Hamilton makes history with Race 1000 victory in Shanghai

1st place Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10.
© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton claimed a place in history with victory in the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix, the 1,000th race of the Formula 1 world championship since its inception in 1950.

It's Hamilton's sixth win in Shanghai, and his 75th career victory in F1. He was able to cruise to the finish by more than six seconds ahead of his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas, who had lost pole position with a slow start to the race and never given an opportunity to recover.

Sebastian Vettel also lost a place at the start, but Ferrari strategy put him back ahead of Charles Leclerc and the younger driver subsequently lost out on fourth place to Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

The grid before the start of the race.

Conditions were cool, overcast and windy as the cars headed to the starting grid on Sunday afternoon. The top ten headed to the grid in two-by-two team formation with Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading their respective counterparts from Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault and Haas. However, Max Verstappen nearly messed things up with a spin on the formation lap, while Williams' Robert Kubica followed suit toward the back as the drivers tried to heat up their tyres in time for the start.

When the lights did go out, Hamilton got the jump on the pole sitter to take the lead while behind them Charles Leclerc similarly had the upper hand to pick up third place from Sebastian Vettel ahead of Verstappen, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo, with Racing Point's Sergio Perez squirting past Nico Hulkenberg and both Haas cars for eighth place from 12th on the grid.

While it was a clean start at the front, there was trouble further back as Daniil Kvyat's Toro Rosso understeered into both McLarens at turn 6, triggering a brief safety car while track workers picked up the debris. Everyone involved was able to continue although both McLarens had to pit for repairs, although Lando Norris was briefed about the floor damage to his MCL34 sustained when the contact briefly sent him airborne. Kvyat joined them at the back after being handed a drive-thru penalty for causing the collision, and accumulated damage to the car eventually forced him to retire from the race on lap 44.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10 leads the race.

When racing resumed, Hamilton was quickly able to pull out of DRS range at the front. Vettel was closer to his own team mate after the Monegasque locked up at the hairpin on lap 7, but he was still unable to use the DRS boost to challenge the slower Leclerc for third place. Finally the Ferrari pit wall stepped in with the clear instruction "Let Sebastian by", which the youngster did although not without some protestation. Leclerc then made his point by staying glued to the back of Vettel, who was now suffering some big lock-ups of his own as he pushed hard to cut the growing gap to the Silver Arrows cars at the front.

Alfa Romeo - the winning team in the very first F1 Grand Prix all those years ago - was the first to carry out a scheduled pit stop, with Antonio Giovinazzi coming on on lap 8 to switch his soft compound for mediums. Haas were next to act, Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen both opting to take the hard compound in a clear indication that they were planning on running the rest of the race without further stops. When Renault responded, a slow stop for Hulkenberg put him back out on track right in the middle of the Haas pair down in 16th, but it became a moot point when the R.S.19 returned to pit lane on lap 17 with an issue that forced Hulkenberg into retirement.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB15 makes a pit stop.

Now with a five second margin at the front, Hamilton's lead meant that he passed another F1 milestone by becoming only the second driver (after Michael Schumacher) to have led more than 4,000 laps in a Grand Prix. He felt no need to react to Verstappen pitting on lap 17, but Ferrari pulled Vettel in next time by and just succeeded in getting the four-time champion back out on track ahead only for Verstappen to put everything into a late lunge at turn 14 after Vettel was momentarily held up by Norris. It was a white-knuckle ride for both men around the hairpin, but there was no contact and Vettel just held on to the position.

Ricciardo pitted the sole remaining Renault on lap 19, and the Mercedes were finally summoned into action for Bottas on lap 22. Fitted with hard compound tyres, the Finn returned to the track just ahead of Vettel. Hamilton pitted from the lead next time by, with Leclerc completing the sequence on lap 23 and dropping behind Verstappen by the time he came back out - which only added to a growing sense of frustration that his own race strategy had been of secondary consideration as far as the team were concerned.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF90.

Hamilton was also unhappy with how the pit stops had played out, which had wiped out his early lead with the result that Bottas now loomed large in his rear view mirrors. As the race neared the halfway point, Vettel was some eight seconds back followed by Verstappen, Leclerc, Gasly, Ricciardo, Perez and Grosjean, with Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen up to tenth place after his pit stop. Raikkonen subsequently made a successful move on Grosjean at turn 14 on lap 30 and was able to repel the Frenchman's counter-attack in turn 1 to maintain the newly acquired ninth place.

With the race going through a static phase, the big question was whether everyone would successfully make it to the finish without a second change of tyre, with the Ferrari pit wall mooting 'Plan B' for Leclerc over the team radio even though he was the fastest man on track. The hint forced Red Bull to take preventative action on lap 35 by pitting Verstappen for fresh mediums, and that in turn prompted Ferrari into action - albeit with Vettel in for mediums on lap 36 rather than Leclerc. This time Vettel was well ahead of the Red Bull when he came back out, and there was no repeat of their earlier wheel-to-wheel encounter.

The dominoes continued to fall with Mercedes bringing both Hamilton and Bottas in on lap 37. A perfectly executed double stacking manoeuvre saw Hamilton emerge in the lead ahead of yet-to-pit Leclerc, Bottas tucking in behind the Ferrari and comfortably ahead of Vettel, Verstappen, Gasly and Ricciardo. Any hopes that Leclerc's 'Plan B' might actually be to stay out were soon dashed when he fell three seconds off the pace of those around him, and his main contribution was to hold up Bottas for a spell before the inevitable pass for position on lap 39. Two laps later he was caught and passed by his team mate, after which he underwent a sluggish pit stop which dropped him back to fifth well behind Verstappen.

With the teams having rolled their strategic dice for the day, all that was left was to bring the cars home without further incident. Despite easing off to protect the engine, Hamilton's lead at the line over Bottas had grown to six and a half seconds.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10. 14.04.2019.

Vettel picked up his first podium of the season ahead of Verstappen, with Leclerc failing to make significant in-roads into the Dutch driver's advantage in the closing laps. Gasly followed in sixth place with a late switch to soft tyres in a successful pursuit of the point for fastest lap, while Ricciardo finally picked up his first points for new team Renault with a solid seventh place ahead of Perez and Raikkonen.

Arguably the best drive of the afternoon was that of Alexander Albon, who has started the race from pit lane in a rebuilt Toro Rosso after his heavy accident in FP3 forced him to miss qualifying altogether. To pick up a point at the end of such a torrid time was rather a rather brilliant achievement. It meant that neither Haas of Grosjean and Magnussen made it into the top ten.

Also missing out in Shanghai was Racing Point's Lance Stroll in 12th, with Sainz beating Giovinazzi to 13th. Once again, the two Williams cars of George Russell and Robert Kubica brought up the rear at the chequered flag, with Norris retiring in the closing laps to join Kvyat and Hulkenberg on the sidelines.

1st place Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10 with 2nd place Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W10 and 3rd place Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF90.

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