Smooth Running for Silver Arrows in China
There were a lot of questions coming into the third race of the new F1 season in Shanghai this year; with Mercedes set to dominate the field for the whole year according to the teams and experts, and Ferrari's fantastic win in Malaysia, all eyes were on the Italians this weekend as they hoped to see an end to the continuous winning streak of the German superstar team.
Qualifying went as expected, with Hamilton in pole and Rosberg just behind him, but the Ferraris were a second slower than their rivals, which did not bode well for a potential win.
Rosberg, incidentally, was unhappy with his engineers following qualifying, as he was incredibly close to Hamilton's time, and tensions in the team are still running high following last season's epic conclusion in Abu Dhabi when Rosberg lost out to the Englishman for the Championship.
Hamilton Looks After His Tyres
Throughout the race itself, Mercedes looked fairly comfortable. Hamilton took off at the front and kept an easy pace the whole way through, with Rosberg following fruitlessly behind him. Rosberg reportedly asked the team to make Hamilton speed up, as Vettel was on his tail in the Ferrari in third place, but Hamilton refused, citing that his tyre wear would take a hit, and nearly compromised his teammate's race, which raised frustrations in the Mercedes camp even more.
Close-up of a Red Bull tyre showing degradation © Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool
However, despite this, a late safety car which saw them over the line meant that Vettel's attempts to catch Rosberg were all for naught, and the Silver Arrows passed the chequered flag for a 1-2 finish, demoting the winner of the previous race to third place on the podium, followed by his teammate Raikkonen.
Though the Ferraris kept constant pressure on their rivals, there were no serious overtaking attempts throughout and the only ace up their sleeves was tyre wear management, as the speed of the Ferrari engines cannot directly match the Mercedes'.
Unlike in Malaysia, Hamilton was careful with his tyres and therefore lasted longer on each stint, making it very difficult for Ferrari to find an opening in which to pass him.
Vettel was gaining slightly on Rosberg towards the end of the race, but was denied by a late safety car; however, it still seems that Ferrari have a lot of work to do to match the speed of the German team.
Not so Smooth for the Chasing Pack
In other news, Red Bull and Toro Rosso may be facing serious trouble later in the season. Renault warned them not to expect any race wins this year, but after three races, the teams have gone through six power units between them already.
Max Verstappen was once more ground to a halt after an excellent race where he would have finished eighth – he was forced to retire after 54 laps when his engine exploded. He left the car in flames on the track which prompted the safety car for the final two laps.
Keeping the tyres warm © Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool
The Red Bull team fared no better; Kvyat's engine let him down and he, too, did not finish the race. This persistent engine trouble may prove very problematic later in the season, as each team is only allowed eight new power units before penalties.
Ricciardo also had a terrible race, getting off to an awful start which put him in seventeenth place and having to battle his way back up the field. Eventually, he finished in the points though, which was the result of a gritty and determined climb through the field.
Romain Grosjean also came in the points, scoring Lotus's first top ten of the season and ending a disastrous run of DNFs for the team. Both Saubers were also in the points, which is a good sign for the team.
So, it looks as though Mercedes will continue to dominate at least for the next few races, but with Ferrari breathing down their necks and rising tensions between the drivers, anything could happen. Don't miss out.
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