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Marvelous Max Verstappen dominates Chinese Grand Prix

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen led the Chinese Grand Prix from pole position to the checkered flag in Shanghai on Sunday.

Verstappen emerged unscathed from two safety car periods to secure his 38th win from the last 49 staged in Formula One on his unstoppable march towards a fourth straight championship.

But for Lewis Hamilton, now 50 races and 868 long days without a victory, this marked another sobering afternoon in his uncompetitive Mercedes.

McLaren's Lando Norris delivered an impressive performance to finish second, one place ahead of Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz fourth and fifth for Ferrari.

George Russell could manage only sixth for Mercedes as the grid's once-dominant team endured another race to forget.

F1 is back in Shanghai following a five-year absence, and it was a venue that Hamilton once ruled, winning a record six times here.

But the sport has a new king now, with Verstappen securing his fourth win from the opening five rounds – his only downfall in Australia when his Red Bull engine expired. For Hamilton, hampered by starting only 18th, his worst-ever season continued.

As Verstappen blasted away from his marks to convert his pole position into an all-too predictable early lead, Hamilton was evidently struggling for speed in his Mercedes.

Hamilton started on the quickest, but less durable soft rubber, but just two laps into this 56-lap affair, his complaints began.

"I am making no ground on this tyre," he said after dropping from 18th to 19th. Hamilton made the first of his two pit-stops on lap nine, and re-joined back in 19th, 53 seconds behind Verstappen.

"That was the worst tyre, man," said the despondent 39-year-old after switching to the medium rubber.

Up front and Fernando Alonso, who moved from third to second following a fine move around the outside of Perez at the opening bend, was starting to slip down the order.

On lap five, Perez sailed past the evergreen Spaniard, before Norris swooped ahead at the penultimate corner two laps later.

Back to Hamilton, and he was now 15th after making his way ahead of RB's Yuki Tsunoda at the first bend. But his mood had not improved.

"I can't even catch him (Alpine's Esteban Ocon), man," he said. This car is so slow."

Speed has not been a problem for Verstappen since he denied Hamilton a record eighth crown at the 2021 decider in Abu Dhabi.

Temporarily demoted to third by virtue of changing tyres earlier than his competitors, the Red Bull star breezed past Leclerc on lap 16 before re-taking the lead from Norris three laps later.

Hamilton's fortunes improved on lap 21 when he stopped for a second time with the VSC deployed after Valtteri Bottas broke down. And as the marshals struggled to shift Bottas' stricken Stake, the VSC was upgraded to a full safety car, promoting Hamilton up the order. He would be 12th at the re-start, but he was still bemused by his machine.

"The car is just sliding around everywhere," he said. "It just feels like something is broken. It is really bad."

In came the safety car on lap 26, but it was back out moments later after Aston Martin's Lance Stroll clumsily thudded into the back of Daniel Ricciardo, and Kevin Magnussen punted Yuki Tsuonda off.

Ricciardo suffered floor damage, elevating Hamilton into 10th and a single-point paying position before he swatted Haas' Nico Hulkenberg aside for ninth on lap 41.

Hamilton was then up to eighth as Alonso made a maverick third stop for tyres. But the 43-year-old took advantage of his fresh rubber to blast back through the field, relegating Hamilton back to ninth with seven laps remaining. Alonso would cross the line in seventh.

Verstappen took the chequered flag 13.7 sec clear of Norris to extend his championship lead to 25 points with Hamilton – almost one minute behind his one-time rival – still searching for a top-six finish this season.

Race results:

1    Max Verstappen    NED    Oracle Red Bull Racing    56 Laps
2    Lando Norris    GBR    McLaren F1 Team     
3    Sergio Perez    MEX    Oracle Red Bull Racing     
4    Charles Leclerc    MON    Scuderia Ferrari     
5    Carlos Sainz    ESP    Scuderia Ferrari     
6    George Russell    GBR    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team     
7    Fernando Alonso    ESP    Aston Martin Aramco F1 Team     
8    Oscar Piastri    AUS    McLaren F1 Team     
9    Lewis Hamilton    GBR    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team     
10    Nico Hulkenberg    GER    MoneyGram Haas F1 Team     
11    Esteban Ocon    FRA    BWT Alpine F1 Team     
12    Alex Albon    THA    Williams Racing     
13    Pierre Gasly    FRA    BWT Alpine F1 Team     
14    Zhou Guanyu    CHN    Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber     
15    Lance Stroll    CAN    Aston Martin Aramco F1 Team     
16    Logan Sargeant    USA    Williams Racing     
17    Kevin Magnussen    DEN    MoneyGram Haas F1 Team     
     Daniel Ricciardo    AUS    Visa Cash App RB F1 Team    DNF
     Yuki Tsunoda    JPN    Visa Cash App RB F1 Team    DNF
     Valtteri Bottas    FIN    Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber    DNF

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