Mercedes is starting 2019 in fine fashion, possibly better than the team could even have imagined. That’s by netting yet another 1-2 finish at the Chinese Grand Prix, ostensibly the 1000th Grand Prix in history. Lewis Hamilton drove away from the start, piquing teammate and polesitter Valtteri Bottas to the lead at turn one. From then on, the two Mercedes worked quite well together to keep the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel handily behind.
Where everything was popsicles poolside for Mercedes, Ferrari struggled in China with some interesting inter-team battles. At the start it was Charles Leclerc ahead of Vettel, but before even lap 10 Seb was on the radio complaining that he was being held up by Charles. At lap 11, despite both Ferraris being in tire conservation mode, Leclerc was asked to move aside for an incensed Vettel.
Once it became quite clear that Vettel would do no better at catching up the Mercedes ahead, it all started to unravel. Leclerc played the good teammate strategy to try to get Vettel up somewhere near the Mercedes duo at the front. When Vettel pitted the final time for tires the team left Leclerc out so he could harangue Valtteri Bottas a bit to hold him up, and then once Bottas made his way by a few laps later, kept him out even further to allow Vettel the extra boost of DRS assistance on his attempts to catch Bottas.
I can’t put it any better than this tweet from Will Buxton.
Instead of just keeping the drivers running in lock step, Ferrari messed with the natural order of things and instead had to fight heavily to keep Red Bull at bay. Two laps in a row Max Verstappen put a DRS move on Vettel. Two laps in a row Verstappen goes a bit wide on the exit of the corner and Vettel has to get super aggro and push him way out to the grass to stay in control.
First Corner Contretemps - Daniil Kvyat oversteer into Carlos Sainz and bounced into Lando Norris, taking out both McLarens in one fell swoop. Kvyat received a drive through penalty for the contact.
Lewis Hamilton has led 4000 laps in his career now, a feat only previously achieved by Michael Schumacher.
Mercedes ran an absolutely immaculate double pit stop, calling both drivers in and stacking them up. By the time Hamilton’s car had been serviced, it was leaving literally at the same second Bottas was coming in.
There were a few good bits to this race, and it’s definitely incredible to see Lewis Hamilton be absolute perfect again this weekend, winning his sixth Chinese Grand Prix and 75th Grand Prix victory of his career. Can anyone bring the fight to Mercedes later this season? That team is looking pretty bulletproof.