The Shanghai F1 Grand Prix sees the first five rows locked out by team mates side by side. The Silver Arrows are on pole and Valtteri Bottas is the pole sitter. The race commences at 16:00 local time.
Hamilton gets the jump on Bottas in the first lap. At the back of the field, Russian Daniil Kvyat in his Toro Rosso has a brake issue and the two McLarens are damaged as a result. Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris pit for repairs and tire changes. Kvyat has a potential visit to the stewards coming up. Sergio Perez takes advantage of the virtual safety car and moves to 8th after starting 12th.
Although Haas started well they’ve fallen through the field, with Kevin Magnussen being overtaken by Kimi Raikkonen in the first few laps. Giovinazzi is on song, with his Alfa Romeo looking good on track in the early part of the race. 15th from 19th is looking nice.
Kvyat is struggling, with an overtaking move on Lance Stroll having the car out wide. Shortly after he’s advised a drive through penalty is his for the first lap incident. Lap 8 and the tires are changed for Giovinazzi. Kvyat comes in as well to serve the drive through. Whilst this is underway Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc succumbs to team orders and moves aside for an obviously faster Sebastian Vettel. Will the rumours prove truthful about his stress levels and ability to deal with the race? Lap 10 of 56, and Romain Grosjean pulls in for a change of rubber. Hard tires go on, will he do a one stop strategy? Magnussen says the same thing as he also pits. The Williams pairing of Robert Kubica and George Russell have pace, 13th and 14th are against their names. Lap 12 and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg pits for fresh rubber. There’s a hiccup, a slowish stop, and Grosjean slides past as Hulkenberg exits.
Lap 13, just under one quarter race distance, and Hamilton has a very healthy lead over Bottas. Vettel has a moment and Leclerc is back in the frame. Hamilton and Bottas are in the groove, with lap times settling into a second quicker than the Ferraris. The lead is over four seconds. Leclerc, though, is on the tail of Vettel, he’s radioing in to “ask” about moving Vettel aside.
Lap 16, Daniel Ricciardo is pedaling hard, and has to as the team advise a slightly annoyed Hulkenberg to bench his Renault. Is it a repeat of Bahrain for the team? The Australian is in sixth. Max Verstappen, his ears ringing from the feedback received after his blast from qualifying about other drivers, pits and new rubber goes on. It seems the tire of choice for Shanghai is hard. Ferrari call in Vettel for the same, leaving the young Leclerc hanging. Ricciardo gets called in for his tire swap on lap 19.
Verstappen has a dose of bravado and foolishly tries a move on Vettel. Ice cold, Vettel runs wide legally and forces the Dutchman off. Bottas is called in for new rubber on lap 22 as Vettel’s pace has gone up. Hard rubber for the Finn, a slick pit stop, he’s out and ahead of the German. A lap later and both Hamilton and Leclerc are in. Somehow, Leclerc’s second place goes backwards as he re-enters behind Verstappen, with Hamilton’s first place intact. However, he will have slightly fresher rubber coming into the later stages.
A shakeup at the front? Bottas is looking to move on Hamilton as he gets second back after the Leclerc pitstop. Lap 26 and Norris’ McLaren is ailing even after a quick stop to try and resolve some minor wounding after the Kvyat clash. Kimi Raikkonen pits as the race gets towards the half way point. He exits just behind Magnussen and goes for the jump. It’s successful and the Finn is in 10th. Alexander Albon has been the quiet achiever here. He’s up into 12th after a pit lane start thanks to the horrifying crash in practice. He’s on the hunt for positions. Kvyat is wondering about karma as the pit crew, a little anxious, drop his Toro Rosso off the jacks in pit lane as he gets fresh rubber.
Raikkonen has the Haas team in his sights. Not content with picking off the Danish Magnussen, he’s focused his Finnish stare on Grosjean. It’s successful and the veteran claims another place. Leclerc is getting the hurry up from his team, being told he needs to push. The Monaco born tyro is quick and seven seconds behind the more experienced Vettel. Back to the pits and Kvyat is looking for the black cat and ladder as a new front wing is fitted. There’s a delay, and the Russian is steaming. Meanwhile, Albon is grinning as he gets the job done of the Haas of Magnussen.
There’s feverish calculations going on in the Ferrari garage. Leclerc has a one stop strategy now looking like a two stop. He’s made ground on Vettel however his rubber won’t likely make the distance, so the team need to decide whether to sacrifice or go for new rubber. Lance Stroll radios in, saying there is something not right, it feels like a vibration in the chassis.
