 53
7. Kovalainen 51
8. Vettel 30
9. Trulli 30
10. Glock 22
11. Webber 21
12. Piquet 19
13. Rosberg 17
14. Barrichello 11
15. Nakajima 9
16. Coulthard 8
17. Bourdais 4
18. Button 3
1. Ferrari 156
2. McLaren-Mercedes 145
3. BMW Sauber 135
4. Renault 72
5. Toyota 52
6. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 34
7. Red Bull-Renault 29
8. Williams-Toyota 26
9. Honda 14
Next race: Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos, November 2