Lewis Hamilton claimed his first victory of the season at the rain-affected Chinese Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The result now puts Hamilton and Vettel level on points each with a win and a second-place finish.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had an amazing race to finish on the podium after starting 16th on the grid. Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo ended in fourth with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen taking fifth place.
An Early Turning Point
It was a race that could have favored any number of drivers with the early laps affected by rain and a series of incidents.
Most of the field started on wet tyres except for Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz who got away with a comically slow start only to spin on Turn 1 and nudge the barriers trying to get back on the track.
A few laps in, a virtual safety car was deployed when Lance Stroll’s Williams was shunted off the track by Force India’s Sergio Perez. It prompted Vettel to switch to dry tires and the German seemed perfectly setup to take the lead when Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Verstappen eventually pitted.
But only a couple of laps later Giovinazzi added to Sauber’s repair bills by aquaplaning into the pit wall off the final corner – just as he had a day earlier in qualifying.
The front-runners took advantage of the safety car and made a pit stop without losing time.
After that, Hamilton stayed out front to take the win but the competitiveness of the trailing Ferrari’s was not lost on the Englishman.
With Mercedes and Ferrari going toe-to-toe, Hamilton expects a challenging year ahead: “I think it’s going to be one of the closest ones, if not the closest I’ve personally ever experienced and I’m looking forward to this fight.”
Even Vettel believes that Ferrari have a genuinely competitive car saying on the team radio on the slow-down lap: “It felt like we were the quickest, man. We couldn’t prove that, but next time we will.”
Verstappen’s Day To Remember
Max Verstappen turned in a sublime drive taking his RB13 from 16th on the grid to end in third.
The young Dutchman made up nine places on the opening lap easily cruising through the midfield and finding grip in the wet where others were cautious.
Verstappen went on to overtake his team-mate on lap 11 at the Turn 5 hairpin and later in the race managed the car’s poor balance to defend a resurgent Ricciardo.
“That was not bad I think,” said Verstappen.
“I really enjoyed that first lap where I passed nine cars and from there onwards I think there were some good moves as well to overtake.
“I was struggling a little bit with the balance of the car because yesterday I didn’t run a lot, of course, in qualifying, so I didn’t really have a good picture of it because we changed a lot from FP3 on the car.”
Spin A “Stupid Mistake”
Meanwhile, Bottas had a race to forget after his Mercedes spun out behind the safety car dropping from fifth to 12th.
“I was trying to generate as much tyre temperature as I could but made a mistake and spun and lost many places,” said the Finn.
“Through a stupid mistake of mine, we lost too many points.”
Bottas eventually recovered to claim sixth place but said he was “really happy” it was only a week to the next race in Bahrain.