Lewis Hamilton leads World Championship after China victory

Defending world champion takes 1000th Grand Prix ahead of teammate Bottas

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory in Shanghai. Photograph: Dan Istitene/Getty

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory in Shanghai. Photograph: Dan Istitene/Getty

 

Lewis Hamilton took victory at the Chinese Grand Prix, a win which puts him in the lead of the Formula One world championship for the first time this season.

The win, a one-two with his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, also ensures the British driver enters the history books, taking the flag in the 1,000th world championship race since the series began in 1950.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was in third, after the team had ordered his teammate Charles Leclerc to move over for the German. Leclerc finished in fifth behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.

Hamilton had been exceptionally careful before the race to insist that F1’s milestone meeting was not of great consequence to him, only maximising the points, which he duly did with what was an ominously dominant performance for Mercedes. He now leads Bottas by six points in the title race and has 31 points over Vettel.

Hamilton had taken the lead from second on the grid and did not relinquish it from then on. He and Bottas opened a gap to the Ferraris which was never really threatened.

F1’s magic number may not have been of import to Hamilton but th figures stack up well for him in China. This is Hamilton’s 75th career victory and the sixth time he has won the Chinese Grand Prix, its most successful driver.

He acknowledged that he had inherited the win at the last round in Bahrain after Leclerc suffered a mechanical problem while leading, but this time the victory was entirely deserved.

Although he has not enjoyed the strongest start to the season and is still attempting to extract the best from his car, he has scored well with second in the opening race followed by two wins. Bottas had been quicker than his teammate over the weekend and still had the advantage over the single lap when he took pole but Hamilton had the edge when it mattered on Sunday.

That he did so, especially at a meeting where he has struggled to find the right balance and set up, is another major boost for the British driver and Mercedes, who had looked to be comprehensively outpaced by Ferrari in Bahrain. The team’s execution was flawless and they will be confident in having made a very strong start to the season having now scored three consecutive one-two finishes.

Hamilton out-dragged Bottas off the line and held the inside line to take the lead into turn one, a perfect start for the British driver who has been working hard to improve his getaways. He was immediately able to take advantage, he and Bottas opening a gap to the Ferraris. Fears that Ferrari’s straight-line speed would be a threat early in the race with DRS was negated with a three-second advantage to the Mercedes pair by lap three.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished third in Shanghai with Valtteri Bottas second. Photograph: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished third in Shanghai with Valtteri Bottas second. Photograph: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty

Leclerc also had a strong start, taking third place from his teammate through turn one, although Vettel was then able to stay right on the back of the Monegasque driver. With Vettel ostensibly quicker, the team ordered Leclerc to let Vettel through on lap 11 and he did so. The team had said they would favour Vettel in 50-50 situations and clearly adjudged this to be a case in point and that they genuinely believed he could go quicker.

However, the switch did nothing to improve their position relative to the leaders. Out front, by lap 14 Hamilton had four seconds on Bottas and a full 10 on both Ferraris. Leclerc promptly informed his team he believed he was now being held up as Vettel was being swiftly dropped by the two Mercedes, despite clearly pushing hard and repeatedly locking up but the decision had already been made.

Verstappen pitted on lap 17 for the hard tyre and Vettel was forced to cover the stop a lap later when he pitted. He emerged just in front of Verstappen who attacked up the inside into the hairpin and almost made it stick, Vettel squeezed him wide on the exit and kept the place but it was bravura stuff from the Dutchman.

Bottas pitted on lap 21 and he was followed in a lap later by Hamilton, both drivers taking the hard tyre. For Leclerc however worse was to come, Ferrari kept him out and it was costly, he stopped just after Hamilton and emerged a full 11 seconds behind Verstappen.

The stops had closed Vettel up to within five seconds but both Mercedes had fresher tyres and they proceeded to once again open up a solid lead, with Bottas three seconds off Hamilton and Vettel 11 back in third.

Red Bull opted for a second stop bringing Verstappen in for the medium tyres on lap 35 and Ferrari decided once again to cover him, bringing Vettel in a lap later. Mercedes duly decided to safely match the two-stop strategy and pitted both drivers on lap 37. Hamilton emerged still in the lead but Bottas was behind Leclerc. Leclerc defended well for a full lap until Bottas on fresher rubber swept by on the back straight and Ferrari pitted Leclerc again on lap 42.

Hamilton however was unassailable out front and by the finish he had six seconds on Bottas, and well over 13 seconds to Vettel. Mercedes leave China once again firmly on the front foot and Ferrari yet again having to consider why they could not stay at least closer to their rivals and whether their strategy calls added up.

Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly finished sixth and took the fastest lap, in front of the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo, his first finish this season. Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez was eighth with Kimi Räikkönen in the Alfa Romeo ninth and an impressively strong 10th for Alexander Albon having started his Toro Rosso from the pitlane. - Guardian

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