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Hamilton wins China F1, Ricciardo fourth

dpa logodpa 9/04/2017 Martin Moravec

Lewis Hamilton has won the Shanghai Formula One race ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen with Australian Daniel Ricciardo in fourth.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won the Chinese grand prix on Sunday to claim his first Formula One victory of the season.

Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen won the battle of the chasing pack to complete the podium, ahead of Australian Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo who finished fourth.

Hamilton converted from pole position as he was unaffected by both virtual and real safety car phases in the early running of the 56-lap race around the Shanghai International circuit.

Ferrari's Vettel held onto his second position, 6.250 seconds behind, without having threatened the win.

Verstappen's third position completed a remarkable run from 16th in his Red Bull after a software problem hampered his qualifying.

Hamilton and Vettel are now tied for the drivers' championship lead, 43 points apiece, after a reverse of the result from the opening Australian GP. Mercedes lead Ferrari in the constructors' standings 66-65.

"It's going to be one of the closest (title fight), if not the closest one I've experienced," Hamilton said on the podium. "Ferrari have done a great job and it is great that we are both pushing."

Valtteri Bottas finished sixth in the other Mercedes, having started third after an error under the safety car, while Vettel's teammate Kimi Raikkonen was fifth.

The Shanghai track was wet before the start of the race but drying out quickly it gave teams ample scope to consider strategy, even if a normal start was possible.

Hamilton got away cleanly and Vettel, who went unpunished for starting slightly out of position on the grid, had to fend off Bottas.

Ricciardo passed Raikkonen but further down the field Lance Stroll beached his Williams after colliding with Sergio Perez's Force India, causing a virtual safety car. Vettel immediately headed to the pits for what proved to be an unnecessary stop.

"The safety car came just as I was about to start to feel the dry tyres were a lot quicker but then I had a very exciting race," Vettel said. "I was stuck in the train for a little while but then tried to chase down Lewis Hamilton. It was a good match. It was good fun."

As that phase looked like ending, Sauber's Antonino Giovinazzi repeated his final corner crash from qualifying on lap four to cause a real safety car phase and with the cars forced to go through the pit lane, the leading figures all changed to soft rubber from intermediates.

Bottas slid his car attempting to keep the tyres warm and when the safety car pulled in, Hamilton led from Ricciardo, Verstappen, Raikkonen and Vettel with the top five separated by less than a second.

Verstappen passed the slow Ricciardo but the weaker Red Bull succeeded in holding off the Ferrari pair for several laps, allowing the front pair to move clear.

Vettel finally got past Raikkonen, who had complained of car trouble, on lap 20 and two laps later beat Ricciardo with a thrilling move on the outside of turn six.

"I was getting angry behind the train, I felt I could go faster in these conditions so I felt I had to try it on Daniel Ricciardo," Vettel explained. "On the exit I was a bit compromised, I had my elbows out, he really squeezed me, but good fun."

The next race is the Bahrain Grand Prix on April 16.

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