Mercedes AMG’s Lewis Hamilton at the 2017 Formula One Chinese Grand Prix
Mercedes AMG’s Lewis Hamilton was back to his winning ways on Sunday at the 2017 Formula One Chinese Grand Prix. But it was no walk in the park for Hamilton, as a more evenly matched Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari was close behind for most of the race.
Hamilton led from pole from the start to the finish and also secured the fastest lap of the race. Vettel crossed the line 6.250 seconds behind Hamilton, while Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, starting from 16th on the grid due to engine trouble during qualifying, managed to fight his way up to third and crossed the line 45.192 seconds behind the winner.
The race got underway in damp conditions with some drivers sliding off the track almost immediately. The track was drying up fast so Vettel made an early stop to change from intermediate to soft tires, but immediately after that the safety car came out when Sauber reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi, filling in for Pascal Wehrlein, crashed into the wall, with the incident forcing all drivers to go through pit line.
This led to Vettel dropping from an initial second to sixth. The German then put on an impressive show, passing his teammate Kimi Räikkönen as well as Red Bull duo Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen, before closing in on Hamilton. Ricciardo and Verstappen also had their own series of battles, though Verstappen managed to hold off his teammate despite some strong challenges, in particular on lap 28 at the Turn 14 hairpin. In the end, Ricciardo would have to settle for fourth, with the gap between the two Red Bull drivers ending up being less than a second.
Behind them, Räikkönen continued to prove inconsistent. The Finn finished in fifth and later said he struggled to find balance during the race. Right on his tail towards the end was fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas. The new Mercedes driver lost control of the rear of his car while running behind the safety car and spun onto the grass. The error saw him drop down from near the top of the pack to 12th before recovering to finish sixth. The good news is that Bottas had good pace and was matching some of Hamilton’s lap times at various stages.
Further down it were Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz in seventh and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen in eighth. In ninth and tenth spots were Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, respectively. There weren’t any other major dramas, though McLaren’s woes continue with both its drivers forced to retire after some initial hope when star driver Fernando Alonso ran as high as sixth early on. He was soon passed by much faster machines, though.
Hamilton and Vettel are now tied for the lead spot in the 2017 Drivers’ Championship with 43 points apiece. Verstappen rounds out the top three with 25 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes leads with 66 points followed closely by Ferrari with 65, while Red Bull is in third with 37. The next race on the calendar is the Bahrain Grand Prix this coming weekend.