Lewis Hamilton took a fifth victory at the Chinese Grand Prix, after taking the lead of the championship from Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. The five-times champion overtook his teammate before pulling away to take victory in the 1,000th Grand Prix by six seconds.
Hamilton got a better start on the run down to the first corner followed by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari as they passed their teammates on the run down to the first corner. Sebastian Vettel finished third ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc after Ferrari used team orders in the race.
Hamilton “fantastic” race
Lewis Hamilton has lauded Mercedes “fantastic” start to the race as he put his start line problems behind him to win the race in Shanghai. As Mercedes emphatically maintained their unblemished record of one-two race finishes at the start of the season.
Hamilton got ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas at the start to take the victory, capping a weekend where the five-time champion steadily improved his performance and speed. Speaking to Sky Sports after the race, he said “It’s not been the most straightforward of weekends but what a fantastic result for the team. Everyone has worked so hard.”
“We didn’t know where we would stand with the Ferraris, they were so quick in the last race. Valtteri was quick all weekend, he did a great job today, and to have a one-two together is really special on the 1000th GP.”
In the first two races of the season, Hamilton has lost out at the start but after focusing on making improvements, shot past the pole-sitting Bottas as the lights went out to set the tone for his race.
He added “The start was where I was able to make the difference. After that, it’s kind of history. Considering it was a real struggle this weekend I’m really grateful for the result. The team worked so hard.”
Although Mercedes scored a 1-2 in Bahrain, this weekends win concluded that Ferrari has better straight-line speed, Mercedes holds the upper hand through the corners and downforce strengths which ultimately told when it mattered most.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told Sky F1: “It took us by surprise, even pace on the Friday we didn’t think it was possible to control it in that way. I’m very proud and very happy for the team.
White line cost Bottas victory
Valtteri Bottas believes that a white line painted across the track cost him a chance of going for victory in the race. The Mercedes driver made an initially good getaway from his pole position.
However, a bit of wheelspin during the acceleration phase cost him valuable momentum and allowed teammate Lewis Hamilton to sneak ahead on the run to the first corner. He became trapped in his teammates’ dirty air where he remained for the rest of the race, something he believes left him in unable to challenge.
After the race, Bottas said, “I think I lost it in the start, honestly. Otherwise, the car was feeling okay and the pace was similar. But in the first stint, in the dirty air, I couldn’t follow.”
“It was a shame about the start. I got some wheelspin as I went over the white line, the start-finish line, which is immediately after my box, so I lost it there.”
Although disappointed about how a small factor cost him the chance of winning, Bottas said that there were reasons for Mercedes to be encouraged after delivering its third consecutive 1-2 finish.
He added “It is small details but it is early days in the season, things are looking good. I am really proud for the team we’ve done three perfect weekends so far that is very good.”
Shunt at start causes drama
A shunt on the opening lap of the race saw both McLaren’s being taken out by the start of the race. But on the formation lap, we saw both Max Verstappen and Robert Kubica spin. At the start, it was Hamilton who made the better start, all cleanly through the snail. Then from the first image, you see the McLaren up in the air.
As they went into T6, you see Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris and Daniil Kvyat all aiming for the same piece of track. Kvyat passes Sainz knocks his teammate onto his side, after tapping the rear.
Kvyat was blamed by the stewards and given a drive-through penalty. Both he and Norris eventually retired, while Sainz recovered to 14th.
Asked what happened, Sainz said “We were just all fighting in Turn 6, and at the exit of the corner I think someone didn’t enjoy going side by side and opened the wheel a bit too much and created a bit of a melee, let’s put it like that. I don’t pray for penalties or ask for penalties. I just ask for a bit more patience in lap one.”
Norris admitted it was hard for him to apportion blame before seeing any aerial footage, told Motorsport.com there was nothing he could have done to avoid being collected.
“Obviously he squeezed Carlos a little bit. He must’ve known I was on the outside of Carlos and a bit ahead. I almost got away with it but the contact between Carlos and Kvyat, or Kvyat and Carlos, then led to the contact into me.”
The Toro Rosso driver was awarded a drive-through penalty for the incident, but Kvyat said post-race he wanted an explanation from the stewards, believing it was a typical Lap One incident.
He said “I totally disagree with the penalty and I will speak to the stewards behind closed doors to find out their opinion. It was a corner exit and my car was already totally straight. The regulation says I need to leave a car’s width to the car next to me.
Ferrari’s pace hasn’t materialised
Sebastian Vettel has conceded that the general consensus that Ferrari had a significant pace advantage over the rest of the field has failed to materialise after Mercedes took their third win of the year.
In testing, the Ferrari looked to be the benchmark car with both one-lap and long run pace, and with that, Ferrari became the clear favourites to land a first championship title since 2008. However, the first three races have seen them beaten by Mercedes.
