Lewis Hamilton delivers crushing performance to win Chinese GP

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Lewis Hamilton delivered a crushing performance to win in China as Ferrari used team orders to help Sebastian Vettel finish on the podium.

Valtteri Bottas followed team-mate Hamilton home for Mercedes to secure their third one-two finish in as many grands prix.

But Hamilton’s superb lights-to-flag victory was overshadowed by the intra-team politics which threatens to destabilise Ferrari’s season.

Hamilton roared off the start line in Shanghai to dash past pole-sitter Bottas to the opening bend.

From there, he ruled the race to secure his second win in succession and assume the championship lead for the first time this season. He is six points clear of Bottas.

Vettel crossed the line third, with Max Verstappen fourth for Red Bull, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc fifth.

The young Ferrari driver will have every right to feel frustrated.

Heading into Formula One’s 1,000th race, the question was whether Vettel would remain as Ferrari’s number one following Leclerc’s strong display last time out in Bahrain.

On lap 11, Ferrari delivered their answer.

Leclerc had got ahead of Vettel at the first turn, but with Vettel less than a second behind the young Monegasque, and claiming he would be able to match leader Hamilton’s times, Ferrari instructed Leclerc to move out of his team-mate’s way.

Unlike in previous regimes at Ferrari, Leclerc made his feelings clear. “But I’m pulling away [from Vettel],” he protested, before reluctantly moving aside.

Vettel had clear air to catch the Mercedes duo, but failed to make any impression on the leaders.

Indeed, Leclerc remained on the rear wing of his four-time world champion team-mate with Verstappen closing in on both red cars.

“I am losing quite a lot of time,” said Leclerc. “I don’t know if you want to know or not.”

Vettel was given the hurry-up message. Verstappen was then the first of the leading five to stop for fresh rubber.

For the second time, Ferrari reacted by favouring Vettel. He was called in on the following lap for new tyres, and emerged just ahead of the Red Bull car.

The gung-ho Verstappen then launched a move down the inside of Vettel at the penultimate corner – the scene of their collision here last year – but Vettel got the better exit and just about kept Verstappen at bay.

All the while, Leclerc was losing valuable speed on ageing tyres. He pitted four laps later than his team-mate, but by this time he was in no-man’s land, and he rejoined the circuit an eye-watering 11 seconds behind Vettel and Verstappen in fifth.

Leclerc was promoted to second when the leaders stopped again, and Ferrari may have hoped that he would get to the end. Yet after a brave, but fruitless defence against Bottas, before Vettel sailed by, Ferrari pulled him in with 14 laps to run.

Out front, a peerless Hamilton was never challenged, and on a weekend dominated by numbers, the five-time champion became the second driver in history after Michael Schumacher to lead 4,000 laps.

It was his sixth win here and 75th in all. Vettel failed to trouble Bottas, finishing seven seconds behind the Finn.

Three races in, Hamilton and Mercedes remain the class of the field.

Elsewhere, British teenager Lando Norris retired after a dramatic first-lap collision. Norris was an unwitting bystander as Daniil Kvyat sent him airborne, and temporarily onto two wheels, after he first barged into Carlos Sainz’s McLaren.

The Russian was penalised with a drive-through penalty. Norris stopped for repairs, and limped on, but was unable to make it to the chequered flag.

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Valtteri Bottas takes Shanghai pole in 1000th F1 race

Philip Duncan 13/04/2019
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Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

Lewis Hamilton was beaten to pole position for Formula One’s 1,000th race by Valtteri Bottas.

In a nail-biting session, Bottas saw off the five-time world champion by just 0.023 seconds at the Shanghai International Circuit.

The form guide indicated that Ferrari might be the team to beat there, but after they were off the pace at the last round in Bahrain, Mercedes returned to their all-conquering best.

Sebastian Vettel was a third of a second down on Bottas’ Silver Arrows, with team-mate Charles Leclerc fourth. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished fifth.

The Dutchman was furious after he failed to cross the line in time to post a final lap.

“It has been a good weekend so far,” said Bottas, who leads Hamilton in the championship by just one point. “I struggled to get the perfect lap in, but it was good enough.”

Hamilton, a five-time winner in China, said: “I didn’t give up and kept pushing right to the end.

“Valtteri has been stellar all weekend. I have struggled. There is time left on the table, but I will try and get it back tomorrow.”

Lando Norris fell at the second hurdle of qualifying for the first time in his short career.

The 19-year-old collected his inaugural points with a fine drive to sixth in Bahrain a fortnight ago, but faces a fight for another top-10 finish, finishing only 15th.

Norris was half-a-second slower than Carlos Sainz in the sister McLaren. The Spaniard will start just one spot higher than Norris on a disappointing afternoon for the British team.

George Russell described his lap as awful, but the English novice still managed to put his under-performing Williams ahead of his team-mate Robert Kubica on the grid.

