Verstappen makes Hamilton take notice after podium charge

"Strength-wise we are stronger, but pace-wise, if anything Ferrari got a bit quicker this weekend and the gap's even closer", said Hamilton, a triple world champion.

The Mercedes driver dominated the race in Asia from start to finish in wet conditions, with Ferrari's Vettel coming home second, in a duel that is tipped to define the 2017 season.

"Then in the end the last 20-odd laps we were just pounding around as fast as we can, exchanging lap times and I think that's what racing is all about".

Vettel's hopes of catching Hamilton in China were hampered by the appearance of the safety vehicle after Sauber's Antonio Giovinazzi crashed, which allowed Hamilton to pit for a tyre change without losing ground.

Mercedes are locked in a direct battle with Vettel's Ferrari team following three years of domination, but the championship momentum now rests with Hamilton ahead of the second of this back-to-back instalment in Bahrain on Sunday.

"I talked about this with Maurizio", said Marchionne.

"I love this fight that we are having and sitting there with Sebastian I was like 'this is going to go right down to the end of the season"'.

For this season's championship is now nearly certainly a straight shoot-out between Hamilton and Vettel.

"It's good to have a younger person around and yeah, Max has obviously done a fantastic job since he's been in the sport", he said when asked about Verstappen.

Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne has suggested the bosses of his Formula One team sit down with Kimi Raikkonen to discuss his form after a disappointing Chinese Grand Prix. We are at our best as a team too, and I feel like I'm at my best.

"Then inside turn two, another auto, outside turn three.always trying to go around the outside or inside and it worked".

That left Vettel in a strong position to take the lead when Hamilton did pit, but he was saved by Giovinazzi stacking his auto leading to a safety vehicle, which allowed Hamilton to pit for his tyres - and win the race. "I hope they're feeling the fight. because it's on". "We should probably pit", Hamilton said, and he was told to leave it two laps to avoid problems with the distant Raikkonen who had risen to second as others pitted.

Hamilton conceded afterwards that the pace between himself and Vettel was close and that the fight for victory may have been closer without the safety vehicle.

At the early stages of the drivers' championship, both Hamilton and Vettel are tied on 43 points, whilst Mercedes lead the constructors' championship by one point. "I'm confident that we can get where we want to be".

  • Zachary Reyes