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Lewis Hamilton drives to first F1 hat-trick in Shanghai

Lewis Hamilton chalked up three successive victories for the first time in his Formula One career with a lights-to-flag cruise in China.

The race at the Shanghai International Circuit undoubtedly lacked the drama that unfolded two weeks ago in Bahrain, but that will not worry Hamilton who is currently in the form of his F1 life.

With the best car on the grid beneath him as Mercedes have built a potential championship-winner, Hamilton has not put a wheel out of place since an unfortunate early retirement in the season-opening race in Australia.

That, however, has proven costly for although Hamilton has gone on to to take the chequered flag in Malaysia, Bahrain and now China, three times he has had team-mate Nico Rosberg claim second place.

It means Rosberg, winner in Australia, still has a four-point cushion over Hamilton in the drivers' standings as F1 now takes a mini-break before heading back to its European heartland early next month.

Come the conclusion, Hamilton finished 18.6secs clear of Rosberg, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso third on Marco Mattiacci's debut as team principal.

As Hamilton stormed off the line at the start and into the distance, behind him there were mixed fortunes for some of his closest rivals.

Alonso, now working under new boss Mattiacci in the wake of Stefano Domenicali resigning last Monday, was another who got a flier before a game of dodgems unfolded.

On the run down to the first corner Alonso banged wheels with Felipe Massa in his Williams who had flashed past Rosberg due to the German being slow away.

Despite Massa's car being lifted up off the ground by a few inches, remarkably there was no damage to either car, at least nothing that was too apparent at first.

As for Rosberg, in fighting for position through the sweeping right-hand first turn, the 28-year-old was also involved in bumper cars as he was caught by the second Williams of Valtteri Bottas.

Again, though, there was no penalty for either driver except a loss of a couple of places as Rosberg was running seventh late on lap one before a move on Force India's Nico Hulkenberg clinched sixth.

Rosberg's problems did not end there for despite passing Massa on lap five to move up to fifth, he was informed by his team they were not receiving any telemetry data from his car.

That meant on occasion Rosberg was forced to provide old-fashioned feedback by reading out figures from the dashboard on his steering wheel.

All the time, though, Hamilton swept effortlessly away, the Briton holding enough of an advantage to retain his lead through the first round of pit stops during which Massa suffered a disaster.

Initially, his Williams crew attempted to fit the wrong compound of tyre to the left rear - a schoolboy error.

When they did eventually have the correct rubber in hand, it took an age to slot it into place, suggesting the bang of wheels with Alonso at the start had perhaps affected the single-nut mechanism.

The first round of stops at least allowed Alonso to jump Sebastian Vettel for second, the latter coming under attack and ultimately passed by Rosberg into the hairpin.

That battle then left Vettel vulnerable to team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, and a pitwall command to let the Australian by.

When Vettel enquired as to what strategy Ricciardo was running, he was informed the 24-year-old was on fresher tyres to which he replied: "Tough luck!"

Two laps later, however, Vettel appeared to yield by running wide at turn one, allowing Ricciardo to sweep by on his inside.

The German's misery continued because with his tyres wearing shortly before the second round of stops he later moaned about being unlapped by Caterham's Kamui Kobayashi.

Vettel eventually had to settle for fifth, his title slipping from his grasp as he is now 43 points adrift of leader Rosberg who cruised past Alonso down the long straight on lap 43 to take the runner-up spot.

Behind Alonso, Ricciardo was fourth for the second successive race, finishing 24 seconds ahead of fifth-placed Vettel.

Hulkenberg and Bottas were sixth and seventh, followed by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, Force India's Sergio Perez, with Daniel Kvyat in the points for the third time in four races in his debut season for Toro Rosso.

On a bad day for McLaren, Jenson Button could only manage 11th, with rookie team-mate Kevin Magnussen 13th, whilst Marussia's Max Chilton was 19th of the 20 finishers.

Hamilton, who now has 25 career wins to his name alongside Jim Clark and Mercedes' non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, was beaming from ear to ear on the podium.

"I can't believe how amazing the car is, and with how hard everyone has worked, the results we are getting are because of that," said Hamilton.

"This team is on a roll, they've done a great job, but we're going to keep pushing, keep moving forwards and working hard because we know the others are going to keep pushing."

Rosberg, informed he was still in possession of the championship lead, said: "I'm not going to use the word 'still' because I plan to keep it that way.

"The whole weekend was completely bad for me, it went so wrong in so many respects.

"I had no telemetry, no communication with the pits, and that's the why the start was so bad.

"But it's a pleasure to drive this car, it's so quick, and it increases the enjoyment level even further."

Alonso had said before the race he did not want to contemplate a top-three finish, but was delighted to be back on the podium.

"It was a good weekend, we improved the car and were more competitive," said Alonso.

"Being on the podium is a nice surprise, and I'm third in the drivers' championship behind these two guys (Hamilton and Rosberg) which is good.

"We've not had the start to the season we would have liked, but we are still in the fight."

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