Lewis Hamilton dominated proceedings at the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai to post his first win of 2017 after losing to Vettel in Melbourne
After a tense and exciting beginning in Melbourne, the new Formula 1 season picked up further in Shanghai as Lewis Hamilton bounced back with a fine win in the Chinese Grand Prix to draw level with Vettel in an already intensifying battle for the championship. The two are already tied at 43 points, with all indications pointing to a fascinating competition this year.
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Hamilton was sublime in the lead from the start right to the finish line, while Vettel battled to second. But the show-stealer after Hamilton was undoubtedly Max Verstappen. The Dutch teenager proved yet again why he’s one of the more thrilling drivers to watch, shooting up nine places to seventh in the first lap with some fine passes, and doing brilliantly to bag the final spot on the podium despite the odds.
Individual performances aside, however, the way the race played out in Shanghai would undoubtedly have enthusiasts salivating. The fears that the new regulations greatly impair drivers’ ability to overtake were proved quite unfounded. The Melbourne track, which curtails passing opportunities, sparked controversy – particularly after Hamilton expressed fears the new regulations present a real challenge for drivers in overtaking other racers. But in the face of the surging runs by the likes of Verstappen and Vettel in Shanghai, those fears were quickly laid to rest.
A race full of incident
A damp start, and two key safety car deployments through the race swung the contest. At least between Hamilton and Vettel. The German ultimately lost out through a combination of failed strategy and bad luck down the line as Hamilton led. An early crash by Lance Stroll of Williams forced Vettel to pit along with the other drivers in the middle. His early switch to dry tyres on the fast-drying track proved an advantage amongst the others still on intermediates. But another crash soon after – this time Giovinazzi of Sauber – dropped another virtual safety car, allowing Hamilton among others to use the time to make their own pit-stops. With a still-healthy lead, Hamilton remained in control to stay in front despite some slick passing by the German later.
Apart from Verstappen, who overcame power trouble to eventually charge into second by lap 14, it was Vettel who really impressed with his passing in Shanghai. Ferrari’s decision not to use team orders pitted Raikkonen and Vettel near the midpoint after the former had some problems. For the neutral, it made an already engaging race more exciting. Vettel passed Raikkonen on the inside with some skillful braking on lap 20. And in the move of the race, the German went on to overtake Ricciardo in breathtaking fashion, squeaking past the outside of the Red Bull car on turn five of lap 22 after the two struggled neck-and-neck, their tyres puffing smoke as they bumped into each other.
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Vettel went on to give the fizzing Verstappen the slip on lap 28, going through as the Dutchman made a mistake at the hairpin. But despite a quicker stop for soft tyres, Vettel couldn’t catch up to Hamilton, the Briton finishing with a 6.2 second lead.
The winner of the Shanghai GP Lewis Hamilton on the race today and the competition this year in the championships:
“I think this will be one of the closest championships, if not the closest I have experienced. Ferrari have done a great job and it is great that we are both pushing.
“Today was very tough for us all. It was mostly dry at the start but a couple of wet corners. But it was a great job by my team and Sebastian and this dude (Verstappen).
“This race is so real and exciting. And we were matching times so if there wasn’t safety car as it would have been a lot closer.”
Something tells us that Lewis Hamilton is rather enjoying F1 in 2017 ?
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Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who placed second:
“The safety car came just as I was about to start to feel the dry tyres were a lot quicker. But then I had a very exciting race.
“My target was to catch Lewis. I was getting angry behind the train. I felt I could go faster in these conditions so I felt I had to try it on Daniel Ricciardo. On the exit I was a bit compromised, I had my elbows out, he really squeezed me, but good fun.”
Third placed Mark Verstappen of Red Bull:
“It was a very challenging race but I really enjoyed it. I think I overtook nine cars in the opening lap so it was a very good race for me!
“I didn’t have a lot of track time this weekend because didn’t do much in qualifying. So I wasn’t expecting to finish on the podium having started in 16th.
“I was getting a little frustrated at the end as I wanted clear air to try and push harder. But in the end I still finished on the podium so I can’t complain.”