Lewis Hamilton has claimed his second win of the 2015 Formula 1 season in China on Sunday by dominating the race at the Shanghai International Circuit, beating Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The British driver capped off a perfect weekend that has seen him finish as the fastest driver in every single session by winning the Chinese Grand Prix for a fourth time, controlling the race from start to finish to subject Rosberg to a ninth defeat in the last ten races.
Despite keeping up with the Mercedes drivers in the first half of the race, Ferrari’s pace faded in the final stint after Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen moved onto the medium compound tire, forcing them to settle for third and fourth at the finish.
Keen to protect first position from his teammate, Hamilton made an aggressive start, pointing his car across the grid to cut Rosberg off. The Briton retained his lead through the first complex of corners as Rosberg and Vettel settled into second and third place, but it was Kimi Raikkonen who was the big mover on the first lap, bravely passing both Williams drivers to move up to fourth place. Further back, Daniel Ricciardo made a poor start and dropped down the order, whilst Carlos Sainz Jr. also fell through the field thanks to a spin at turn one.
Hamilton was unable to pull away from Rosberg in the opening stint as most of the drivers struggled on the soft compound tire. Ferrari’s drivers kept the Silver Arrows in sight, but Vettel looked to get the undercut on the leading pair by pitting early and taking on another set of option tires.
However, Mercedes reacted in kind, fitting Hamilton and Rosberg with the same tires in the following two laps to ensure that they retained the top two positions ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen.
The rest of the runners had to move onto the medium tire upon stopping, but this worked well for Lotus as Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean moved up into seventh and eighth place respectively. Maldonado had fought past the Sauber drivers earlier in the race, and was followed up the order by Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen. The Dutchman continued to show a maturity and ability that far exceeds his 17 years, pulling off some great passes on Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson at the hairpin.
After stopping, Vettel began to put the hammer down in a bid to catch both Hamilton and Rosberg. Wary of the Ferrari threat from behind, Rosberg told Mercedes to give his teammate the hurry-up as he felt he was going too slowly. However, Vettel continued to push on, bringing himself within 1.5 seconds of Rosberg in the fight for second place.
Increasingly fearful of Ferrari, Hamilton was warned by Mercedes that Rosberg would be given the preferential strategy unless he was able to up his pace. The Briton responded by opening up the gap to Vettel, posting some fastest sector and fastest lap times. Ferrari soon brought its lead driver in to try and make use of the undercut once again, but Mercedes covered this yet again by bringing Rosberg in just one lap later. A slow stop allowed Vettel to close on his compatriot, but it was Rosberg who remained ahead for the time being.
Hamilton proved that he had been backing off slightly to look after his tires by posting two very fast lap times after Rosberg pitted, and eventually came in for his final stop on lap 33. Once Raikkonen pitted two laps later, the Briton was back in the lead, enjoying a 6.5 second lead over his teammate.
Further down the field, Pastor Maldnado very nearly undid all of his hard work by locking up at pit entry, narrowly avoiding the wall. The marshals were able to push him back and get going again, but he did drop outside of the top ten as a result of the error, with a second spin ending his hopes of points. A late run-in with McLaren’s Jenson Button forced Lotus to retire Maldonado with five laps to go.
After moving onto the medium compound tire, Ferrari began to struggle. Vettel found himself falling further back from Rosberg, ending his hopes of a second-place finish and forcing him into keeping an eye on his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, in fourth place.
Ricciardo continued to fight on in China as the sole Red Bull runner, enjoying some spirited fights with Marcus Ericsson at Sauber. A fine pass at the hairpin on lap 44 saw him move into the points, following the example set by Max Verstappen, who had made a great move on Sergio Perez to eighth before the Force India driver pitted after a long second stint.
However, the Dutchman was denied a good haul of points when his engine failed on the main straight, prompting a safety car period with just three laps to go.
As a result, there was no change in position in the final stages, allowing Hamilton to claim his second win of the season. The British driver went unchallenged in the last stint, allowing him to cross the line ahead of Rosberg and extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship.
In the dying stages of the race, Raikkonen was able to reel Vettel in thanks to his fresher tires, but the safety car put paid to his hopes of a first podium finish since rejoining Ferrari. Nevertheless, a second straight fourth place finish appears to mark a return to form for Raikkonen.
Williams endured a very lonely race, running in fifth and sixth with a gap of half a minute to the cars both in front and behind until the late safety car period. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were happy with the result all the same, knowing it was the maximum they could achieve.
Romain Grosjean picked up Lotus’ first points of the year in P7, marking his first top ten finish since last year’s Monaco Grand Prix. Sauber enjoyed another good weekend as Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson finished eighth and tenth respectively, split by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Once again, it was Hamilton who stole the show in Shanghai, dominating proceedings to claim yet another emphatic psychological victory over Rosberg. With two wins now under his belt in 2015, the Briton will be hoping to continue his good start to the season in Bahrain next weekend.