Shanghai provided a sleek, futuristic feel for Round 2 of the Formula One World Championship – with the Chinese Grand Prix again attracting huge crowds for its 14th event since 2004.
And there Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton returned fire to Ferrari in the best way possible, by dominating in the changeable conditions, taking his fifth win in China, his 54th overall, a milestone victory in the team’s 150th Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who became the first man to take six poles in a row, got a great start; as did Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, despite starting from the side of his grid slot – a move he wasn’t penalised for.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas retained P3, while Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo moved up to fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen. The entire field but Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz were on intermediates.
Hamilton stayed out on Lap 2, when the Virtual Safety Car was deployed – after Williams rookie Lance Stroll was tapped into the Turn 10 gravel trap by Force India’s Sergio Perez.
Vettel, keen to undercut Hamilton, came in for soft tyres at the end of that lap, but paid the price when Sauber’s Antonio Giovinazzi spun into the pit straight wall for the second day in a row, bringing out the safety car.
The safety car came in at the end of Lap 8 – but it took Vettel until Lap 20 to pass Räikkönen, and another two laps to get past Ricciardo. He finally took second place on Lap 29, when Red Bull’s Max Verstappen pitted.
Behind Vettel, who couldn’t close the gap to challenge Hamilton for the win – Verstappen had yet another storming drive, charging up from 16th on the grid to third, making up nine places alone on Lap 1.
“It’s not the easiest to get past but this guy seems to find it possible, particularly when it’s wet,” Hamilton said of Verstappen’s drive. “So we’ll have to watch the video and see what he’s been doing.”
The Dutchman’s heated battle with teammate Ricciardo was the highlight of the race; Verstappen staying ahead over the last 12 laps for the team’s 100th podium - despite late blue flags for backmarker Romain Grosjean.
As broadcast on the 11/04/2017