Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton dominated the Chinese Grand Prix to take his first win of the year and move into a share of the championship lead.
Hamilton’s victory, in a race enlivened by a wet start and some terrific wheel-to-wheel battles through the field, ties him with first-race winner Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The German finished second, hardening impressions that 2017 will devolve into a fight between the two multiple champions.
Vettel had to fight back after losing out on strategy in a chaotic opening to the race, which kept the shape of the race in doubt through a series of incidents and accidents.
The moment it fell for Hamilton
The race could have turned out very differently had it not been for a key moment on lap four.
After a wet start, Hamilton led the opening lap from Vettel and Bottas but the deployment of the virtual safety car following a crash by Williams rookie Lance Stroll, punted off by Force India’s Sergio Perez, prompted Vettel and most of the midfield runners to pit for dry tyres on lap two.
The decision dropped Vettel to sixth but with all the runners ahead of him still on the grooved intermediate tyres on a rapidly drying track.
The four-time champion was now in a strong position, and poised to take the lead when Hamilton, Bottas, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and the second Red Bull of Max Verstappen pitted.
But Hamilton and the others were saved by a crash by Sauber’s Antonio Giovinazzi, the Italian losing it at the last corner, just as he had in qualifying on Saturday.
That brought out the safety car and Hamilton and the rest could make their own pit stops for dry tyres without losing out.
From there, Hamilton could control the race at will and was pretty much untroubled, despite a late push from Vettel.