Vettel admits safety vehicle timing 'unfortunate' in China

Hamilton struck back at his Ferrari rival in Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, winning the 56-lap race ahead of the German, a fortnight after Vettel beat the Mercedes driver in the season-opener in Australia.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff called Hamilton's win at the Shanghai circuit the "perfect riposte' to Vettel's Australian Grand Prix win".

"Overall it's now 1:1 for us against Ferrari and the development race is on", said Wolff. Having started at the pole, Hamilton managed to retain his position despite competition coming from Vettel who finished at P2, while Max Verstappen took the third spot on the podium.

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.

Kimi Raikkonen was fifth in the other Ferrari, just ahead of Hamilton's colleague Valtteri Bottas.

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Mercedes driver Hamilton secured his first victory of the 2017 in Shanghai, dominating the race with Ferrari's Vettel finishing behind the Briton in second place. The first crash came with Lance Stroll of Williams, who punted into Sergio Perez of Force India and was pushed into gravel.

That left Vettel in a strong position to take the lead when Hamilton did pit, but he was saved by Giovinazzi stacking his vehicle leading to a safety auto, which allowed Hamilton to pit for his tyres - and win the race. The incident necessitated the appearance of a Virtual Safety Car, which remained for 4 laps.

"If we can challenge Mercedes again (going forward), that's very good news", Vettel said.

"They felt OK still, but I didn't know if in 20 laps they would have dropped off the cliff and one of the other guys could have taken a different strategy and made it to the end". We were a good match. My start was OK and then I realised that the intermediates had quite a lot degradation.

Nevertheless, the battle for P3 remained much exciting as Red Bull drivers Ricciardo and Verstappen put up an impressive fight.

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The German driver held second place early on but was among a clutch of racers forced to switch to slick tyres after an early Virtual Safety Car on just the second lap.

"This was a great drive by Lewis and a great result", said Wolff.

Vettel, however, found himself stuck behind Ricciardo and the slower Raikkonen, even as Hamilton increased the gap at the front.

Vettel believed the timing of the safety vehicle, moments after the race had restarted following the virtual safety auto period during which he had made his early stop, was "unfortunate" for his hopes, and Hamilton agreed.

Meanwhile, both McLaren drivers retired from the race with mechanical trouble, as did Daniil Kvyat who pulled his Toro Rosso off track.

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