SHANGHAI – Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix.
Mercedes showed again that it’s in a different class from its rivals, with Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg taking second place — the third time in four races this season the pair have finished one-two.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso held off fast-charging Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo to finish third and give his team its first podium finish of the year, with new team principal Marco Mattiacci watching from the garage.
Ricciardo was fourth, finishing one place ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel after the four-time defending champion was asked by his team to allow the faster Ricciardo to pass for the second race in a row.
Hamilton’s win gave him his first career hat trick following his victories in Malaysia and Bahrain. The Briton may have even had a fourth win this season but was forced to retire in the season opener in Australia after starting from pole position due to engine trouble.
Hamilton also inched closer to his teammate’s lead in the drivers’ championship with 75 points, just four behind Rosberg.
“I’m so, so happy. I had such a good race, I really enjoyed it,” he said.
With Hamilton far out in front for much of the race, his rivals were left to battle for second best.
Rosberg, expected to challenge Hamilton in Shanghai after the pair’s incredibly tight duel in Bahrain, started fourth on the grid and was forced to play catch-up after a slow start immediately dropped him back to seventh.
The German methodically tracked down the two Red Bulls and then finally passed Alonso on the back straight of the 43rd lap, the Ferrari unable to match the speed of the Mercedes.
Rosberg then set his sights on Hamilton, but he was by that point too far ahead, finishing nearly 19 seconds clear of the German.
“We have the best car,” Rosberg said. “That makes it more enjoyable to do a catch-up. Of course, you don’t want to do any catch-up, but I was back there.”
Vettel started third on the grid and briefly moved to second before he began to fade as his tires wore out. After Rosberg passed him, the struggling Vettel was asked to give way to his teammate on the 25th lap — a repeat of what happened two weeks ago at the Bahrain GP.
Instead of acceding, however, Vettel asked his team what tires Ricciardo was using and when told they were both on mediums, the German responded, “Tough luck.” At the start of the next lap, though, Vettel did make way for Ricciardo and finished a distant 24 seconds behind him.
Ricciardo nearly caught Alonso at the end but ran out of time, falling short by 1.2 seconds. It would have been the first podium finish of his career — he had finished second in Australia but the result was stripped after he was found to have breached new fuel regulations.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner played down any tension between his drivers after the race, saying the team had different tire strategies for the drivers, planning a two-stop race for Ricciardo and a three-stop race for Vettel.
“As soon as (Vettel) understood that, he immediately let him through,” he said. “You could see he simply didn’t have the pace to hold him back there. It was pointless.”
Force India had both its drivers finish in the points with Nico Hulkenberg finishing sixth and Sergio Perez taking ninth.
Williams driver Valtteri Bottas was seventh, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was eighth, and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kyvat finished in 10th, another impressive showing by the 19-year-old debutant.