Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton leaves rivals stunned in China

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It was a result never really in doubt as Lewis Hamilton stormed to a third straight win in 2014 at the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Briton had led Friday, dominated qualifying on Saturday and merely strolled 54 laps of the Shanghai International Circuit that ended with three victory laps as an accidental chequered flag brought an early end to proceedings.

It wasn’t a race for the ages last Sunday but what it has done is install Hamilton as the firmest of favourites to take a second world championship title in 2014.

What has been most impressive about Lewis so far this year has been how he has adapted to the new style of racing required.

In the past few years the need to look after the tyres put the 2008 champion’s aggressive tendencies in focus as he struggled to maximise the potential of either a McLaren or last year’s Mercedes.

This year, however, it is like he has been doing his homework to a greater level and looked at not just how the to improve the car, but himself as a driver.

There is no doubt that the W05 much more suits Hamilton than its predecessor, but Lewis has learnt to be a patient man behind the wheel. This was proven by his pole lap in the wet on Saturday and, despite winning by 18 seconds on Sunday, by the fact he used several percentage points less fuel than those around him in the race.

It was a complete drive from a man finding that form that made him the star he was so quickly in 2007 and champion a year later.

Of course it is a major help for a driver when his car has the advantage over the rest that the Mercedes currently holds. Sebastian Vettel made a good start to move up to second from fourth but never looked close to matching the No. 44 Silver Arrow as Hamilton produced a string of early laps reminiscent of Vettel himself this past few years.

For the Red Bull driver the start was merely a highlight in a race as the world champions didn’t quite live up to the hype.

The German is well off his best and the end isn’t really in sight for his woes which saw him drop back in the race from second on lap one to fifth some 50 seconds off the leader by the end.

To make it worse it’s hard to argue that he is the current lead driver in his own team as Daniel Ricciardo continues to surprise us all.

The Australian was again on song and would have bettered his fourth place if the tyre strategy hadn’t changed during the race.

The big story leaving Shanghai was the first sign of dissension from Vettel towards his new team-mate as Sebastian told the team “tough luck” when asked to allow Ricciardo by.

Though the debate reigns as to whether the eventual move made by Dan on Seb was choreographed or not, the mere fact we are talking about a battle within Red Bull after three years of nothing but Vettel dominance is astonishing.

My driver of the weekend was Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard put on an absolute clinic of how to get the most out of an inferior package as he beat both Red Bull’s to claim his first podium.

What I found most sincere about the Spaniard was how he dedicated that position to previous boss Stefano Domenicali.

With him gone it would have been very easy to cast a much more negative spin on Domenicali given the result came at the first race following his departure, but I think it was a touch of class from a man known to stir the pot.

For Alonso’s joy, however, across the garage the outlook remains bleak. Kimi Raikkonen was again left trailing by Alonso and the frustration is starting to show.

An ultra-rare outburst to journalists questioning his motivation only highlights what a difficult start it has been to Kimi’s second stint at the team. There remains much work to be done in a bid to find a cure and maybe this break before Spain has come at just the right time.

Force India continue to show promise as Nico Hulkenberg for the umpteenth time showed his abilities to finish what was best midfield driver.

Sergio Perez too produced a gutsy drive after another poor qualifying to salvage points which will help continue some momentum from his third place in Bahrain.

Also worthy of a mention was Daniil Kvyat who made it three points finishes in his first four races. The Russian is proving why Red Bull were right to bring him straight up from GP3 and another good result at a track he hadn’t raced on before only piles the pressure on team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne.

For Lotus more signs of hope were dashed by mechanical trouble as Romain Grosjean retired from ninth. The Enstone team are making steps in the right direction, however, and will be one of the teams to watch for upgrades in Spain.

Pastor Maldonado also has to be praised for a trouble-free drive. After the incident in Bahrain and the earlier crash entering the pits in China, to put those events in the past a finish 14th after starting last can only be seen as positive.

For all the positives, however, one team are headed back to Europe with very big concerns indeed.

McLaren have gone from double podium finishers in Australia to the slowest Mercedes team on the grid. Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen must be the most concerned of all after a dramatically sharp decline.

To have both cars fail to score in a trouble-free race is a huge no-no, particularly with Ron Dennis watching on, after hopes of a quick rebound from their troubles in 2013, the Woking-based team are right back where they started.

Finally at the back Marussia and Caterham resume their battle but what will be their biggest concern is the reliability now of these 2014 cars.

Remarkably just four races in to the V6 era, 20 cars finished in Shanghai and for the two slower teams that means their personal battle for tenth is getting harder. The best achieved on Sunday was 17th for Kamui Kobayashi, four places off the current best for either team of 13th.

For Caterham, who are currently behind Marussia, taking advantage of future races like Monaco and Montreal could be crucial.

To end the Chinese Grand Prix review, you can only talk about Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. A third straight win for the first time in his F1 career though amazingly is still four points behind Nico Rosberg in the Drivers Championship.

That final fact is largely irrelevant, however, as Hamilton has asserted his place as the lead driver currently in the team with Rosberg already showing the strain. To say it’s Lewis’ championship to lose maybe a little premature, but it will take a major challenge from anyone to likely stop him.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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