Lewis Hamilton has taken the world championship lead after winning a milestone Chinese GP, with Mercedes dominating as Ferrari courted controversy with their race strategy.
Hamilton overtook his pole-sitting team-mate Valtteri Bottas off the line and never looked back, eventually taking victory in F1’s 1000th grand prix by six seconds.
“It’s not been the most straight-forward of weekends but what a fantastic result for the team,” said Hamilton, with Mercedes sealing three consecutive one-twos to start F1 2019.
“The start was where I was able to make the difference.”
Hamilton now leads Bottas in the championship by six points.
Sebastian Vettel was a distant third behind Bottas for Ferrari and the Scuderia frustrated their other driver, Charles Leclerc, after implementing team orders early in the race.
After passing Vettel at the start, Leclerc was told to give way to Vettel on Lap 11 – but the German didn’t pull away and the move hampered the rest of Leclerc’s race.
Leclerc finished fifth after failing to chase down Max Verstappen, who impressed for Red Bull and was involved in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle with Vettel following the first pit-stops in a two-stop Shanghai race.
Ferrari Falter Again Whilst Mercedes March On
Somewhat similar to Bahrain GP – this time around not only were Ferrari off the pace on the track – with Vettel some 14 seconds behind Hamilton at the chequered flag – but their strategy with new young driver Leclerc was called into question.
And this just a couple of days after the team reiterated Vettel would be given priority in “50-50 situations” early in the year.
Leclerc overtook Vettel off the line but Ferrari soon had a conundrum, with Mercedes pulling away from their lead car and Vettel within DRS range, and pushing, back in fourth.
The season continues at the Azerbaijan GP, which takes place on April 26-28.