Lewis Hamilton continues Chinese dominance to cap off dominant weekend
Lewis Hamilton produced an exceptional display of race management to clinch his fourth Chinese Grand Prix victory.
The double Formula One champion's drive at the Shanghai International Circuit was befitting of his status to underline a thoroughly dominant weekend after topping every practice session ahead of claiming his 41st pole and 35th win.
Come the conclusion to the race, that finished under the safety car after the Renault power unit in teenager Max Verstappen's Toro Rosso blew on lap 54 of the 56, Hamilton finished ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
By the time of Verstappen's demise, though, the win was in the bag as Hamilton was 10 seconds clear of Rosberg, with Vettel and Raikkonen just over 20 seconds adrift.
Williams duo Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were fourth and fifth, but they were never in the hunt for the podium places, not after Raikkonen had passed both on the opening lap from his sixth position on the grid.
From the start through to the first round of pit stops Hamilton held Rosberg at bay by a second as they traded fast laps, with Vettel and Raikkonen just managing to keep the duo in their sights.
After 10 laps the gap between the quartet was 6.4secs, leaving the remainder of the field behind as a two-team battle for the victory unfolded.
Following the initial stops on laps 13, 14 and 15, and with the soft Pirelli tyre again applied after the quicker compound was used in the first stint, the cushion between first and fourth grew to 11 seconds.
It was during the second stint Rosberg appeared to show tetchiness, telling his engineer over the team radio at one stage: "Reduce the conversation...I know what I have to do."
With the gap between Hamilton and Rosberg 2.3secs, the German took to the radio to inform the team that "Hamilton is driving very slowly. Tell him to speed up."
It appeared a strange message as Rosberg was not close enough to pass, but seconds later, via way of explanation, he said: "If I go closer I destroy my tyres, like the first set. That's the problem."
That prompted an immediate message to Hamilton as he was told: "Okay Lewis, pick the pace up a little bit."
At that stage, around the laps in the mid-20s, Ferrari were proving quicker on their rubber, with Vettel closing to 3.6secs and Raikkonen to 6.8secs, setting the scene for a potential battle royal.
But come laps 30 and 31, with Ferrari beginning to tail off, Hamilton then showed he had plenty in reserve.
The 30-year-old posted back-to-back fastest laps, with the latter a staggering 0.8secs quicker than the former such was his searing pace, and at a time when Vettel pitted for a second time.
Although Rosberg was then called in first ahead of Hamilton to cover off Vettel at the next round of stops, it was a section of the race that proved decisive.
Come lap 35 Hamilton had stretched his lead to 6.2secs to Rosberg, with Vettel 10 seconds back and Raikkonen almost 15.
On the medium tyre, much more beneficial to Mercedes, a four-horse race then became two and a question of whether Rosberg could reel in his team-mate, but he barely closed to within five seconds.
Verstappen's blown power-unit along the start-finish straight forced the safety car into play as it was in a difficult position to be rescued.
Although the safety car pulled in at the final corner, it was a virtual trundle to the line, with Hamilton told over radio after taking the flag: "Well done Lewis! That's a clean sweep", to which he replied: "Yeah man!"
For Hamilton, it is the seventh time in his career he has completed the hat trick of pole, fastest lap and race win, pulling him level alongside Alberto Ascari and his hero Ayrton Senna.
Greeted on the podium for the interviews by 400m hurdles double Olympic champion Ed Moses, Hamilton said: "A fantastic job by the team.
"It was great to have a smooth weekend, dialling in the car which I then put in the place I wanted.
"It was then about controlling the gap to Nico until the safety car which wasn't helpful, meaning the end was a kind of an anti-climax.
"But we've done a great job to come back from the last race where we struggled a little bit, so I'm massively proud we've got the job done here."
Rosberg conceded he "gave it everything" and he "took some risks", before adding: "Unfortunately they didn't pay off as my tyres died off.
"But we're happy to the gap to the Ferrari, and a good comeback from the team, a very important one for sure."
For Vettel, on the podium for the third successive race at the start of his career with Ferrari, he said: "We tried to put some pressure on Mercedes, but on the harder tyre they were that bit too quick.
"We then controlled our race to bring the podium home, and three out of three so far, it feels pretty good."
Lotus' Romain Grosjean, rookie Felipe Nasr in his Sauber, Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo and Sauber's Marcus Ericsson completed the top 10.
McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were 12th and 13th, although the latter is under investigation for a collision with Lotus' Pastor Maldonado which forced the Venezuelan into retirement.
In his first race with Manor, after missing the first two due to issues, Will Stevens was 15th, finishing ahead of team-mate Roberto Merhi.