The weather forecast was predicting significant rain on race day and that appeared to be correct prediction as the track was damp when the grid was forming up. But the surface was dry enough for Carlos Sainz to start on the Supersoft tyres, the fastest slick compound.
Lewis Hamilton lead away from pole while a poor getaway from Sebastian Vettel almost cost him second place to Valtteri Bottas. Kimi Raikkonen lost fourth place to the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo as Max Verstappen stormed through the field from 16th. The Dutchman was showing exactly why he is mooted as a potential world champion as he passed cars left, right and centre.
Lance Stroll didn’t even make it 1 lap in China as the Williams driver broke his suspension on Sergio Perez’s Force India and was out. That brought out the Virtual Safety Car and some drivers, including Vettel, decided to pit for dries. However, the rest of the top 6 stayed out but it wasn’t long before the race was neutralised once more. Antonio Giovinazzi ran wide on slicks and slammed into the wall while restarting the race. This littered the track with debris, brought out the Safety Car and saw the Italian retire.
The track was now easily dry enough for slicks and the rest of the field suitably pitted for Softs or Supersofts. Sainz’s decision to start on dries initially appeared to be the wrong one, as he spun on the first lap but he now found himself in seventh place. Bottas then had an embarrassing moment as he spun around when warming his tyres for the restart. The Finn dropped to 12th but the pace in the Mercedes would soon see him climb up the field.
On lap 8 the race restarted and Verstappen continued to climb, going around the outside of Raikkonen and diving down the inside of his teammate to be second by the end of Lap 11. Ricciardo was struggling but was managing to keep the Ferraris behind him until Lap 22 when Vettel swept around the outside and banged wheels with the Australian to get onto the podium.
Seb wasted no time in getting onto the back of Verstappen while Raikkonen was struggling with tyre wear. By Lap 28 Max, uncharacteristically, showed his inexperience by locking up into the hairpin and opening the door wide open for Vettel’s Ferrari. But this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he had to pit for new tyres a lap later and was the fastest man on track. This forced the field to follow suit and it nearly cost Verstappen a podium. Ricciardo was much faster late on in the race but despite his best efforts, couldn’t get passed his teammate to get onto the podium.
Both McLaren Hondas predictably retired from the race, Vandoorne after 18 laps and Alonso after 35 despite another fantastic drive.
But the race belonged to Lewis Hamilton who completed a Grand Slam by getting pole, leading every lap and getting the fastest lap. His fifth win in China draws him level with Vettel in the championship. Mercedes now lead the Constructors’ Championship by a single point from Ferrari with Red Bull a long way back in third.
Clearly both championships are wide open and this sets up the next race in Bahrain perfectly.
P1: Hamilton – 1:37:36.160
P2: Vettel +6.250
P3: Verstappen +45.192
P4: Ricciardo +46.035
P5: Raikkonen +48.076
P6: Bottas +48.808
P7: Sainz +72.893
P8: Magnussen +1 lap
P9: Perez +1 lap
P10: Ocon +1 lap
P11: Grosjean +1 lap
P12: Hulkenberg +1 lap
P13: Palmer +1 lap
P14: Massa +1 lap
P15: Ericsson +1 lap
Ret: Alonso (Driveshaft)
Ret: Kvyat (Hydraulics)
Ret: Vandoorne (Engine)
Ret: Giovinazzi (Collision)
Ret: Stroll (Collision)
Fastest Lap: Hamilton – 1:35.378