Lewis Hamilton’s masterful victory in China yesterday heralds his 54th career win and his fifth in Shanghai from eleven attempts. After an intense 56 laps over 190 miles, Hamilton also secured his third Grand Slam and became the second driver in history, after Michael Schumacher, to have five wins on three or more circuits. Much confusion surrounded the build-up to the race with rumours abound about it possibly being rescheduled to a day earlier due to Shanghai weather concerns of mist and low cloud cover. In fact Friday’s Practise Two was dramatically grounded after conditions did not improve with just twenty minutes of track time completed on safety grounds leaving six drivers unable to set a single timed lap, including Hamilton and Vettel. Of all the times set in Practise One, it was the Red Bull driver Max Verstappen who set the pace just ahead of the Williams team duo Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll. However, after much deliberation, the new Shanghai Grand Prix owners Liberty Media ruled out a potential change to Saturday due to the chaos and disruption a last minute change would cause and made the decision to go ahead on Sunday as scheduled.
On race day, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton gallantly led the pack from start to finish on a track he has historically been known to love and went on to secure his first win of the campaign culminating in an evenly matched 43 points so far with Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel. The latter unfortunately suffered a dose of premature bad luck on what was only his second lap when his team called him in to change to slick tyres but managed to maintain an attacking stance throughout the race recovering from fifth position to finish a mere six seconds behind his rival. Hamilton has predicted a very close fight with Vettel for the 2017 season and believes it could be the most exciting battle of his career to date. Certainly both drivers seem to be revelling in their competitive glory with each other and F1 fans can expect a gruelling championship ahead as both drivers fight tooth and nail to the bitter end for the ultimate top position. “The ultimate fighter always wants the best battle that you can have because, when you come out on top, it is so much more satisfying” said Hamilton. The respectful but great rivalry between the two world champions was apparent when Lewis leapt out of his Mercedes after the race to deafening applause from the fans and immediately went over to Sebastien for a handshake and a big bear hug.
Max Verstappen, the Dutch nineteen year old surely never expected to qualify in a podium position when he started off in sixteenth place on the grid and put on a magnificent display of defensive driving in Shanghai managing to hold off his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo whilst both tussled for third place. A future world champion in the making, Verstappen exceeded all expectations and proved to everyone that the new style F1 cars can still overtake. Indeed, Pirelli were forced to design tyres for the 2017 season that enable the drivers to push hard during the entire race rather than having to hold back with the worry of them over-heating. The result is tyres that have enough grip to be able to pass and although it is actually harder this season than ever before, Verstappen has shown with great zeal that it is actually possible as did Fernando Alonso who similarly drove a phenomenal race and in his first lap flew from thirteenth to eighth position. There was some very obvious and cheeky banter present between Hamilton and the Dutch teenage driver when Hamilton acknowledged Verstappen’s impressive race and nicknamed him “This dude!” to which Verstappen replied with a curt yet defiant “This guy, you always call me this guy”.
Valterri Bottas who finished in sixth position at the weekend reprimanded himself after the race admitting during an interview that he had made a “stupid mistake” which cost him greatly when his Mercedes was sent spinning off behind the safety car. Bottas had been in a very respectable fifth place when he made the risky decision to attempt to put heat in to his tyres which would have enabled him to attack but the acceleration caused him to slide and ultimately lose control. In a heartfelt apology to his Mercedes team, he has vowed to not dwell on his mistake that cost him a podium position and to instead learn from it and look forward to better and improved results in the future.
Mercedes have dominated Formula One for the past three years and Ferrari are doing everything in their power to compete and look to have almost reached level pegging. With two world class drivers locked in battle in what now seems equal performing cars, we can eagerly look forward to the forthcoming Grand Prix in Bahrain at the Sakhir Circuit this weekend where it could come down to a thrilling test of ability and skill on the day in soaring temperatures of up to 40C in the scorching desert.