Hamilton eases to China win, Ferrari trips over on race strategy again

Hamilton eases to China win, Ferrari trips over on race strategy again
Source: ESPN
Date: 14-04-2019 Time: 11:04:56:am
Lewis Hamilton took his second victory of the season in China. He now leads the championship Credit: REX

Lewis Hamilton led home a third consecutive one-two finish for Mercedes, beating teammate Valtteri Bottas to win the Chinese Grand Prix and take hold of the drivers' championship lead.

The five-time world champion had started second, behind Bottas, but made the most of the inside line into Turn 1, out-dragging his teammate to take the lead into the first corner. Hamilton then began to pull away from Bottas, eventually finishing over six seconds ahead of him and a further seven seconds clear of third place finisher Sebastian Vettel.

It was a head-scratching afternoon for Ferrari who were never really in the fight for victory in Shanghai. Charles Leclerc, who had started fourth, passed Vettel on the run into the first corner, but was unable to put a gap between himself and the German. On lap 11, he was ordered to let Vettel through and that wasted crucial time and yielded hardly any team benefit.

With the Ferraris squabbling over position, Max Verstappen was able to close in and on lap 17 he attempted the undercut by stopping for a fresh set of hard tyres. His blistering out-lap pace meant he was almost guaranteed to leapfrog Leclerc, so Ferrari instead pitted Vettel to cover off the Verstappen threat. Leclerc stayed out for a further four laps before stopping and re-joining a distant fifth, and from there he was never able to recover.

Verstappen had a brief crack at overtaking Vettel after the stops, but eventually had to settle for fourth place with Leclerc coming home in fifth. It's the 12th consecutive race Verstappen has finished in the top five.

Once again Pierre Gasly struggled to match his teammate's pace and ran a lonely race in sixth position. However, Red Bull took advantage of a significant gap back to seventh place and pitted Gasly for a new set of softs on the third last lap, allowing him to clock the fastest lap of the race on his final trip around the Shanghai International Circuit and with it a bonus world championship point.

Daniel Ricciardo, who won in China last year, completed his first race since making the switch from Red Bull to Renault. The Australian had run the medium tyre for a race-high 37 laps in his second stint, holding off Racing Point's Sergio Perez to finish seventh and best of the rest. It wasn't such a great afternoon for teammate Nico Hulkenberg who retired in the early stages with an unknown issue.

Kimi Raikkonen once again delivered points for Alfa Romeo, coming home in ninth while Alexander Albon recovered tremendously from his crash in final practice -- which forced him to start from the pit-lane -- to take 10th and another championship point, earning official 'Driver of the Day' honours from F1 fans in the process.

It was a weekend to forget for Haas who never looked competitive during race simulation on Friday and failed to set a lap in Q3 on Saturday. Romain Grosjean finished the race in 11th, ahead of Lance Stroll in the second Racing Point and teammate Kevin Magnussen.

Carlos Sainz finished a further nine seconds back for McLaren in 14th, only ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi and the Williams drivers.