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Hamilton leads Mercedes one-two in China in 1,000th F1 race

Hamilton leads Mercedes one-two in China in 1,000th F1 race
By Eurosport

16/04/2019 at 07:43Updated 16/04/2019 at 08:43

Lewis Hamilton won the 1,000th race in Formula 1 history as he led a Mercedes one-two in China to take the championship lead from Valtteri Bottas.

Championship leader before the race, Bottas was quickly passed by Hamilton just after the lights, and the two Mercedes raced into a healthy lead in the first 10 laps.

That lead forced Ferrari to order youngster Charles Leclerc to move aside for Sebastian Vettel, who had insisted to his side that his was the faster car, with the Frenchman ultimately relenting - a move that caused Leclerc to radio his unhappiness back to his team.

Hamilton became just the second man to race 4,000 laps in first place, an achievement first completed by Michael Schumacher.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen moved into fifth as the Ferraris struggled with one another, with the 21-year-old almost passing Vettel in the same manner as last year’s crash at turn 1, before being forced back.

There was disquiet midway through the race when Bottas, allowed to pit first, undercut his rival. Hamilton was reminded that he possessed younger tires for the end of the race, but it raised the spectre of more team orders to come.

With 15 laps remaining, Verstappen started to press both Leclerc and Vettel as a stranded Leclerc looked in need of a new set of tires. On lap 43, Vettel used DRS to go past his team-mate, allowing Ferrari to give the Frenchman a fresh batch of mediums, setting him up for a race against Verstappen for fourth. The Dutchman emerged victorious, with Vettel taking third.

The 25 points move Hamilton back into the lead after three races completed, on 68 points, and he now has 75 career wins. But the sign of the threat the reigning champion feels was betrayed by his demand to know who had the fastest lap of the race. He was clearly not interested in giving up even a point up to his rivals.

DRIVER OF THE DAY

Max Verstappen drove the most impressive race of the top five. He was aggressive, just as he always is, but this time when he attacked Vettel on a tight turn, he didn’t simply threaten to drive straight into him. It didn’t work, as he was ultimately put back in his box, but he was able to take fourth place and actually win some points this time around. He could be more than just a talented nuisance this season.

TALKING POINT

Can Charles Leclerc feel aggrieved? He was perhaps understandably told to roll over by Vettel at the time, with the senior driver given the chance to prove his claim that he was faster. However, it proved not to be the case, and he was then sacrificed late in the race to make sure that Vettel was able to take third place ahead of Verstappen, meaning Leclerc dropped into fifth with no hope of moving back up the pack. Vettel has earned his place as priority driver, but he did not make his case for it today.

TOP TEN

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Pierre Gasly (Red Bull), Daniel Ricciardo (Renault), Sergio Perez (Racing Point), Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo), Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso).

KEY MOMENTS

1/56 - Bottas and Hamilton get away well but Hamilton is quickly into the lead, Leclerc moves inside of Vettel at the first corner... The rest of the pack stay in line until Kvyat slams into Norris at the back, and that could be the race over for them both as they limp to the pitstop.

4/56 - Vettel is demanding his path past Leclerc, telling the team that he is faster than his team-mate, and Ferrari tell him to hold off for a couple of laps.

11/56 - Leclerc moves aside. Can Vettel reel in Bottas now? There's a three-second gap.

20//56 - Verstappen looks likely to come out ahead of Leclerc after the pitstop, but Verstappen enables DRS to pass Vettel on the inside, before the German retaliates with another move to force him wide, and he's back in third. Verstappen puts in the best lap of the race so far as he hared down the straight before that move.

43/56 - Leclerc comes in after he is passed by a DRS-assisted Vettel, with a fresh set of mediums. Verstappen goes ahead.

56/56 - . Gasly whips off the fastest lap in the final lap of the race. With the road clear ahead of him, he spent the last few rounds of the track attempting to grind out a bonus point, and he succeeds at the death.

KEY STAT

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