Lewis Hamilton completed a clean sweep of sessions in Shanghai taking a comfortable victory at a curtailed Chinese Grand Prix following a late Safety Car.
Mercedes were able to hold off the challenge from Ferrari as Nico Rosberg made it a second one-two of the season for the world champions albeit without really troubling his team-mate throughout.
The late interruption ensured Sebastian Vettel held off an approaching Kimi Raikkonen to take third.
Ferrari clear Williams as Mercedes lead away
At the start it was all about Ferrari getting the jump on Williams through the first sector as Vettel stayed ahead of both the white cars as Raikkonen produced some aggressive moves to move ahead of both Valtteri Bottas before completing the job passing Felipe Massa into turn six.
That freed the Prancing Horse’s to shadow the Mercedes as Hamilton, despite being almost out of position in his grid box, was able to cover off Rosberg on the run to the long first corner.
Daniel Ricciardo had a terrible start dropping from seventh to 17th at one stage and his team-mate didn’t fare much better after contact saw Daniil Kvyat only 13th at the end of the opening lap.
With drivers out of position there was plenty of action in the midfield as Ricciardo and Kvyat looked to move through but also the Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen showing his overtaking prowess with a number of bold moves.
Mercedes cover Ferrari moves
At the front Ferrari kept Mercedes on their toes and forced their hand a little as Vettel tried the undercut to move ahead of Rosberg, however, the team was quick to react and was able to stay ahead as both Hamilton and Nico mirrored the strategy used by the Scuderia.
Because of their better tyre preservation, Ferrari were closing on the Silver Arrows as Hamilton slowed the pace to make his set of soft compound Pirellis last and this drew the anger of Nico Rosberg as the German demanded Hamilton speed up to avoid being caught by Vettel.
Indeed as the call came for Hamilton to push it marked the end of the battle for the win as the Briton produced two brilliant laps just before the final round of stops to pull out a near seven-second margin over his team-mate as Mercedes began to pull away.
In the final stint the focus switched to Raikkonen as the Finn went longer on his second stint to try to catch Sebastian Vettel after the four-time champion went aggressive in a bid to catch Rosberg.
Traffic would be the biggest issue, however as the various midfield battles meant both Ferrari’s were held up at different stages though Kimi at least had the pleasure of lapping former team-mate Fernando Alonso.
Grosjean scores as Maldonado causes own downfall
With the top four places decided it was a quiet race behind as the two Williams ran line astern without entering a battle as Massa beat Bottas, Lotus had a much better race with Romain Grosjean taking seventh, but a solid double points finish was destroyed as Pastor Maldonado made a mistake entering the pits failing to make the left hand turn, later spun and was then hit from behind by Jenson Button as the McLaren’s squabbled over the minor places towards the back.
The Venezuelan was one of four men who failed to make the finish but it was a bad day for Renault as Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen were both forced to retire with engine failures, the latter coming with just three laps to go ensuring the race finished under the Safety Car.
Daniel Ricciardo’s recovery from a bad start saw him in a battle with the two Sauber’s for much of the race and he would end the race splitting the two blue cars as Felipe Nasr scored points for the second time in his first three races in eighth and Marcus Ericsson completing the points scorers in 10th.
Other notables included both McLaren’s finishing as Alonso made a late stint on the soft tyres work to beat Jenson Button who had the incident with Maldonado and the two Manor Marussia’s also making the chequered flag albeit both two laps down.
Ferrari not there yet
At the front, however, and it was a second straight Shanghai win for Lewis Hamilton but there was prove that at a normal race venue, Ferrari can take the fight to Mercedes this year.
While a full head-to-head is not on the cards yet, it will be only a matter of time before we can look forward to seeing Hamilton, who now holds a 13-point lead in the championship go up against Vettel for the title.
Rosberg still out of sorts
As for Nico Rosberg, questions will continue as to if he really can put any sort of challenge to Lewis Hamilton. Though strategically it may have been a valid call, actually asking the team to tell your team-mate to speed up does make you wonder what sort of role the German is playing this season.
The next race is in seven days under the stars in Bahrain, history suggests it should be another circuit where Mercedes have the edge but on the basis of Shanghai, a repeat of last year’s epic battle between Hamilton and Rosberg doesn’t look on the cards.