April 20th, 2014 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Lewis Hamilton won the Chinese Grand Prix from pole position, his third win in a row this season. Nico Rosberg finished second to underline the dominance of Mercedes, while Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finished third for his first podium of the 2014 season.
When the lights went out and the race got underway, Hamilton made a strong start and led into the first corner. From there until the end, he controlled the race from the front and was never challenged for the lead. Hamilton made only one noticeable error in the entire race, locking up his front tyres and running off the track a bit shortly before changing his tyres. His lead was so great, however, that the incident had absolutely no effect on his position.
In the second Mercedes, Nico Rosberg had a much more difficult afternoon. On the warm-up lap before the start, his team informed him that they had no telemetry from the car and therefore he would effectively be managing his own race from the car instead of having the engineers monitor everything from the pit garage.
As a consequence of the lack of information available to his engineers, Rosberg made a poor start, losing several places on the opening lap. He ended up running seventh in the opening laps, far behind where he would have liked to be. But the superiority of the Mercedes car soon became evident as Rosberg made his way through the field. He was fifth before the first round of pit stops, fourth after those stops were over, and by the second round of pit stops was third, just behind the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.
Rosberg passed Alonso during their second round of pit stops and from there on had a comfortable run to the end of the race in second place, albeit 18 seconds behind race winner Lewis Hamilton. Despite Hamilton having won three races to Rosberg's one, Rosberg is still leading the World Championship, but his lead has now been reduced to just four points heading into the European season.
Ferrari have had a very tough start to the 2014 season, but the first signs of progress were evident in the Chinese Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso made a strong start from fifth on the grid to run third in the opening laps of the race, fighting with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel for position. After the first round of pit stops, Alonso found himself ahead of Vettel, and it soon became clear that the Red Bulls were not quite able to challenge the Ferrari for pace.
Although Daniel Ricciardo started to close up on Alonso in the closing stages of the Grand Prix, Alonso was able to respond and maintain a small gap to the Australian driver. Alonso held on to third place to take a welcome first podium of the season for the Ferrari team.
For the second race in succession, Daniel Ricciardo showed up his more illustrious team-mate. Vettel made the better start, beating Ricciardo into the first corner, but later in the race it was clear that Ricciardo was able to find more pace in the car. Purely on performance, Ricciardo finished fourth, 24 seconds ahead of the World Champion, a very impressive performance in just his fourth race for Red Bull.
Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth for Force India, continuing his strong start to the season. He was followed in seventh by the Williams of Valtteri Bottas, who survived contact with Rosberg's Mercedes in turn one on the opening lap. Kimi Raikkonen finished eighth, not being able to find quite as much pace in his Ferrari as Alonso did ahead. Sergio Perez finished ninth in the second Force India and Daniil Kvyat completed the top ten for Toro Rosso.
It was a disastrous day for McLaren. After struggling in qualifying on Saturday, neither Jenson Button nor Kevin Magnussen was able to score points in the race, struggling for pace throughout despite having the dominant Mercedes power unit. Button finished 11th with Magnussen 13th, separated by the second Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne.
Pastor Maldonado recorded his first finish of the season, bringing his Lotus home in 14th position. While it's not the result he might have hoped for after showing strong pace in Saturday morning practice, completing a race distance will be very useful in terms of gathering information and understanding the car. In the other Lotus, Romain Grosjean retired with a gearbox problem.
Felipe Massa had a promising start to the race, surging off the line to challenge the cars ahead. But his opening lap was compromised by contact with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso leading down to the first corner. Neither car seemed to be damaged and both continued. But Massa's race was destroyed by a very slow pit stop in which it seemed that the Williams mechanics had his rear tyres the wrong way round - the right was on the left and the left on the right.
Once Massa's pit stop ended, he was so far down the field that it was not realistic to expect him to finish in the points.
Esteban Gutierrez was 16th for Sauber, as the Swiss outfit's slow season continued. Adrian Sutil retired quite early in the race, completing just 5 laps before an engine related issue brought his afternoon to a premature halt.
In the battle of the "new" teams, Kamui Kobayashi took top honours for Caterham, finishing 17th, ahead of the Marussia pair of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton. Marcus Ericsson was the final finisher in 20th place for Caterham.