Lewis Hamilton in complete control at Chinese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his first victory of the new season. Picture: Getty.
Lewis Hamilton celebrates his first victory of the new season. Picture: Getty.
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A dominant Lewis Hamilton delivered a crushing victory at the Chinese Grand Prix to join title rival Sebastian Vettel at the summit of the Formula One championship.

Hamilton claimed his fifth victory in Shanghai with a lights-to-flag win, while Vettel recovered from fifth to finish in second place.

Max Verstappen, who started 16th, completed the podium following a scintillating display in the early wet-dry conditions before fending off a challenge from his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in the closing stages.

“It is going to be one of the closest if not the closest [title races] I have experienced,” said Hamilton who is level on points with Vettel.

“I am looking forward to this fight, not only with Sebastian, but the other guys as well who are in amongst it. Ferrari have done a fantastic job. We were both pushing and those last 20 laps we were really exchanging times. He [Vettel] was closing the gap but I managed to stay ahead.”

Vettel added: “I tried to chase Lewis down as much as possible but I had the feeling every time I put a lap in he was able to respond. We were a good match. It could have been a different race, but it was a good recovery.”

The poor weather which wreaked havoc with Friday’s practice schedule returned overnight. But despite a damp track the grand prix went ahead as scheduled.

For the second race in succession, Hamilton made no mistake from pole position as he nailed the 380-yard dash down to turn one to retain the lead with Vettel following in behind.

The safety car came out when Antonio Giovinazzi lost control of his Sauber on a damp patch of the track and crashed into the pit wall. That gave Hamilton the opportunity to take on the dry tyres and it worked out perfectly for the Briton as he emerged from the pit lane still in the lead.

When the safety car pitted at the end of lap seven, Hamilton led from Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Verstappen, who had made up an astonishing 11 places on the opening lap, with Vettel down in fifth.

Hamilton struggled to get his new rubber up to temperature and looked to be under threat from Verstappen, who had passed Raikkonen at the re-start before diving underneath his Red Bull team-mate Ricciardo at turn six, to move into second. But as the laps ticked by, Hamilton extended his lead and by the end of lap 16 he was three seconds clear of the 19-year-old Dutchman.

Behind him, Vettel was on the move, too. Losing grip on his ageing tyres, Verstappen made a mistake at the penultimate turn, allowing Vettel to cruise through.

By now Hamilton was 12 seconds up the road. The leaders all pitted around the half-distance mark, but Vettel was unable to do anything about Hamilton as the Briton took the chequered flag a six seconds clear of his title rival.