Hamilton wins landmark GP in China | CTlive.info - South Africa News

# # # # #

Lewis Hamilton took a comfortable victory in the Chinese Grand Prix to take the championship lead for the first time in 2019.

The Mercedes driver passed team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who had taken pole position, off the line and controlled Formula 1’s 1,000th race from there.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took third, after the team ordered team-mate Charles Leclerc to let him by in the opening laps.

The decision led to Leclerc losing fourth place to Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

And Ferrari’s young driver – who is only in his third race for the team – questioned the decision over team radio, saying: “but I’m pulling away!”

Ferrari will face questions about the wisdom of their approach to the race – and to team orders in general – but Hamilton was serenely distant from such concerns.

After taking the lead, Hamilton edged away from Bottas, building a five-second lead before his first pit stop on lap 22.

Mercedes’ decision to bring Bottas in first to protect from Vettel behind dropped the lead to less than two seconds, but Hamilton soon pulled away again to take his second victory in a row.

Ferrari team orders controversy hots up

Ferrari were running third and fourth in the opening laps, with Leclerc ahead of Vettel after passing his team-mate at the first corner, when they made the call to switch drivers.

Vettel was sitting a second behind Leclerc and appeared to be able to go faster, so Ferrari ordered the Monegasque to let him past.

The decision was in line with Ferrari’s stated policy to favour Vettel in 50-50 situations, as re-confirmed by team boss Mattia Binotto earlier in the weekend, but it triggered a set of circumstances that led to Verstappen beating Leclerc to fourth place.

Letting Vettel by cost Leclerc time and ensured Verstappen was closer to him. Vettel was unable to pull away – Leclerc sat just as close to his team leader as the German had to him. And he summed up the situation over the radio by saying: “Now what?”

It was a perceptive comment. With Verstappen just two seconds back, Red Bull triggered the pit-stop period.

That guaranteed he would pass Leclerc if he had pitted on the next lap, so Ferrari pitted Vettel to protect his position.

Vettel kept third – just – and now Ferrari thought about running Leclerc long to give him a tyre advantage later in the race.

But that did not work either, and Leclerc pitted on lap 22, only five after Verstappen, rejoining now 11 seconds behind the Red Bull solely because of his weaker strategy.

Leclerc began to catch Verstappen and had the lead down to three seconds within 10 laps only for Red Bull to out-think Ferrari again, bringing Verstappen in for a second stop on lap 34.

Again, Ferrari had to respond with Vettel – and Mercedes then also did to secure Hamilton and Bottas’ positions – and again Leclerc was the loser.

He was briefly into second place, but Bottas soon passed him and Vettel and Verstappen began to haul him in. Ferrari eventually pitted Leclerc on lap 42 and he rejoined now 14 seconds behind Verstappen – too much of a gap to make up in the remaining 16 laps.

Could Ferrari have better protected third and fourth if they had left the cars in their initial order? Is the decision to back Vettel for their title assault the right one? These questions will hang over Ferrari for some time to come.

Battles down the field

Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly took sixth, in a race of his own too slow to keep up with his team-mate and and too fast for everyone else.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo took seventh, ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.

The final point was taken by Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon, a fine drive after starting from the pit lane in a car rebuilt after his huge accident in final practice on Saturday.

Albon had pressure from Haas’ Romain Grosjean on the final lap but just managed to hold on.

Driver of the day

F1’s 1,000th race did not live up to expectations – the lead was never in question and Hamilton was supreme in leading Mercedes’ third consecutive one-two at the start of this season. But this award goes to Albon, who drove superbly to take a point from a pit lane start, which will be a boost to his confidence that could have taken a knock after his practice crash

What happens next?

Baku in two weeks time. Ferrari might be favoured on the harum-scarum street track, because of its long, long straights. But who would ever bet against Mercedes?

Follow Us
Popular Posts
  • Amplats puts 270ha of land in new hands

  • Social media reacts to innocent looking Vusi ‘Khekhe’ Mathibela

  • PICS: Two people dead, two injured in Kempton Park crash

  • NZ mosque attack toll rises to 50, authorities to begin releasing bodies

  • Ex-DA member sticks to his guns over R600m kickback for party

  • How climate change is sinking an Indian island.

  • Convicted racist Vicki Momberg’s appeal postponed to June