• Chinese GP

Hamilton romps to third straight win

Nate Saunders
April 20, 2014
Lewis Hamilton had the race sewn up after a strong start © Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton recorded a hat-trick of victories at a canter as he led from start to finish at the Chinese Grand Prix, ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso.

The Story of the Race

  • Shock: Daniel Ricciardo beating Sebastian Vettel on track will be the ongoing story from this race, as well as Red Bull's decision to ask Vettel to move over before changing him to a two-stop strategy anyway. Expect this one to run and run.
  • Shocker: Felipe Massa's pit stop on lap 11 was a disaster. Williams did not seem to have the rear tyres ready in the first place and then struggled to even fit them, leaving Massa last and jeopardising what looked likely for a top-six finish and another example of the team not living up to its potential this season.
  • Best overtake: Jenson Button had a frustrating race out of the points but executed a beautiful overtaking move on Jean-Eric Vergne, passing him for 13th on lap 4 in a passing move which started in Turn 1 and ended in Turn 3.
  • Best lap: Fernando Alonso possibly secured his podium finish on lap 16, having pitted one lap before Vettel, then in second. Alonso would have known the importance of beating Vettel into Turn 1 with Ricciardo lurking and he did so, ultimately keeping himself ahead of the Red Bulls for the afternoon.
  • Worst lap: This has to be lap 24 for Vettel, who petulantly replied "tough luck" when told to let Ricciardo through as he was on fresher rubber. The world champion eventually relented but he has fuelled a fire which will continue to burn.
  • Drive of the day: Fernando Alonso, for returning Ferrari to the podium. He did well to jump Vettel in the opening pit stops but also responded with a handful personal bests with Ricciardo chipping away at the gap in the closing stages to end Ferrari's podium drought.
  • Nate Saunders

Hamilton effectively had the race won after beating everyone else off the line, with a massive lead of 13 seconds at mid-distance as Mercedes executed a flawless two-stop strategy. He only came off track once, sliding wide at Turn 14 as his tyres went off before his first pit stop. Rosberg recovered from a poor start to complete a one-two finish, while Alonso held off a spirited charge from Daniel Ricciardo in the closing laps to record an important podium for Ferrari following the resignation of Stefano Domenicali on Monday.

Sebastian Vettel had to settle for fifth behind his team-mate for the second race weekend in a row, and appeared to initially refuse a team-order when told to let Ricciardo through during his second stint.

Vettel initially got the jump on his team-mate off the line, as did Fernando Alonso, while Felipe Massa was lucky to stay in the race after trying to squeeze into a gap too small for his Williams and banging wheels with his former team-mate's Ferrari. After jumping one Red Bull, Alonso challenged Vettel for second into Turn 6 but was unable to find a way through. Valtteri Bottas was also lucky to survive the first corner unscathed after appearing to make contact with Rosberg, who had a terrible start and had to fight past Massa and Nico Hulkenberg on the first lap to get into fifth.

With Hamilton breezing away into the distance the battle for second behind him became orchestrated from the pit wall, with Alonso managing to keep Vettel in contention despite noticeable damage to the sidewalls of his tyres from earlier contact with Massa. Ferrari brought Alonso in on lap 12 for fresh mediums and it worked wonders, as Vettel emerged behind him after his own pit stop a lap later.

Massa, meanwhile, had a disastrous pit stop on lap 11, with Williams seemingly not ready with the rears, which the pit crew then had trouble putting on. After such a promising qualifying display Massa rejoined last, meaning the best he could manage would be a 15th-place finish. Red Bull also lost out in the pit stop window with Ricciardo, who lost track position to Rosberg on lap 16, after the Mercedes had pitted a lap earlier complaining of front suspension problem. Rosberg was conserving fuel well and set about reeling Vettel in.

Rosberg had done so by lap 23, taking his compatriot into Turn 14 thanks to DRS, and holding off a spirited fightback from Vettel through the first corners which brought Ricciardo right into the mix. In scenes similar to Bahrain, Vettel was soon told Ricciardo was on fresher rubber and to let his team-mate by, but replied "tough luck". He clearly did not want to yield initially but Ricciardo eventually got by at Turn 1 on lap 26, with Vettel appearing to move over through Turn 1 after a second message informing him his team-mate was on a two-stop strategy as opposed to his three-stop. Vettel's mood would hardly have improved later as he was then moved onto a two-stop strategy by the team.

A promising weekend for Romain Grosjean came to an end on lap 29 as he retired from 11th with a gearbox problem, becoming the second retirement of the day following Adrian Sutil's third consecutive DNF following engine trouble.

Having dispatched Vettel, Rosberg had Alonso in his sights and slowly reeled in the Ferrari. The radio of Vettel continued to provide entertainment, as he announced his disgust at being unlapped by Caterham's Kamui Kobayashi before his second pit stop on lap 35. Alonso's pit stop three laps earlier had initially released Rosberg into second, but he soon came in for fresh rubber himself on lap 38 after a heavy lock up and rejoined further behind the Ferrari than he had been, though he quickly reeled him back in.

Though Kimi Raikkonen was labouring away in eighth, Ferrari team-mate Alonso was showing strong pace in second but was unable to resist Rosberg in the DRS zone on lap 43, as the Mercedes breezed past into second and this time made it stick. Alonso's attention now turned to Ricciardo, who was 6.6s seconds behind in fourth with 13 laps remaining. It appeared the Red Bull was making gains but Alonso responded with a handful of personal bests to keep Ricciardo's gains to a minimum. In finishing third Alonso also continued a remarkable statistic of completing every lap of every Chinese Grand Prix in history.

Vettel was forced to settle for fifth after once again struggling to match the pace of his team-mate, finishing 24 seconds behind Ricciardo. Behind him Nico Hulkenberg held off Bottas to finish sixth, while Daniil Kvyat recorded another hugely impressive finish as he came home in 10th. McLaren's hopes of being the fastest team behind Mercedes went up in smoke as both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen struggled out of the points throughout the race, unable to undo a disappointing qualifying session on Saturday and finishing 11th and 13th respectively.

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