Formula 1 Media Chief Luca Colajanni reflects on the Mercedes steamroller at the Chinese Grand Prix while their archrivals Ferrari once again fumbled around in their wake.
Back on 30 March 2014, Lewis Hamilton won the 900th Grand Prix in the history of the sport, the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix. Today, he picked up his 75th race win in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, in the one-thousandth race, the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix, held at the Shanghai International Circuit.
The win never appeared in any doubt for the reigning world champion, once he took the lead from the dirty side of the front row of the grid. He got the better of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas as soon as the lights went out, leading into the first corner, never to be headed on his way to taking the chequered flag, waved on this special occasion by four times world champion Alain Prost.
The Englishman controlled the pace as he pleased, especially in the first and decisive stint. Having claimed pole, Bottas was hoping to repeat his Melbourne victory, but he had to settle for second place in the race and also in the championship, which Hamilton now leads on 68 points, six more than the Finn.
The result meant that Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport could celebrate its third consecutive one-two finish. It’s the first time since 1992 that a team has got its season off to such a strong start. Back then it was the Renault-powered Williams of Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese who were the dominant force, with the Englishman leading his Italian team-mate.
Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow had both its cars on the second row of the grid, but it had more of a job looking over its shoulder and fending off the attentions of Max Verstappen and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing than it did in looking to challenge the Mercedes ahead of them.
For the Maranello duo, it was also the driver on the theoretically slower side of the grid who got the better getaway. However, after a few laps, the team asked Charles Leclerc to let Sebastian Vettel by, to see he could make a better go of chasing down the leaders.
The gamble didn’t pay off so, even in the second stint, Leclerc was the team player, significantly extending his stint, to try and help Vettel close on Bottas. This didn’t work either and Leclerc found himself behind Verstappen, while Vettel at least made his first appearance of the season on the podium, although he just missed out in also picking up the point for fastest race lap.
When, with four laps remaining, Pierre Gasly, then lying sixth and comfortably ahead of the seventh-placed driver, made a third and unscheduled pit stop, it was clear that Red Bull had decided to fit him with a set of Soft tyres and send him off to chase after the point for the fastest race lap.
It was the perfect example of the spirit in which this new initiative, announced at the start of the season, had been introduced. The Frenchman managed it through the very last corners of the very last lap, thus adding a little bit more suspense to a race result which was pretty much decided by then.
After two consecutive retirements, Daniel Ricciardo managed to score his first points for the Renault F1 Team, at the end of a race in which he was almost always in the seventh place from which he had started.
His team-mate Nico Hulkenberg had a less profitable day, having to retire as early as lap 16. The top ten was rounded off by three drivers who had not started from that part of the grid and therefore had a free choice of tyre for the start.
Thanks to a great start, Sergio Perez for SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team, moved up from twelfth to eighth and pretty stayed there all the way to the flag. Kimi Raikkonen had a slightly harder time for Alfa Romeo Racing, pulling off a series of nice passing moves and running a one-stop strategy, something of a classic for the Finn, who is a master of tyre management.
It netted him a strong ninth place, his third consecutive points finish, making him the only driver to do so from outside the top three teams.
Alexander Albon was truly impressive, working his way up to tenth place in the Toro Rosso Honda, having started from pit lane, following his FP3 accident which meant he took no part in qualifying.
The British-Thai driver well deserved the honour of being named “Driver of the Day” by the fans who voted through formula1.com and the official app.
The American squad, which had got Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen into the top ten on the grid, ended up with no points for the second consecutive race, while the English team suffered a knockback to its previous signs of progress, both in terms of performance level and results.
This was partly due to both its drivers, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz being involved in the same incident on the opening lap which was not of their making.
Having celebrated its thousandth event, Formula 1 now sets off towards another thousand at the newest track on the championship calendar, the city race in Baku which hosts the 2019 Azerbaijan from 27 to 29 April.