Lewis Hamilton has won the Chinese Grand Prix leading home another Mercedes 1-2 on the way. The race ended behind the safety car following Max Verstappen’s retirement on the pit straight with just two laps remaining. Sebastian Vettel rounded off the podium positions meaning that it has been Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, and Vettel on all three podiums so far this year.
Hamilton took an aggressive approach to the start of the race, angling himself on his grid slot to ensure he stayed ahead of Rosberg. He maintained the lead off the line with Vettel remaining in third. Kimi Raikkonen leap frogged both Williams drivers at the start, slotting into fourth behind his team-mate. Daniel Ricciardo did not enjoy such a good start, bogging down as he moved off the line. He dropped down to 17th and ended up amongst the McLaren drivers. Ricciardo then encountered a Groundhog Day type situation as he fought with Marcus Ericsson for position later in the race. He passed the Sauber driver at least twice before quickly losing the position again. He eventually made it stick and went on to fight with Ericsson’s team-mate Felipe Nasr for position. It was not the most positive of days for Red Bull or Toro Rosso with one driver from each team retiring. Both Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen had a smoky end to their races as both their engines let go. Verstappen’s retirement came not long from the end – bringing out the late safety car – meaning he was still classified. Carlos Sainz nearly ended up on the sidelines as well following a gearbox issue but he was able to get going again.
Another retirement from the race was Nico Hulkenberg who had a gearbox problem early on, causing him to pull off at the side of the track. Pastor Maldonado also retired following an exciting race for him. He locked up on entry to the pit-lane but was able to get going again, later going on to have a spin. He then got involved in a feisty battle with Jenson Button and the pair made contact at Turn 1, allowing Button’s team-mate Fernando Alonso to pass them both. The incident was Button’s fault and Maldonado eventually retired following his adventures. Rear brake failure was the reason for his retirement.
At the front of the pack Vettel attempted to get the undercut by pitting before both Mercedes but ultimately it did not work. Raikkonen was frustrated by backmarkers – complaining over team radio for his team to get the slower cars out of the way. It would have been a frustrating moment for Alonso who was lapped by his former team-mate. Eventually Hamilton won under the safety car with his advantage wiped out, just ahead of Rosberg, Vettel, Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean, Nasr, Ricciardo and Ericsson rounded out the points finishers. It was Lotus’ first points of the season and they were unlucky to miss out on Maldonado also picking up points following his retirement. McLaren got both cars to the end but Button faces a post race investigation for his collision with Maldonado. Sergio Perez finished just outside the points in 11th, being the only driver to use a three stop strategy. Both Manor cars also made the chequered flag although Roberto Merhi found himself under investigation after the race after failing to stay within the Safety Car delta time.
There was drama post race when the Mercedes duo failed to agree over an incident in the race. Rosberg had complained about Hamilton going too slowly and backing him into Vettel. Hamilton’s reply in the post race press conference was that it was not his responsibility to look after Rosberg’s race. The Mercedes animosity is no doubt set to rumble on as the pair go head to head once again for the title with Hamilton clearly having the upper hand at the early stage of the season.
There’s a quick turnaround following this weekend with teams and drivers travelling to Bahrain for the race next weekend.
Both Button and Merhi received five second penalties and two penalty points following investigations.