Up front it’s still silver for first and second. After Hamilton’s Bahrain win he’s closed to a point behind Bottas. That lead is courtesy of Bottas laying down the fastest race lap. Hamilton is thinking the same for Shanghai. Magnussen pits for the second time on lap 35 and his tires will now take him through to the end. Verstappen also pits and shortly after Vettel also pits. Mediums go on and he’s behind Leclerc who will also likely pit soon.
Kapow! Mercedes double stack as the pair come in on lap 36 and also to be shod with mediums. It’s a bold, brave, move, and Bottas rejoins behind Leclerc for third. McLaren call in Norris for new tires also. Leclerc is now under threat and uses his car as a chicane as Bottas goes left and right, trying to find a gap as his new rubber comes on temperature and grip goes up. Bottas finally finds the open door and regains P2. Lap times are in the 1:36 bracket for Hamilton in first, Vettel in fourth. Leclerc needs a stop, and soon. Lap 40 and Pierre Gasly, largely untroubled, is up to sixth ahead of Ricciardo in seventh. A lap later and Red Bull call him in for his new tires.
The closing laps are here and Verstappen lurks in fourth, Leclerc slides into fifth. Vettel has better life in his rubber and with a dozen laps to go is looking likely for a podium. However, Ferrari finally call Leclerc in for new rubber. Could this be the break he needs? He’s 15 seconds adrift of Vettel though.
At the other end of the field, Kvyat’s day is finally put to a merciful end. He’s just the second retirement of the day. Lance Stroll pits from P13 after his earlier report and becomes the third to exit the Shanghai race it seems. No, he rejoins later.
Eleven to go and the Renault of Ricciardo is surviving, but he has Perez, Raikkonen, and a strong lookg Albon behind him. Albon, however, has the Haas team behind him, thanks to the retirements.
Vettel is breathing deep, knowing he has Verstappen behind him in fourth. He needs to be aware of where the Dutchman is as both are in the 1:36 lap brackets. Sergio Perez is also eyeballing the mirrors as Raikkonen sets up to swoop. Hamilton is starting to show a few nerves as he asks where Bottas is. He’s reassured that his team mate isn’t currently posing a threat.
Leclerc has made some space up but with seven laps left, time is running out with ten seconds looking to be the bridge too far. Lap 50 and that extra point for fastest lap is looking to be grabbed by any of the top five. That includes Hamilton who leads comfortably. Leclerc is still fifth with Gasly and Ricciardo not looking to make an impact here.
Five to go and Raikkone has eased off. Perez has the advantage but has the canny Finn deliberately backed off to cool the tires a little and save them for a charge as time ticks away? Leclerc supports hold their breath as the radio crackles with a message from the young Ferrari driver. The issue? He’s saying the gears aren’t staying in place, drastically affecting his drive.
Grosjean is suddenly in points contention as he looms into view behind Albon. Grosjean has time on his side and quicker times for his tires. The chequered flag is in sight and Lando Norris’ battle with his car ends, retiring in lap 53. Gasly slows, with a lap time of 1:42 whilst others on either side are notching 1:36 through to 1:39 as Ricciardo looks set to see the end. He pits, an odd choice but does that open the door for the Australian for P6?
It’s the final lap and the win goes to Lewis Hamilton by 6.5 seconds. It’s another silver finish for the third time from three as Bottas takes second. Vettel denies his detractors as P3 is his ahead of Verstappen. It’s Verstappen ahead of Leclerc by under four seconds, Gasly, the last of the drivers on the lead lap, and fastest lap for a 1:34.742 in the last two laps while the Renault of Ricciardo makes it home for 7th a lap off the lead pace. Perez and Raikkonen see 8th and 9th whilst Albon holds out a determined Haas and Grosjean. Stroll managed to come home in 12th with Magnussen, Sainz, Giovinazzi a lap down, Russell and Kubica finishing off those that saw the flag and two laps adrift.
Bottas would say later that wheelspin from the start line cost him the crucial seconds needed to take the lead. “The pace was similar. In the first stint in the dirty air I couldn’t follow. It was a shame about the start, I got a bit of wheelspin when I went on the white line, the start/finish line that was just after my box. I lost it there.” Hamilton was quietly spoken with: “It’s not been the most straight forward of weekends, but what a fantastic result for the team. To have a one-two is really special, the start was where I was able to make the difference and from there was history.”
It’s onto Baku for the fourth round of the 2019 F1 season.