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Five things we learned from Hamilton's Chinese GP win

Five things we learned from Hamilton's Chinese GP win - News

Lewis Hamilton joined Sebastian Vettel at the summit of the Formula One championship with his victory at the Chinese Grand Prix.

The title protagonists have both won one race each this season with the Briton predicting their battle will go down to the wire.

Here, we look at five things we learned from Sunday's Shanghai race.

1. There were some who feared Vettel's victory in Melbourne could have been a fluke, but those concerns were laid to rest with another impressive display from the German here. While it was Hamilton who soared to the chequered flag in tricky conditions at the Shanghai International Circuit, Vettel, unfortunate to fall down the order, following his pit stop under the virtual safety car, matched Hamilton for pace. Vettel also proved he was up for the fight with two masterful overtakes - the first on his own team-mate Kimi Raikkonen - before Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo became his next victim. The stage is now perfectly poised for a battle royale this year.

2. While Hamilton's victory took centre stage in Shanghai, it was difficult to deny Max Verstappen his moment in the spotlight, too, following another barnstorming drive in the wet-dry conditions. The Dutchman, still only 19, rose an incredible 13 places - including a jaw-dropping nine on the opening lap - to prove that his equally awe-inspiring performance in the wet of Brazil last year was not a one-off. Verstappen's Red Bull team are off the pace of Mercedes and Ferrari this season, but surely it is only a matter of when, rather than if, Verstappen will win his first title.

3. Although Vettel is taking the fight to Hamilton's Mercedes team this season, the same cannot be said for his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. The veteran Finn was off the pace here to finish behind both of the Red Bulls in fifth. Raikkonen's form (he finished fourth in Australia) is unlikely to please the Ferrari hierarchy who will feel they finally have a car to challenge Mercedes for this year's constructors' crown. Raikkonen is out of contract at the end of the year. He will need to raise his game to stand any chance of earning another term with the Prancing Horse.

4. Raikkonen's below-par display capped a difficult day for F1's Finnish elite with Valtteri Bottas finishing a disappointing sixth. The Mercedes man qualified third, but fell down the order - first as he had to queue behind Hamilton in the pits - before inexplicably spinning while following the safety car. To cap a tough day his Mercedes engineer then mistakenly called him Nico (as in their former driver Rosberg) over the team radio. An afternoon to forget for Bottas.

5. It was an afternoon to forget for McLaren, too (how often have we said that in recent years?) as both cars failed to get to the finish. Miraculously, Fernando Alonso ran as high as sixth and was on course for a healthy number of points before he suffered a driveshaft problem in the closing stages of the race. But perhaps more alarmingly for the British team was Alonso's take on the race afterwards. Despite failing to finish, Alonso - a double world champion who will be remembered as one of the finest drivers to step into a Formula One cockpit - called his performance "incredible" and "one of the best things that has happened to me." Curious, indeed.

11 April 2017

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