Hamilton coasts to 5th Shanghai GP title
SHANGHAI, China (AP):
With Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel starting side-by-side on the front row at the Chinese Grand Prix yesterday, the stage was set for a wheel-to-wheel duel between long-dominant Mercedes and a newly competitive Ferrari.
A chaotic start to the race on a wet track, however, scuttled the highly anticipated showdown as Hamilton coasted to victory for his fifth title in Shanghai and first of the new Formula One season.
Starting from pole position, Hamilton led from beginning to end to capture the race in 1 hour, 37 minutes, 36.158 seconds and pull even with Vettel atop the driver's standings with 43 points.
Two weeks after beating Hamilton at the season-opening Australian GP, Vettel had to settle for second place this time, finishing 6.2 seconds behind his rival.
With both teams showing equal pace at the top, there is likely to be plenty of other opportunities for close races this season.
"I'm fighting up against a four-time world champion, (and) he is at his best, and he is phenomenally quick. And Ferrari are at their best in years," Hamilton said. "And we're at our best as a team and I feel like I'm at my best."
"The ultimate fighter always wants to go up against the best battle you can have. Because then when you come out on top, it's so much more satisfying."
Red Bull's Max Verstappen drove a masterful race through traffic to move up from 16th position on the starting grid to third place, fighting off a spirited challenge from teammate Daniel Ricciardo on the final lap.
Ricciardo finished fourth, followed by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas in sixth.
The drama-filled start after a rainy morning set the stage for Hamilton's victory and Mercedes' recovery after Vettel surprisingly triumphed in Australia and signalled that Ferrari had the pace this year to challenge the silver cars.