Lewis Hamilton has taken victory at today's Chinese Grand Prix, leading the race from start to finish while all the battling went on behind him. Sebastian Vettel finished a relatively close second with Verstappen completing the podium in third place.
In the build up to the race, weather conditions steadily improved, as was expected. The rain stopped little more than half an hour before the race, allowing the track to dry up slowly. It wasn't dry completely though, with Hamilton going off for a brief moment when doing his out-lap on super softs just 20 minutes ahead of the start.
When it was time for warm-up, only Sainz had opted to take on super softs, with everybody else on intermediates. Vettel and Alonso were however surprised by how quickly it had dried up, apart from the starting straight where things were still very damp.
This triggered Palmer in the Renault to gamble as well, and pit for super softs at the end of the formation lap as well.
The actual start happened without drama. Some drivers did an extremely solid job however, with Verstappen moving up from 16th to 7th in the first lap, and Alonso up from 13th to 8th. They both of course benefited from Hulkenberg who pitted to soft tyres at the end of the first lap as well. Lance Stroll on the other hand got bumped into by Perez, ending Stroll's race in the gravel, and creating a puncture for Perez.
The resulting virtual safety car triggered pitstops for many more drivers. When cars crossed the line to start lap 3, Hamilton lead ahead of Bottas, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Verstappen. Next up was Vettel who changed to softs and Sainz 7th on super softs. Ocon was 8th, followed by Alonso, Kvyat, Massa, Perez, Magnussen, Palmer, Vandoorne, Hulkenberg, Ericsson and Grosjean.
Another half a lap later, Giovinazzi crashed and ruined his Sauber when accellerating out of the final corner, this time requiring a real safety car to allow marshalls to clean up the debris and remove the car from the track.
Hulkenberg initially was in a much better position, but a spin on his slicks dropped him a few positions. He would later also get a 5s time penalty for overtaking under VSC, and another 10s stop-and-go for overaking under SC.
At the end of lap 6, the safety car left the circuit with Hamilton leading, ahead of Ricciardo, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Alonso and Sainz. Sainz though rapidly made it past Alonso on the first pass on the back straight, making use of DRS and the undoubtedly more powerful Renault engine. By that time, Valtteri Bottas lost an interesting position with a spin, dropping him down to 12th, behind Kvyat.
On lap 11, Verstappen eventually got past Ricciardo while Vettel was still trying to find a way past his Finnish team mate. The latter was complaining about "zero torque". By then, Hamilton had pulled an advantage of only 1.8s over Verstappen. The Dutchman subsequently managed to keep up with Hamilton's pace while Ricciardo was unable to, and got company from the two Ferraris behind him.
Lap 19 marks the end of the race for Vandoorne in the McLaren. Having initially dropped 2 positions due to a fuel issue, he returned to the pits and was immediately wheeled back into the box. One lap later, Kvyat parked and also retired from the race.
After Vettel got past Raikkonen on lap 21, he pulled a gap on his team mate and went on to catch Verstappen. The latter outbraked himself on lap 29, simply handing second place over to Vettel, and only getting properly back up to speed 5 seconds behind the German and just 7 tenths ahead of Ricciardo. Hamilton by that time was 11s ahead.
Another lap later, Verstappen was the first to pit, changing his old super softs for a new set. The Dutchman was immediately 2 seconds quicker on his lap than what Hamilton managed, only to see the latter react moments later.
On lap 34, Alonso had an interesting fight at the end of the back straight with Sainz. The Spaniard got passed and tried to retake the Toro Rosso in the braking zone. His attempt failed, saying to his engineer "sorry guys, lost a bit of time there, but from braking, I didn't know where to go there. Moments later, the McLaren was seen running slowly before Alonso parked his car, saying "driveshaft, driveshaft problem". Another great drive and possible points scoring position ruined by reliablity...
Meanwhile, Vettel and Hamilton pitted, with Bottas doing so one lap later. Raikkonen did another few laps later, and possibly a bit too late as well, as the Finn lost considerable time to his competition in the laps between his and their pitstops. Both Ferraris were interestingly shod with used tyres, contrary to the Mercedes who got brand new softs.
Towards the end of the race, Kevin Magnussen moved up two positions to take 8th, while Grosjean further improve the joy in the Haas pitbox as he too managed to gain two positions in the final stint, finishing 11th.
At Red Bull, the feeling was a bit different, as tension between Verstappen and Ricciardo mounted. The latter was clearly faster as Verstappen struggled somewhat, but some interesting defensive moves forced Ricciardo to stay behind.
This essentially settle the podium positions, with Hamilton leading from start to finish, finishing ahead of Vettel and Verstappen.
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||56||1:37:36.158||25|
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||56||+45.192s||15|
|4||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||56||+46.035s||12|
|6||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||56||+48.808s||8|
|7||55||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||56||+72.893s||6|
|8||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||55||+1 lap||4|
|9||11||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||55||+1 lap||2|
|10||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India Mercedes||55||+1 lap||1|
|11||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||55||+1 lap||0|
|12||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||55||+1 lap||0|
|13||30||Jolyon Palmer||Renault||55||+1 lap||0|
|14||19||Felipe Massa||Williams Mercedes||55||+1 lap||0|
|15||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||55||+1 lap||0|
|NC||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda||33||DNF||0|
|NC||26||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||18||DNF||0|
|NC||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Honda||17||DNF||0|
|NC||36||Antonio Giovinazzi||Sauber Ferrari||3||DNF||0|
|NC||18||Lance Stroll||Williams Mercedes||0||DNF||0|