Lewis Hamilton completed a hat-trick of wins for the first time in Formula One as Mercedes continued their early domination in China, securing a third one-two finish on the bounce.
It was a trouble free race for the 2008 World Champion, who outclassed the rest of the field to win the 25th Grand Prix of his career by a margin of 18 seconds – equalling Niki Lauda’s record.
The same could not be said for his team mate Nico Rosberg. Following a poor start and collision with Valtteri Bottas, the German dropped as low as seventh place. A loss of telemetry became a hindrance, although it failed to stop him recovering well to take second.
Fernando Alonso took his first podium of the season with third place, giving his new team boss Marco Mattiacci a positive start and Ferrari a much needed morale boost.
Red Bull looked competitive again as Ricciardo continued to impress with a fourth place finish, a whole 20 seconds ahead of the defending Champion Sebastian Vettel in fifth.
The four time World Champion received orders to allow the faster Ricciardo through for the second race in a row, but was more reluctant in obeying them this time round. When told that his Australian team mate was losing time behind, Vettel replied: “tough luck” before eventually giving up position.
Sixth place went to Hulkenberg, who continued his strong start to the season. Bottas finished in a solid seventh following telemetry issues and a collision with Rosberg into turn one, whilst his Williams team mate Felipe Massa endured a dreadful race.
Massa had another quick getaway, sweeping past the slow starting Rosberg before an erratic move saw him bump wheels with Alonso as both drivers were lucky to escape serious damage. The Brazilian went on to suffer a disastrous first pit stop in which he lost a whole heap of time due to complications in replacing the rear tyres, dropping him down to 16th.
Kimi Raikkonen had to settle with eighth in what was a difficult weekend for the Finn, who continued to struggle in adapting to his new car as he finished a full 40 seconds down on his Ferrari team mate. There were points too for Sergio Perez and the impressive Daniil Kvyat, who has completed the top 10 in three out of his first four races in F1.
There was disappointment for McLaren, as both cars failed to make the points for the second race in a row – with Jenson Button finishing 11th and Kevin Magnussen 13th. Adrian Sutil completed his own hat-trick of being forced to retire in the past three races, whilst Romain Grosjean joined him on the sidelines after losing fourth gear.
20 cars were classified in a race which saw general reliability of the turbo charged units increase further, a pleasant surprise given all the pre-season fears and speculation.
It was Mercedes who stole the show at Shanghai, with Hamilton taking the Silver Arrow’s 40th win in the sport. After the race, Hamilton could not contain his excitement, even admitting “I was racing myself.”
“I’m so, so happy; I had such a great race and I really enjoyed it – particularly the last few laps, trying to keep temperature in the tyres and pushing a little bit more just to keep the temperature up.
“The car was really good. We made lots of changes on Friday night and it was a wet qualifying, so I didn’t know what it was going to feel like today.
“We didn’t guess; we really made those steps in anticipation of today and it worked perfectly.”
It is understandable to see the 28 year old in such a confident mood, he has closed the gap to his Mercedes team mate to a mere four points, knowing that in every series in which he has won three races in a row, he has gone on to win that Championship.
The Formula One circus begins the European stage of the season at the Spanish Grand Prix on the 11th May.