Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Lewis Hamilton has taken an untroubled victory in China in a Formula One race very much on the duller end of the scale.
At the start, it appeared Hamilton was pointing very much off-centre and he used that positioning to cut off any potential charge from team mate Nico Rosberg as they led away the rest of the pack in one-two formation.
The biggest mover on the opening lap was Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, starting in sixth place he managed to leap past both the Williams Martini Racing drivers to settle into fourth place behind his team mate Sebastian Vettel.
Unfortunately with a late safety car – which is explained further down – there were no last lap heroics for any of the top six – Felipe Massa overtook Valtteri Bottas for fifth early on but the Finn didn’t fall any further back – so they finished where they ended lap one.
If I was feeling particularly vindictive I would say that is where they finished – without doing anything of interest – and end this report here. However, while that is true – only a quicker pit stop for Vettel in the middle of race saw him cause a bit of excitement for one or two laps – most of the excitement this race brought was outside of the top six and that is really worth talking about.
The man on the move was Max Verstappen, the young Toro Rosso driver showed he could be a world champion this year if he had the right machinery. He was pulling off passes up the inside of those ahead of him like they weren’t even there, some of the moves he pulled – especially into turn 14 – would have seen another driver lock up but he pulled it off.
Indeed he got as high as 8th after a barnstorming pass on Force India’s Sergio Perez, and was going to be earning some good points until his Renault engine went bang and he had to abandon car on the main straight with only a handful of laps remaining.
It was then where the hilarity began, the poor marshals had a devil of a time turning a car with barely any steering lock into the pit lane. A few prangs of the front wing onto the wall saw panicked mechanics rush to the car and swiftly removed the front wing.
Also suffering engine problems – and making sure Renault get a stern talking to – was Daniil Kvyat. Running around the top ten the Russian was having an unremarkable race until his Renault power unit decided to act like a smoke machine and expire in spectacular fashion putting the Red Bull out.
While we are on the subject of retirements, Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India had to retire early on because of gearbox issues.
Retirements over with, we can now talk about some of the great racing the midfield provided. The main players in this act were the Saubers’ of Marcus Ericcson and Felipe Nasr who were challenging all who came near them including the Lotus of Romain Grosjean – who would finish 7th – and ninth placed finisher Daniel Ricciardo.
Proving that the push overs they proved to be last year was well behind them, Nasr and Ericsson looked like pushing further up the pack but their involvement in a number of scraps proved to be their undoing. However, having both cars finish in the points – Nasr 8th and Ericcson 10th – is result enough for Sauber considering the rivals around them crumbled in the Shanghai heat.
Also crumbling was Pastor ‘smash it’ Maldonado who had an incident filled day, starting with overshooting the pit entry and having to be given a push by the marshals, added onto by running onto the grass and spinning across the track all of his own accord. But, after that he seemed to redeem himself with a good fight for 13th with the McLaren of Jenson Button, lap after lap they fought for position with the battle only ending after Button – in a Honda powered machine running without issue – deciding to clip the back of the Venezuelan and send them both into a spin.
Maldonado would retire after the incident with Button finishing 13th – a place behind Fernando Alonso.
As this was going on, Hamilton remained unchallenged at the front even if he was getting shouted at by the team for going too slowly at the front.
Indeed Raikkonen was wanting something to happen, but frustrations in traffic saw him unable to catch up before the safety car put to bed a race devoid of major excitement at the front.
However, another win for the Briton shows how much of a master he is at Shanghai with Rosberg unable to challenge in anyway. For podium finisher Vettel, a third place was probably the best he could have hoped for considering the speed deficit the Ferrari is suffering from compared to the Mercedes.
The next race on the calendar is the night race at Bahrain, we can only hope that the race under the lights provides less boredom that this snoozefest in China.