Three-time World champion Lewis Hamilton led from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix for the fifth time here Sunday, and register his first victory of the new Formula One season.
The Mercedes emerged unscathed from a chaotic wet start, fended off challenges from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and four-time World champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, to take the chequered flag six seconds clear.
Vettel, who won the season-opener in Melbourne a fortnight ago, finished second while the 19-year-old Verstappen clinched the other podium spot.
Hamilton said afterwards he expected the F1 championship to be the most competitive it had been in years.
“I think it’s going to be one of the closest ones, if not the closest I’ve personally ever experienced and I’m looking forward to this fight, not only with Sebastian but the other guys as well who are still going be in amongst it,” said the 32-year-old, whose paternal grandparents hail from the Caribbean island of Grenada.
He added: “I am fighting a four-time world champion who is at his best and is phenomenally quick. And Ferrari are the best they have been in a decade.
“The ultimate fighter always wants to go up against the best battle that you can have because when you come out on top it is so much more satisfying. I love this fight that we are having.”
Hamilton, who was second in Melbourne, sits on 43 points — tied with Vettel — while Verstappen lies third on 25 points with Hamilton’s teammate Valterri Bottas two points behind in fourth.