The latter had stormed to pole position on Saturday, proving the superior qualifying speed of the Mercedes W04. He ended the third session three tenths clear of Kimi Raikkonen, with Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa completing the top five.
Romain Grosjean and Daniel Ricciardo impressed in sixth and seventh, with Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.
Paul di Resta, Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil narrowly missed out on a spot in Q3, with Mark Webber originally qualifying 14th. However, the Aussie’s disastrous day soured even more after he was sent to the back of the grid for failing to provide a one-litre fuel sample.
All those behind him were promoted a position, including Pastor Maldonado and Jean-Eric Vergne, who were 15th and 16th fastest in Q2. Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez were the two midfield runners eliminated in Q1, joining Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton, Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde in the drop zone.
The first lap of the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix saw Hamilton lead the field into the tricky turn one. Raikkonen had a poor start and dropped to fourth, behind the two Ferraris. Meanwhile, di Resta and Sutil made contact on the run to the final corner. Webber pitted at the end of the opening tour in the hope of progressing up the order with an alternative strategy. Alonso closed in on the race leader and passed in the DRS zone on the pit straight at the end of the fourth lap, with Massa also following him through.
Following earlier contact with his team-mate, Sutil sustained more damage after Gutierrez ran into the back of him on lap five at the turn 14 hairpin. Both cars were forced to retire from the race. Due to high tyre degradation – with Pirelli taking the medium and soft compound tyres to the Shanghai International Circuit – the opening pit stops took place as early as lap six.
Nico Hulkenberg briefly led the race after starting on the harder compound, eventually pitting on lap 15. At the same time, Webber collided with Vergne in the Toro Rosso. Both took to the pit lane for repairs but the Aussie was released with a loose wheel on lap 17.
The right-rear eventually departed at turn 14, with Webber immediately stopping the car. Fortunately the chasing pack managed to avoid the tyre as it veered across the track before eventually coming to a stop on the grass. Just prior to the Red Bull driver’s retirement, Raikkonen and Perez collided under braking for the turn six hairpin, with the Finn picking up minor front wing damage.
Rosberg’s disappointing start to his fourth campaign with Mercedes continued after he retired on lap 21 with a suspension issue, just after the leaders stopped for the second time. Vettel briefly took over the top spot before Alonso displaced him just prior to his second trip to the pit lane. The Spaniard’s third stop took place on lap 41.
He remained in control of the race and crossed the line to register his 31st career victory by 10 seconds, on his 200th start. Kimi Raikkonen had a quiet end to the race after his earlier contact and finished second, two seconds clear of Hamilton. The Brit had a real fight on his hands, with Vettel rapidly decreasing his advantage during the closing stages after a late third pit stop.
The German driver got to within three tenths by the finish line but couldn’t find a way through. Behind Vettel, Button was the only driver in the top 10 to pull off a two-stop strategy after a strong race for the Brit. Massa dropped to sixth, with Ricciardo putting in a stand-out performance to score six points for seventh.
Di Resta, Grosjean and Hulkenberg completed the top 10, with Perez just missing out on a point in 11th. Verge, Bottas and Maldonado were the final drivers to finish on the lead lap, with Bianchi leading the backmarkers in 15th. Both Caterham and Marussia drivers finished the race, with Pic, Chilton and van der Garde rounding out the finishers.
Because of the dominant race victory, Alonso jumped up to third in the drivers’ standings and moved to within 11 points of championship leader Vettel, with Ferrari also moving ahead of Lotus in the constructors’ battle.
Images courtesy of Ferrari, Mercedes AMG Petronas and Marussia F1 Team