Hamilton wins in China, but Vettel matches him for pace

Mercedes have every reason to be worried about reborn Ferrari despite a strong performance in Shanghai

Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton
Sebastian Vettel (L) faces an FIA hearing on 3 July
(Image credit: Mark Thompson/Getty)

Lewis Hamilton dominated the Chinese Grand Prix to reassert a measure of Mercedes supremacy over Ferrari, but although the record books will show he achieved the triple of pole position, fastest lap and victory, he was under pressure from Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari throughout the race.

"Hamilton won... but Vettel had the measure of him in pace – as he had when beating him at the first round in Melbourne – but was unlucky with pit stops behind the safety car and was held up when stuck behind his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen," says Giles Richards of The Guardian.

The pair traded fastest laps as they led from the front, and there appeared to be very little between the cars. "Ferrari's pace is quickly turning F1 2017 into a classic and the small print of their performance in Shanghai, a circuit where Mercedes traditionally excel, will have the world champions worried heading to Bahrain," says Sky Sports.

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Over the final laps, when the two drivers were able to push their cars to the maximum, the statistics are striking. "Hamilton's outright pace was a smidgen better than Vettel's: a 1:35.378 compared to a 1:35.423. But it was Vettel who had the more consistent pace: while the Ferrari was in the 1:35s 14 times over the last 17 laps, Hamilton could only better 1:36 on ten occasions."

It seems that the German team have a true challenger this season.

"Mercedes find themselves locked in a battle with a Ferrari team whose car appears to be at least as fast, and Hamilton faces a fight with a rival who he truly respects as being close to an equal," says Andrew Benson of the BBC.

The scenario has been a long time coming for F1. "Probably 2010 was the most recent equivalent to what F1 has in 2017 – when Vettel and Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, Alonso in a Ferrari, and Hamilton and Jenson Button in McLarens fought a five-way battle for much of the season," says Benson. "Before then, the breathless McLaren v Ferrari battles of 2007 and 2008 were the closest to what appears to be developing."

But could 2017 turn out to be a three horse race? Teenager Max Verstappen was the third driver on the podium after another sensational drive in his Red Bull.

Having started in 16th place, the Dutchman made up an incredible nine places on the first lap in wet conditions. He "has demonstrated his raw talent before, not least in Brazil last season, but his confidence and audacity and the excitement he generates when behind the wheel are quite inspiring and just what the sport needs", says the Guardian.

However, he will do well to keep pace with the two main contenders. "The 19-year-old's chance will surely come," says Phil Duncan of the Daily Telegraph. "[But] it looks as though it will have to wait for at least another year, for this season's championship is now almost certainly a straight shoot-out between Hamilton and Vettel."

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