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Hamilton anticipates a tight title race

Briton anticipates 'one of the closest' title races after beating rival Vettel to top spot in Chinese GP

Lewis Hamilton powered to victory in a chaotic Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai yesterday, taking swift revenge for his defeat by Sebastian Vettel in the Formula 1 season-opener.

The Briton, who started on pole, steered his Mercedes to his fifth Chinese Grand Prix win, beating Vettel's Ferrari by just over six seconds. Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished third after early safety car drama.

"Get in there, Lewis!" Hamilton's engineer said over the team radio after the three-time world champion took the chequered flag in China for the third time in the last four years.

"That's a great race, mate. An absolute masterclass."

Hamilton replied: "We've worked really hard for this, we've got to keep pushing."

The 32-year-old is certainly anticipating a thrilling season ahead.

"It is going to be one of the closest if not the closest (title races) I have ever experienced," Hamilton, who is now level on points with Vettel, said after the race.

"I am looking forward to this fight, not only with Sebastian, but the other guys as well, who are in amongst it.

"Ferrari have done a fantastic job. We were both pushing and those last 20 laps we were really exchanging times. He (Vettel) was closing the gap but I managed to stay ahead."

Vettel recovered from a poor start from row one and, after being stuck behind Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen early on, began to show the pace that swept him to victory in Melbourne two weeks ago.

First, the German blew past Raikkonen before going wheel-to-wheel with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo at turn seven, producing puffs of blue smoke as the cars touched tyres.

ANTI-CLIMAX

Verstappen loomed ahead but the young Dutchman, who produced an astonishing first lap after starting from 16th on the grid, suffered a lock-up going into the hairpin, allowing Vettel, rather anti-climactically, to take second place.

Hamilton, meanwhile, never looked seriously threatened despite a sequence of fastest laps from his German title rival.

Vettel said: "I tried to chase Lewis down as much as possible but I had the feeling every time I put a lap in, he was able to respond.

"We were a good match. It could have been a different race, but it was a good recovery."

Verstappen, who won the Driver of the Day award - voted for by the fans - said he wasn't expecting a top-three finish, given his starting position.

He said: "It was very challenging. On lap one, I passed nine cars so that was not too bad. I was very happy with that and then after that I had a really good race. I am very happy to be on the podium.

"I didn't expect that at all, especially after starting 16th."

Ricciardo took fourth behind Verstappen after a furious late scrap between the two Red Bulls with Raikkonen finishing in fifth ahead of fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas' Mercedes.

Carlos Sainz Jr finished seventh for Toro Rosso with Kevin Magnussen's Haas eighth and the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon rounding out the top 10.

Bottas apologised to his team for an embarrassing spin while weaving to warm his tyres behind the safety car, which dropped him down to 12th.

"Really sorry, guys, for the amateur mistake," said Bottas, who had earlier been called "Nico" over team radio.

"I'll make up for it in the next race."

A wet track caused havoc early on with the virtual safety car deployed on lap one after Lance Stroll spun off in his Williams.

The safety car was called again after Antonio Giovinazzi smashed his Sauber into a wall. - WIRE SERVICES

Formula 1ShanghaiGRAND PRIX