Russell, who lines up in 17th, has now out-qualified the Pole, back in the sport eight years after his horror rally crash, at all three rounds.

The Williams cars will not be on the final row for tomorrow’s race after London-born Alexander Albon and Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi played no part in qualifying.

Albon, who races under the Thai flag, wrote off his Toro Rosso following a 130mph shunt on the exit of the final corner in practice on Saturday morning.

Albon, 23, walked away unscathed and was given the all-clear by trackside medics, but his team were unable to get his car ready in time. Giovinazzi meanwhile was restricted to the garage with a mechanical issue.

Provided by Press Association 

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Bernie Ecclestone lambasts Formula One for failing to move 1,000th Grand Prix to Silverstone

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Bernie Ecclestone was F1 supremo for 40 years.

Bernie Ecclestone has called Formula One‘s decision not to stage the 1,000th race at Silverstone a “failure”.

On the eve of Sunday’s landmark grand prix in Shanghai, Ecclestone also claimed Lewis Hamilton is the ‘best and worst’ thing to happen to F1, said Sebastian Vettel will retire from the sport if he loses his number one status at Ferrari, and urged Britain to hire Vladimir Putin to lead its Brexit negotiations.

Liberty Media, the American owners which put an end to Ecclestone’s 40-year reign when they took over the sport two years ago, wanted Silverstone to host Sunday’s race.

But the Northamptonshire circuit rebuffed their approach, fearing a move from its traditional July slot would scupper ticket sales.

“Is that a failure on Formula One and Silverstone? Absolutely,” Ecclestone, 88, told the Press Association.

“If I was running the sport, I would have got Silverstone to change their date. That’s where the first world championship race was staged, so that’s where the 1,000th race should be held.

“Silverstone would have said they were going to lose money. I would have told them I’d make up for their loss.

“People who come in and are fresh don’t have any feeling about where it all started. It doesn’t mean anything to them.”

Ecclestone, the sport’s chairman emeritus, has not been approached by Liberty to play a role in this weekend’s celebrations. He has been to more than 800 races, a figure he says is greater than any person alive.

Ecclestone wanted to be in China, but food poisoning curtailed his travel plans. Instead, he will watch the race on television from his Knightsbridge penthouse.

Hamilton trails Valtteri Bottas by one point as he contends for his sixth title. But will the Briton eclipse Michael Schumacher’s record of seven?

“There is no reason why he shouldn’t,” added Ecclestone. “Lewis is super and there is no doubt about that. Alongside his fashion business, it is almost as if he now treats Formula One as a hobby.

“He is the only real character we have got in the sport, and it is a pity there are not two or three drivers like him.”

Ecclestone continued: “Lewis is the best and worst thing to happen to Formula One.

“The best, because he is Formula One. The worst, because he takes so much of the attention for himself and that is not his fault.

“I wouldn’t like to think anyone is bigger than Formula One but he is certainly bigger than anyone else, even any of the teams.

“We have a Formula One superstar in England, but do we appreciate him? Probably not.”

Choosing not to align with his countryman, Ecclestone, however, is backing Vettel to win on Sunday. He is the driver whom he would play backgammon with. He also celebrated New Year alongside the German and his family in Switzerland.

Yet, the Ferrari star heads into Sunday’s race as a man under pressure. He spun for a fourth time in 10 appearances at the Bahrain Grand Prix a fortnight ago, while it is approaching eight months since he last won a race.

Ecclestone believes Vettel would walk away from F1 if he were usurped by Charles Leclerc as Ferrari No1, while he claims Hamilton is "the best and worst thing" about F1.

Ecclestone believes Vettel would walk away from F1 if he were usurped by Charles Leclerc as Ferrari No1, while he claims Hamilton is “the best and worst thing” about F1.

Vettel is also having to contend with the sport’s emerging talent Charles Leclerc, the young Monegasque who is threatening to dismantle his status as Ferrari’s main man.

“Sebastian expected to be the number one, and get that support from Ferrari,” added Ecclestone. “But maybe he is now thinking that Charles is going to be the top driver, and that he will have to support him. He won’t move over. He won’t let that happen.”

But what if the decision is taken out of his hands? “Sebastian would stop, and I don’t think it would take an awful lot for that to happen,” said Ecclestone.

“If something upset him enough he would leave. He is happy with his family, close with his two girls, and his wife, so the last thing he would want to do is upset them for Formula One.”

During his four-decade rule, Ecclestone, unlike his American successor Chase Carey, ensured he created enough controversy to keep the sport in the spotlight. Away from the race track, it is a mantra he is sticking to.

“What we really need to do is hire Vladimir Putin for three months and have him here looking after us,” said Ecclestone when asked about Brexit. “He wouldn’t have suffered all of this nonsense.

“I voted to leave. Theresa May was the wrong person to negotiate the deal. She is a politician. It needed a used-car dealer, and somebody to go over to Brussels and lay it all on the line.”

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