Hamilton and Mercedes return to winning ways in China

A dominant Lewis Hamilton eased to victory at the Chinese Grand Prix to join title rival Sebastian Vettel at the summit of the Formula One championship.

Hamilton claimed his fifth victory in Shanghai with a lights-to-flag win while Vettel, who took the chequered flag at the opening round in Australia, recovered from fifth to finish in second place.

Max Verstappen, who started 16th, completed the podium following a scintillating display in the early wet-dry conditions before fending off a challenge from his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in the closing stages.

The poor weather which wreaked havoc with Friday’s practice schedule, and forced the sport’s new owners to consider moving the race forward by 24 hours, returned overnight. But despite a damp track the grand prix went ahead as scheduled.

And pole-sitter Hamilton, for the second race in succession, made no mistake at the start as he nailed the 380-yard dash down to turn one to retain the lead with Vettel following in behind.

Lewis Hamilton leads the pack into turn one.

Canadian rookie Lance Stroll was the first casualty of the inclement conditions after he was punted from behind by the Force India of Sergio Perez. The Williams ended up in the gravel and the virtual safety car was deployed.

While Hamilton remained out on track, Vettel led a number of drivers down the pit lane to take on the slick rubber with track conditions rapidly improving under overcast but dry skies.

Antonio Giovinazzi, who has replaced the unfit Pascal Wehrlein here, was among them, but after crashing in qualifying on Saturday, the Italian was in the barriers again, losing control of his Sauber on a damp patch of the track and crashing into the pit wall.

His Sauber was in bits and the safety car for real was sent on to the circuit. Hamilton took the opportunity to take on the dry tyres and it worked out perfectly for the Briton as he emerged from the pit lane still in the lead.

When the safety car pitted at the end of lap seven, Hamilton led from Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Verstappen, who had made up an astonishing 11 places on the opening lap, with Vettel now down in fifth.

Hamilton struggled to get his new rubber up to temperature, and looked to be under threat from the majestic Verstappen, who had passed Raikkonen at the re-start before diving underneath his Red Bull team-mate Ricciardo at turn six, to move into second.

But as the laps ticked by, Hamilton began to extend his lead and by the end of lap 16 he was three seconds clear of the 19-year-old Dutchman.

The crashed Sauber of Antonio Giovinazzi.

Behind him, Vettel was on the move, too. The four-time champion took to the inside of his team-mate Raikkonen at turn six on lap 20 and moments later he made his pass on Ricciardo. And what a move it was, too.

Ricciardo attempted to defend his position as Vettel moved to the outside at turn six and the pair banged wheels before the gutsy Ferrari made the pass stick at the next corner.

Verstappen was next on Vettel’s hit list and with the Red Bull losing grip on his ageing tyres, he made a mistake at the penultimate turn allowing Vettel to cruise through.

By now though Hamilton was nearly 12 seconds clear. The leaders all pitted in and around the half-distance mark, but Vettel was unable to do anything about Hamilton as the Briton took the chequered flag a comfortable six seconds clear of his title rival.

Ricciardo, despite harassing Verstappen for the final part of the race, finished fourth with Raikkonen fifth and Valtteri Bottas, who spun under the safety car, recovering to sixth.

Fernando Alonso had spent most of the race in a sterling seventh, but was forced to retire with a driveshaft problem. His team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne also failed to make it to the end after suffering a mechanical failure to cap another miserable weekend for McLaren.

Jolyon Palmer started last after being penalised for ignoring yellow flags in qualifying and he crossed the line 13th of the 15 classified finishers.

The F1 circus now heads to the desert setting of Bahrain for round three of the championship.

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