Winter has gone and Spring is in the air, and in the Land of the Dragon, the Silver Arrows was king as Lewis Hamilton took a controlled victory in the 1000th Formula 1 race to keep Mercedes’ perfect record in 2019.
A flawless start saw Hamilton burn past the Iceman Valtteri Bottas into the first corner with barely a fight. Behind them, Ferraris young pretender Charles Leclerc took a bite out of four-time champion Sebastien Vettel to take third. The big winner
The rather processional spectacle was shaken slightly by Red Bull trying to take the undercut through the first pit window, putting Max Verstappen on the hard compound tyre to pressure the two Ferraris and get right on the tail of Vettel as Ferrari reacted. Leclerc, audibly fuming at having to cede position to his compatriot earlier in the race, was left as the sacrificial lamb again. However, Ferrari used this to their advantage, running the Monegasque much longer to take the benefit of fresher tyres at the end. Behind possibly the only real battle on track was Pierre Gasly, holding comfortable in sixth from the man he replaced at Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo.
Leclerc running out of pit sync played into Ferrari’s hands on lap three, after Mercedes had executed a perfect double pit move to try and close out the race. However, Bottas found himself just behind Leclerc, losing vital seconds as he struggled to pass the youngster before he finally pitted for the final time in an ultimately futile attempt to snatch fourth. Meanwhile further down the pack, Leclerc’s predecessor at Ferrari, the veteran Kimi Raikkonen, was showing why he is still in demand at the age of 39, pushing his Sauber into ninth and the tail of Perez. In the final points position was a fine drive by the Toro Rosso rookie Alex Albon, who worked through the field after starting from the pits.
However, it was plain sailing for Hamilton up front, with radio chatter almost being conversational, asking about his teammate, the fastest lap, and anything else to keep himself entertained as he cruised to his 75th career victory and the top of the championship table.
“It’s not been the most straightforward of weekends, but what a fantastic result for the team, everyone’s worked so hard for this. Coming here we didn’t know exactly where we would stand with Ferrari, as they’d been so quick in Bahrain. Valtteri has been quick all weekend and did a great job today. To have a one-two together is really special for the 1,000th Grand Prix. The start was where I made the difference and after that it’s history. The strategy has really been on point over these first three races so we need to keep that up. Team LH China