Updated: 04/20/2014 19:59 | By Agence France-Presse

Hamilton seals first F1 hat-trick in China

Lewis Hamilton sealed his first hat-trick of Formula One wins and led Mercedes to their third straight one-two finish at the Chinese Grand Prix as the team tightened their grip on the season Sunday.


Hamilton seals first F1 hat-trick in China

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 20, 2014 - by Mark Ralston

The former world champion got away smoothly from pole and was rarely troubled as he finished 19 seconds ahead of his team-mate Nico Rosberg, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso third.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo outran his team-mate and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel for fourth spot, with the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg coming home in sixth.

Hamilton had a huge grin as he celebrated his 25th grand prix victory, which takes him past legendary Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio and level with Niki Lauda and Jim Clark for career wins.

But despite consecutive wins in Malaysia, Bahrain and now China, the Briton still trails Rosberg by four points in the standings as he seeks to regain his 2008 world title.

"I can't believe how amazing the car is. I was able to look after the tyres and then I was racing myself," said Hamilton. "I'm really happy Nico's up here with us. It's great points for the team."

Rosberg retained his championship lead with a dogged second place after fighting past the Red Bulls and Alonso despite telemetry problems and an early bump.

For Ferrari, their first podium of the season was sweetly timed for new team principal Marco Mattiacci, who replaced Stefano Domenicali this week.

But there was more woe for McLaren when both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen finished out of the points.

No one was able to come close to Hamilton, who powered away from pole position and in dry, cool conditions in Shanghai, had a four-second cushion by lap six.

Behind him Vettel moved up from third past his team-mate Ricciardo, as did Alonso who got a flying start in the Ferrari.

The early drama came behind as Felipe Massa in the Williams dived past Nico Rosberg's Mercedes and banged his left rear wheel against Alonso's car.

Rosberg, seemingly distracted by Massa's overtaking manoeuvre, then touched wheels with the other Williams of Valtteri Bottas on his outside but came through unscathed.

It took Rosberg two laps to get back past Massa and when the first round of pit stops began on lap 12, the Williams crew could not remove Massa's damaged rear left. 

By the time they finally replaced it, Massa had been relegated to last place and the Brazilian eventually finished way down in 15th.

Alonso stopped a lap earlier than Vettel in what proved a masterstroke as, with his rubber up to race temperature sooner, he got past the four-time world champion.

Ricciardo pitted after 15 laps, dropping him behind Rosberg.

Rosberg and Vettel became engaged in a wheel-to-wheel battle for third place on lap 23 from which the Mercedes driver emerged in front. 

Their fight enable Ricciardo to close on his team-mate and Vettel was asked to move over, as he had in Bahrain, to let the quicker Ricciardo through.

But Vettel this time was less accommodating. "Tough luck," he said of Ricciardo's position over team radio, and he defended his fourth place only to be passed a couple of laps later. 

By lap 33 of the 56 Rosberg had Alonso in his sights and was told to "push hard" to catch the Spaniard over team radio.

Alonso responded by pitting, leaving the familiar sight of two Mercedes at the head of the field for the third race in a row until Rosberg himself stopped for a second time.

Vettel was having a frustrating afternoon and with badly grained tyres suffered the ignominy of at one point being passed by the Caterham of Kamui Kobayashi, much to the Red Bull driver's disgust.

Hamilton made his second and final stop on lap 38 and emerged from the pit lane with a 13-second cushion over Alonso. 

Rosberg was flying, however, and after setting the fastest lap he re-took second place by easily passing Alonso on a straight.

The German ended with a smile on his face despite a tough weekend when he spun in qualifying and had telemetry problems which meant he had to keep his team updated on measurements over the radio.

"(It was good) especially considering that the whole weekend was really, really bad for me. It went completely wrong in so many different respects," Rosberg said.

After four races out of 19, Mercedes already have a stranglehold on the constructors' standings with 154 points, 97 more than second-placed Red Bull.

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