Speaking after the race, the four-time world champion says things haven’t quite panned out as they had expected. He said “We started off well in Barcelona and everything was really strong. Since then, I think we have struggled a little bit to repeat that. I’m not happy.”
“Obviously you try and drive around the problems and try to set up the car differently. Maybe some [issues] are related to different tracks, which Barcelona doesn’t show, because it’s different. The car is strong so it’s up to us to extract the performance.”
In Bahrain, while Ferrari was stronger, Vettel was beaten by his teammate Leclerc throughout the weekend. The German forced into an extra pit-stop after spinning and losing his front wing, while Leclerc was robbed of victory after an engine cylinder on his car failed in the dying stages.
Despite the frustration at how the season has panned out thus far, Vettel says it’s pleasing to find some small gains.
He added “We were able to improve the car from where it was yesterday, so I’m reasonably happy with that. I think there was a little bit more [available today] but it’s important if we can’t beat them to be right behind them.”
Red Bull still playing catch up
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner feels that the team has made progress this weekend but says that the team are still playing catch up to both Mercedes and Ferrari.
Max Verstappen gained fourth place, splitting the two Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc and enjoying a wheel-to-wheel battle with the former after the first pit stops.
Horner told Sky Sports, “The chassis has made a big step forwards. Honda have made progress on the straights. We still have that bit to find to the cars ahead but there is stuff in the pipeline that should help us in the near future.”
Verstappen managed to undercut Leclerc and stay ahead of the Ferrari who stayed on his long run. Horner says that the good strategy saw them gain a place from the quicker Ferrari.
Adding “Max has driven the wheels off the car all afternoon and good to nick fastest lap off Sebastian right at the end with Pierre.”
Verstappen felt Red Bull had once again maximised their pace to get fourth and expects the competitiveness of the leading teams to keep changing each weekend.
Hulkenberg’s retirement due to MGU-K
Renault says that Nico Hulkenberg’s retirement from the race was because of an issue related to the team’s new spec of MGU-K. The team believes that the German’s retirement was brought about by a software glitch that can be resolved without any need for modified hardware.
Renault had believed that the new MGU-K introduced after Carlos Sainz’s retirement in Melbourne could have been resolved without modified hardware. The French manufacturer was forced to produce a new spec MGU-K after McLaren’s Carlos Sainz suffered a failure in the Australian GP.
The Spaniard had the new unit for Bahrain, but the works team stuck with the original version, only to suffer a costly double retirement with both Hulkenberg and his teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the closing laps of the race.
Speaking after the race, F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said “It’s too early to say exactly what happened. But we had the problem in Melbourne and a very quick reaction in Bahrain for one part only for Carlos.”
“We had to push massively on production in order to get more parts, which meant that we had to fast track some of the process and some of the sign-off that we do. And basically, something was triggered that we had not had the time to properly sign off. It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact.”
“We’ve covered 5000kms on the dyno with that part. It’s just for one particular reason we went into a mode which triggered something in the software.”
Abiteboul believes that there will no need to rush through the third spec of MGU-K hardware before the next race in Baku. The team believes that it is more a software issue, he reviled that Hulkenberg was doing a number of reboot actions.
Top of the Tweets
Lewis Hamilton “We got the 1000th. China, thank you for the incredible support and atmosphere, I’m so happy guys ? . Huge thanks to everyone in the team, let’s celebrate!! #P1 #TeamLHChina #Race1000 #ChineseGP @MercedesAMGF1”
Max Verstappen “As a team we did a good job today ?? We had the right strategy and maximised the result with P4 #KeepPushing ?? #ChineseGP #Race1000”
Robert Kubica, Williams “Difficult race, but we keep improving little by little”
Sergio Perez, Racing Point “A perfect race with a big RIP! Very good work of the whole team, we managed to maximize the result!!! ???? #ChineseGP #F1 #Race1000 #Checo11”
Carlos Sainz “Another frustrating race. The Toro Rosso lost control and it was imposible to avoid him. Pity because the race was long and we had good pace to fight for points. Car feels good on Sundays so it’s a matter of time…results will come! Team was great and we never gave up. Baku next!”
Jean Todt, President of the FIA “Third 1-2 in a row in the @fia @F1 World championship for @MercedesAMGF1 Very impressive. Congratulations #F1 #Race1000 #ChineseGP”
- Chinese GP – Result
- CHINESE GP – Lewis Hamilton takes championship lead with a fifth victory in Shanghai
- Notebook – Chinese Qualifying
- Chinese GP – Qualifying Result
- CHINESE GP – Valtteri Bottas beats Lewis Hamilton by thousandths to take pole for race 1,000
- Notebook – Chinese Practice
- CHINESE GP – Valtteri Bottas outpaces Sebastian Vettel by two hundredths in second practice
- CHINESE GP – Sebastian Vettel edges out Lewis Hamilton by two tenths in first practice
- Prixview – Chinese (1,000) Grand Prix