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Lewis Hamilton flawless, Ferrari in a flap – Five things we learned from Shanghai

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Lewis Hamilton leads the championship for the first time this season following his victory at the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Mercedes star moved clear of teammate Valtteri Bottas with a flawless drive in Shanghai.

Here, we take a look at five things we learned from Formula One’s 1,000th race.

Ferrari's Team Orders

Despite charging to an impressive sixth win in front of his adoring Chinese fans, Hamilton’s heroics were somewhat overshadowed by Ferrari’s decision to use team orders.

Sebastian Vettel cut a forlorn figure in the team’s hospitality suite, defending his position as the team’s number one. When contending for a title, Ferrari have always favoured one driver.

Rubens Barrichello was Michael Schumacher’s wing man, Felipe Massa played second fiddle to Fernando Alonso, and most recently, Kimi Raikkonen was Vettel’s number two.

As seen in Shanghai, Ferrari are affording Vettel preferential treatment over Charles Leclerc.

Can they be blamed? Vettel has won 52 races and four titles. Leclerc, although a star of the future, has never won a single Grand Prix. Yet, unlike in their recent history, Ferrari have two drivers that appear evenly-matched. There may be races, too, such as Bahrain, where Leclerc holds a speed advantage.

What do Ferrari do then? It would be counter-intuitive to slow down their fastest man. Vettel, meanwhile, is not just having to contend with Hamilton’s brilliance and his speedy Mercedes – a combination which has seen him fluff his lines on numerous occasions – the German is now under pressure from Leclerc. Look at the mistakes he made when the Monegasque was told to give way.

AUTO-PRIX-CHN-F1

Would the same have happened on the rare occasions Raikkonen was ushered aside for Vettel? No. It is proving a troubling distraction for Ferrari and one they could rather do without.

When, not if, for Lewis Hamilton

At Mercedes, meanwhile, they have no such concerns.

Hamilton is the clear number one because he delivers. The Chinese Grand Prix was a case in point.

Hamilton was slower than Bottas all weekend, but when it came to the crunch, he blasted past the Finn at the start and controlled the race. Bottas is a fine peddler, yet he cannot beat Hamilton over 21 rounds.

The British driver is already 31 points clear of Vettel and 32 points ahead of Leclerc. Game, set, match and championship point, Hamilton? Not quite, but the super-smart money is on him to seal his sixth title.

F1 Grand Prix of China

Too Soon for Gasly

Red Bull were left in limbo when Daniel Ricciardo turned his back on them last summer. Pierre Gasly may have been the obvious driver already in the Red Bull stable to replace the Australian, but it is a promotion which looks to have arrived too soon.

He was a full second slower than Max Verstappen in qualifying before he finished over a minute down on his teammate in the race.

Red Bull’s management are famously ruthless, and Gasly, 23, will need to raise his game to ensure he is not cast aside.

Winless Ric

How times have changed for Ricciardo. Last year, he won in China. Now, racing for Renault, he said he was pleased to make it to the finish, crossing the line in seventh and earning his first points of the season.

F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain

Ricciardo may be paid handsomely by the French team, receiving an annual pay cheque thought to be north of £20million, but unless Renault dramatically improve, there is every reason to suggest Ricciardo may never win again.

No Show for 1,000

F1’s 1,000th race passed off without great fanfare. Something of a crying shame.

A handful of ex-drivers posed alongside the current crop, and team principals, in a poorly-arranged photo before the start of yesterday’s race.

Damon Hill completed a few laps in his father and two-time world champion Graham’s Lotus 49B. Yet, it felt like an opportunity missed.

Why not parade all the living world champions before the race in their title-winning cars?

The relatively soulless Shanghai International Circuit was an underwhelming venue, too. Hopefully, we’ll see a better show for the 2,000th running in some 45 years’ time.

Topics:
Pierre Gasly
Charles Leclerc
Renault
Sebastian Vettel
Daniel Ricciardo
Lewis Hamilton
Ferrari
Mercedes
Red Bull
Formula 1

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