Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth victory at the Chinese Grand Prix to move ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the Formula One drivers’ standings.
Reigning champion Hamilton got the jump on pole-sitter Bottas, who beat Sebastian Vettel to second, into turn one and never looked in danger of missing out on a second straight triumph in F1’s 1000th race.
It was the Silver Arrows’ third straight one-two finish, making them the first team to start a season in such fashion since Williams pair Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese in 1992.
With the frontrunners on two-stop strategies in Shanghai, Mercedes executed back-to-back pit stops for their two drivers in fluid fashion to effectively seal their places at the head of the race.
Vettel lost track position to Charles Leclerc, who saw a potential first F1 win slip through his fingers in Bahrain, into turn one but benefited from team orders en route to taking the final step on the podium.
Max Verstappen did well to keep the pressure on Ferrari, with Red Bull twice getting him into the pits ahead of the Scuderia duo, and the Dutchman managed to snatch fourth.
Leclerc claimed to be struggling with a gearbox issue in the latter stages and, despite being informed everything was fine over team radio, he was unable to catch Verstappen.
Pierre Gasly denied Vettel an additional point by posting the fastest lap at the climax of the race, providing a boost after a difficult start to his Red Bull career.
FERRARIS DON’T RACE
“We need to go faster, otherwise we’ll let Sebastian past,” Leclerc was told over team radio by Ferrari, before being ordered to let Vettel past at the end of lap 10.
Leclerc did so despite twice sounding reluctant when communicating with his team, and he was quick to point out that he was beginning to lose time behind the other Ferrari.
But the team had made their mind up and by pitting Vettel first they sacrificed Leclerc, who came out behind Verstappen and struggled to test the Red Bull driver later.
It was a disappointing display from Ferrari, having dominated during practice this week.
They lost Daniel Ricciardo in Australia and both cars in Bahrain and Renault’s fortunes did not improve in China.
Although Renault got both Ricciardo and Hulkenberg into the top 10 in qualifying for the first time this season, reliability issues struck again.
Hulkenberg was forced to retire but Ricciardo gave them something to cheer by finishing as the best of the rest in seventh position.
MIXED DAY FOR TORO ROSSO
Alex Albon started from the pits after a crash in FP3 meant he had to sit out qualifying.
The rookie produced a brilliant race, though, climbing up to 10th position to finish in the points for the second race in succession.
The same could not be said of Daniil Kvyat, who lost control on the first lap and collided with McLaren duo Carlos Sainz Jr and Lando Norris, who was sent into the air by the contact.
Kvyat received a drive-through penalty and was forced to retire on lap 43 of 56.
IN THE POINTS
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +6.522secs
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +13.744s
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +27.627s
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +31.276s
6. Pierre Gasly (Red Bull) +89.307s
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +1 lap
8. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +1 lap
9. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) +1 lap
10. Alex Albon (Toro Rosso) +1 lap
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 68
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 62 (-6)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 39 (-29)
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 37 (-31)
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 36 (-32)
1. Mercedes 130
2. Ferrari 73 (-57)
3. Red Bull 52 (-78)
=4. Renault 12 (-118)
=4. Alfa Romeo 12 (-118)
F1 heads west and to the streets of Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in two weeks. Will there be a repeat of the dramatic finish in 2018?