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Page last updated at 09:02 GMT, Sunday, 17 April 2011 10:02 UK

Lewis Hamilton storms to China victory over Red Bulls

Lewis Hamilton wins the Chinese Grand Prix

Highlights - Chinese Grand Prix

BY Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Shanghai

Lewis Hamilton claimed a thrilling first victory of 2011 for McLaren as he chased down championship leader Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull in China.

Hamilton made one more stop than Vettel and made his fresh tyres work as he passed Vettel with four laps to go.

Button was denied third place on the penultimate lap as Mark Webber staged a brilliant comeback from 18th place on the grid to deny the Englishman.

Scot Paul di Resta finished 11th for Force India.

Hamilton had joined Button in passing Vettel with a brilliant getaway off the line but lost position in the first round of stops.

But Hamilton stuck to his three-stop plan and used his fresh tyres to work his way past Button, Felipe Massa's Ferrari and the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg before he set to work eating into Vettel's lead.

David Coulthard, Martin Brundle, Lewis Hamilton and Jake Humphrey

Start was key to victory - Hamilton

The 2008 world champion comfortably passed Vettel in the dying stages of a dramatic grand prix to move 21 points behind the German in the championship.

Hamilton, whose victory was even more impressive because McLaren had to work furiously on his car to get it to the grid in time because of a fuel leak, said: "I think today the strategy we came up with definitely helped.

"My new option tyres seemed to last longer. The pit stops were fantastic.

"The car felt great and I was trying to nurse my tyres while picking up pace. It was one of the best races I've experienced."

BBC F1 commentator David Coulthard said: "What a controlled comeback.

"It was a fantastic drive. He controlled his emotions and bounced back from a difficult race in Malaysia not to mention pre-season testing.

"I think Hamilton is really overcome with emotion too."

After straightforward victories in Australia and Malaysia, Vettel had to work hard to hang on to second place as he just could not eke out enough performance from the hard tyres.

Vettel explained: "We came out in the lead and then I think we tried too hard to stay on two stops.

"I saw Lewis coming closer and there was no point defending too hard - he found his way past.

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"We did a couple of mistakes but still finished second so I'm very happy with that. We can learn a lot today."

In contrast, his team-mate Webber displayed his characteristic grit to fight back from 18th on the grid to snatch his first podium of the season.

Yet more problems with the power-boost Kers system and electrical issues meant the Australian had to battle his way through the backmarkers.

But Webber used his superior race pace and his three sets of soft tyres to deny Button on the 55th lap of the race.

Webber said: "It was an interesting GP. We started on hard tyres, got that out of the way.

Mark Webber

Webber ecstatic after podium finish

"It wasn't easy. To still see P17 after 15 laps you think - 'when is it going to come'.

"It was a good day for racing (with Lewis winning) and a good day in terms of points for the team."

It was a disappointing end to the grand prix for Button, who had qualified behind Vettel in second place, but who lost position to his team-mate before Webber zoned in on him at the end.

Button had lost the lead to Vettel when the pair made their first pit stops at the same time only for Button to stop first at the Red Bull garage.

The mix-up meant Vettel returned to the track ahead of Button.

"It was absolutely bizarre," said BBC pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz. "The McLaren mechanics didn't know what to make of it. He lost at least three seconds there."

Button said: "First of all massive congratulations to Lewis. It was a great race to be part of but I wasn't quick enough.

"Fourth place was as good as I could get out of the car. You're a sitting duck when people have got newer tyres.

"It was a tough afternoon for me and for some reason I didn't have the pace."

Rosberg chalked up a best finish of the season for the improving Mercedes with fifth place but it could have been better had he not let Button and Massa past in the closing stages.

Ferrari's toils continued as a two-stop strategy scuppered Massa's podium hopes as he lost ground over the last stint on the hard tyres and finished sixth.

The Brazilian will at least take a fillip from finishing ahead of his team-mate Fernando Alonso, who lost ground to Massa at the start and appeared to have problems with his rear wing.

Alonso finished seventh and rued a lack of race pace for another troublesome weekend.

"It was a tactical race," said Alonso.

"With this year's tyres in some part of the race you feel competitive, you feel good.

"In other parts of the race you feel very slow because people on different strategies can overtake you without any real problems.

"When you have a quick car any strategy is good as we saw with Vettel. When you have a slow car you have to get the right one."

Michael Schumacher had to pull out some defensive moves to hang on to eighth place ahead of Vitaly Petrov's Renault.

Kamui Kobayashi picked up the last point for Sauber to deny Di Resta, who went backwards from eighth on the grid as he struggled for grip with his rear tyres.

There was an encouraging day for Team Lotus who were satisfied to beat two midfield teams for the first time as Heikki Kovalainen finished ahead of Sergio Perez's Sauber and the Williams of Pastor Maldonado to claim 16th.

"It's not the highest place we've had but we beat two midfield cars in a straight fight so I am very happy," added Kovalainen.



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see also
Chinese Grand Prix race results
08 Mar 11 |  Results
Chinese Grand Prix photos
17 Apr 11 |  Formula One
Vettel beats Button to China pole
16 Apr 11 |  Formula One
Chinese Grand Prix as it happened
17 Apr 11 |  Formula 1
Fifth place 'horrible' - Rosberg
17 Apr 11 |  Formula One
Team Lotus aim to overhaul rivals
17 Apr 11 |  Formula One


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