Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) won his 34th career pole in a rainy qualifying session in Shanghai, passing Jim Clark and Alain Prost to move into fourth on the all-time list. Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel (both Red Bull) qualified second and third. Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg spun in the final corner of the session to take fourth.Hamilton’s drive continued Mercedes’ dominance, one car or the other having started P1 in all four races of the year. Three of the four qualifying sessions have taken place in the rain. Ricciardo also out qualified his four-time defending champion teammate for the third time in 2014.
Championship points-leader Rosberg sought to repeat last year’s victory in Shanghai as the cars took the grid, with Hamilton after his third straight victory of 2014. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) jumped to third at the start, trailing Hamilton and Vettel. Hamilton had already stretched his lead to 2.5 sec during Lap 3. Ricciardo and Rosberg held down fourth and fifth during Lap 5.
Mercedes told Rosberg he had lost telemetry and would have to manage his own fuel. Hamilton stretched his lead to roughly 7 sec during Lap 7 (of 56) and 11 sec by Lap 11. Alonso pitted during Lap 12 to get off his heavily graining soft tires. Vettel made his stop one lap later, coming out behind Alonso. At Lap 15 Hamilton led Ricciardo, who had yet to make his first stop.
Ricciardo pitted the next lap and came out in P5 behind Rosberg. Hamilton’s lead over Alonso was 31 sec. Hamilton pitted and easily maintained the lead. Mercedes verified Rosberg’s fuel levels via radio and set him free to chase Vettel for third. Rosberg took the spot at the end of Lap 22. Red Bull instructed Vettel to let Ricciardo through during Lap 25, with Vettel declining to do so. Ricciardo took the spot anyway one lap later.
Hamilton’s lead over Alonso was 12 sec at the halfway mark, with Rosberg closing on Alonso. A few laps later Hamilton remarked that his tires didn’t feel as good as the previous set. Rosberg pulled to within 1.3 sec of the Ferrari. Alonso pitted during Lap 34. Hamilton’s lead over Rosberg (now in P2) was 18 sec on Lap 36. Both still needed to make their second stop.
Rosberg and Ricciardo pitted on during Lap 38, with Hamilton coming in one lap later. Running order: Hamilton, Alonso, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Vettel. Hamilton’s lead was 5.6 sec. Rosberg passed Alonso for second on Turn 14, Lap 43. Ricciardo closed to 6.6 sec behind Alonso, cutting roughly 1 sec per lap with 10 to go.
Hamilton took the win by 18.3 sec. Rosberg’s P2 made it the first time a team finished 1-2 in three straight races since Ferrari in 2004. Alonso’s third-place finish moved him into third in the season standings. The Ricciardo-Vettel 4-5 moved Red Bull into second in the manufacturers championship, but 97 points behind Mercedes. Sergio Perez (Force India) drove from P16 on the grid to finish ninth.
Driver standings (Top 10)
Nico Rosberg (Germany), Mercedes – 79
Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain), Mercedes – 75
Fernando Alonso (Spain), Ferrari – 41
Nico Hulkenberg (Germany), Force India-Mercedes – 36
Sebastian Vettel (Germany), Red Bull-Renault - 33
Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull-Renault – 24
Valtteri Bottas (Finland), Williams-Mercedes – 24
Jenson Button (Great Britain), McLaren-Mercedes – 23
Kevin Magnussen (Denmark), McLaren-Mercedes – 20
Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India-Mercedes – 18
Team standings (teams earning points)
Mercedes (Rosberg, Hamilton) – 154
Red Bull Racing-Renault (Vettel, Ricciardo) – 57
Force India-Mercedes (Hulkenberg, Perez) – 54
Ferrari (Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen) – 52
McLaren-Mercedes (Magnussen, Button) – 43
Williams-Mercedes (Bottas, Felipe Massa) – 36
STR-Renault (Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniil Kvyat) – 8
Next event: Gran Premio de Espana Pirelli – Catalyuna - May 9-11