Lewis Hamilton eased to his second straight Formula 1 victory in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix to move into the lead of the drivers’ championship, as tensions flared at Ferrari over team orders.

Hamilton was able to pass Mercedes teammate and pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas at the start on the run to Turn 1, and never came under pressure at any point thereafter, sweeping to his 75th grand prix victory.

Despite fears over Ferrari’s power advantage, Hamilton and Bottas were able to comfortably beat Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, whose early fight for third place breathed some life into an otherwise-forgettable 1,000th world championship race.

Leclerc managed to pass Vettel at the inside of Turn 1 on the opening lap, but struggled to keep up with the Mercedes drivers in the early stages of the race, prompting Ferrari to tell the Monegasque to allow his teammate back ahead.

But when Vettel could not pull away, Leclerc was left frustrated over the team order call, softly telling his engineer: “I'm losing quite a lot of time. I don't know whether you want to know or not, but just so you know…”

By the time Vettel pitted from P3 at the end of Lap 18, the gap to race leader Hamilton had swelled to over 12 seconds, giving Mercedes freedom at the front of the pack.

Ferrari defused the situation by putting Leclerc on a different strategy, keeping him out for a long first stint before pitting five laps later. He returned to the track 14 seconds back from his teammate, having also lost fourth place to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

While Leclerc was able to cut the gap, Verstappen covered off the Ferrari driver by pitting for a second time with 22 laps to go, prompting all of the cars ahead to cover the Dutchman off.

Even with a healthy lead at the front, Mercedes pitted both Hamilton and Bottas on the same lap for fresh tyres, protecting their advantage.

Hamilton was able to ease through the final stint of the race to cross the line five seconds clear of Bottas to record his sixth Chinese Grand Prix victory, moving into the lead of the drivers’ championship for the first time this season.

Bottas held firm in second to give Mercedes its third straight one-two finish, marking the team’s best-ever start to a Formula 1 season. It has scored all but two points available so far this season.

Vettel took third place for Ferrari to score his first podium of the year, while a disgruntled Leclerc was left to settle for fifth, with a late second stop failing to get him back ahead of Verstappen in P4.  

Pierre Gasly scored his best finish in Red Bull colours by finishing the race sixth. With a big gap to the cars behind, Red Bull pitted the Frenchman with two laps to go for a set of Soft tyres, allowing him to push and score the bonus point for setting the fastest lap of the race.

Daniel Ricciardo picked up his first points for Renault after winning a close-fought midfield battle, taking seventh ahead of Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen of Racing Point and Alfa Romeo respectively, the trio ending the race nose-to-tail on-track.

Alexander Albon put in one of the drives of the day as he recovered from a pit lane start – forced following a chassis change after his massive crash in practice on Saturday – to pick up one point for finishing 10th for Toro Rosso at the team’s 250th race.

Haas’ raceday struggles in Bahrain continued in China as Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen both squandered top-10 starting positions to finish 11th and 13th, with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll splitting them in P12.

McLaren's race was compromised on the opening lap when both Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. made contact with Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat, forcing them to pit for repairs.

Norris' car was left with floor damage after being popped into the air by Kvyat, who received a drive-through penalty for causing the collision. Sainz finished the race 15th behind Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi, while both Kvyat and Norris retired in the closing stages.

George Russell ended the race as the lead Williams’ driver once again, finishing 16th as teammate Robert Kubica took 18th, both finishing two laps down on the leader.

Besides Kvyat and Norris, Nico Hulkenberg was the only other retiree after being told to park up his Renault 16 laps into the race.

The 2019 Formula 1 season continues with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku on April 28.

 

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