Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease yesterday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix.
Mercedes again showed that they are in a different class from their rivals, with Hamilton’s German teammate Nico Rosberg taking second place to mark the third time in four races this season that the pair have finished one-two.
“This is a team on a roll, that’s for sure,” Hamilton said. “I’m going to be working hard, we’re going to keep working hard because obviously the others are pushing to catch us.”
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso held off fast-charging Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo to finish third and give his team their first podium finish of the year as new team principal Marco Mattiacci watched from the garage.
Ricciardo came fourth, finishing one place ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel after Red Bull asked the four-time defending world champion to allow the faster Ricciardo to pass for the second race in a row.
Hamilton’s win gave him his first career hat-trick following his victories in Malaysia and Bahrain. The Briton could have made it four, but was forced to retire in the season-opener in Australia after starting from pole position due to engine trouble.
Hamilton, who moved one ahead of Jim Clark for most poles by a British driver with the 34th of his career in Shanghai, was cruising so comfortably at the end of yesterday’s race that he lost track of how many laps he had left.
“That was very strange,” the British driver said. “I was coming across the line expecting to do another lap and, all of a sudden, I looked for a split second and I saw the [checkered] flag.”
With the win, Hamilton inched closer to his teammate’s lead in the drivers’ championship with 75 points, just four behind Rosberg.
Hamilton was so far ahead for such a large part of the race, that his rivals could only battle for second.
Rosberg, who was expected to challenge Hamilton in Shanghai after the pair’s incredibly tight duel in Bahrain, started fourth on the grid and was forced to play catch-up after a slow start immediately saw him drop back to seventh.
The German Mercedes driver methodically tracked down the two Red Bulls and finally passed Spaniard Alonso on the back straight of the 43rd lap, with the Ferrari unable to match the speed of the Mercedes.
Rosberg then set his sights on Hamilton, but the Briton was too far ahead, finishing nearly 19 seconds clear of his teammate.
“We have the best car, but I was back there, so then catching up was nice with this fast car. It’s a good weapon,” Rosberg said.
Fellow German Vettel started third on the grid and briefly moved to second before beginning to fade as his tires wore out. After Rosberg passed him, he was asked to give way to Ricciardo on the 25th lap in a repeat of what happened two weeks ago at the Bahrain GP.
However, instead of acceding Vettel asked his team what tires Ricciardo was using and when told they were both on mediums, the German responded: “Tough luck.”
At the start of the next lap, Vettel did make way for the Australian and finished a distant 24 seconds behind his teammate.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said afterward that the team had different tire strategies for the drivers, planning a two-stop race for Ricciardo and a three-stop race for Vettel.