Lewis Hamilton has closed to within four points of the championship lead with a lights-to-flag victory in the Chinese Grand Prix. The Briton made a perfect start from pole position and was never challenged from there as Nico Rosberg recovered from a poor opening lap to finish second behind his teammate.
While Hamilton had no problems getting his Mercedes off the start line, Daniel Ricciardo made a sluggish getaway from the outside of the front row. His slow start opened the door for Sebastian Vettel to take second with Fernando Alonso also powering through but Felipe Massa made the quickest start of all. The Brazilian swarmed all over the back of Ricciardo’s Red Bull and banged wheels with Alonso as they approached turn one but despite that, he gained a spot at the expense of Rosberg who had his own coming together with Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton quickly eased away from Vettel, Alonso and Ricciardo with Rosberg overhauling Massa inside three laps to sit fifth during the opening stint. Having lost his place to Nico, Felipe triggered the first round of pit stops on lap eleven but difficulty fitting the left rear tyre cost him the best part of a lap, effectively ending his hopes of a points finish. Ferrari were next to blink with Alonso called in a lap later and the Spaniard made full use of the undercut to snatch second from Vettel.
From there, Sebastian’s race careered downhill with a hard-charging Rosberg closing in on him soon after his first stop. By lap 22, Nico had caught his compatriot and despite being barely within DRS range, the Mercedes breezed past the Red Bull on the back straight towards turn fourteen. Vettel’s pain wasn’t over yet as his teammate Daniel Ricciardo now loomed in his mirrors and with the Australian on tyres three laps fresher, Red Bull requested he let Ricciardo through. “Tough luck” was the blunt response from the reigning champion but once it became clear his teammate was on a different strategy, Sebastian surrendered fourth.
While Red Bull engaged in another episode of team orders disputes, Nico Rosberg got on with his race and closed the gap to second-placed Alonso and although Ferrari stole a march again by pitting first at the end of the second stint, Rosberg was soon within DRS range. Once he arrived on the tail of the Ferrari, Nico didn’t follow it for very long and on lap 42, second place was secured with relative ease.
Hamilton was a long way up the road by the time his teammate took second and cruised home to a third straight win, the only moment of doubt being when the Briton questioned the appearance of the chequered flag a lap earlier than planned. Rosberg and Alonso completed the podium despite a late charge from Ricciardo while Sebastian Vettel toiled to fifth, his misery completed when a Caterham on fresher tyres overtook him before his second stop.
Nico Hulkenberg’s consistent campaign continued with sixth for Force India, just holding off Valtteri Bottas while Kimi Raikkonen’s disappointing campaign shows no sign of turning around, the 2007 champion finishing a minute behind his teammate in eighth. Sergio Perez and Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten which left McLaren without a single point for the second race running, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen limping home a lap down in eleventh and thirteenth respectively. Lotus also missed out on points although they had reason to feel hard done by with Romain Grosjean sidelined by the loss of fourth gear when running inside the top ten.