Hamilton nears title with dominant win

Lewis Hamilton will take a seven-point lead into the final round of the world championship after dominating the Chinese Grand Prix

McLaren driver Hamilton put his troubled Fuji race behind him by controlling the Shanghai event throughout, while his title rival Felipe Massa had to rely on Ferrari team orders to secure a distant second place ahead of his teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton had little trouble holding the lead at the start, and then made an early break. Although Raikkonen was able to close slightly later in the first stint, by that time he was four seconds adrift - while Massa could not match either of the two leaders and was running eight seconds behind when he became the first of the front-runners to pit on lap 14.

Hamilton and Raikkonen stopped one lap later, with the Briton then extending his lead further in the middle stint.

By the time the final stops were due, Hamilton was nine seconds clear of Raikkonen and 14 seconds ahead of Massa, so with no hope of beating the McLaren on speed, Ferrari switched focus to getting their title challenger in front of their outgoing champion.

Raikkonen's pace gradually became more relaxed and with seven laps to go Massa slipped past into the hairpin. But by that time, Hamilton was 16 seconds ahead and on course for a dominant and hugely significant victory.

Fernando Alonso finished fourth for Renault, unable to match the top three this time but clear of the rest of the field. He briefly lost the place to McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen through the first corners, before repassing the Finn into the hairpin further around the opening lap.

Kovalainen then fell away from the Renault, although he might have had a chance to strike back by running longer at the final stops had he not picked up a right front puncture on lap 34. The slow lap back to the pits for new rubber dropped Kovalainen to 15th and he eventually retired with six laps to go.

The BMW Saubers completed the top six, with Robert Kubica using a long first stint to gain ground from 11th on the grid. The Pole finished close behind teammate Nick Heidfeld, but sixth was not sufficient to keep him in the title hunt, which is now a two-horse race.

Timo Glock used a one-stop strategy to take seventh for Toyota, ahead of Renault's Nelson Piquet, who also gained ground by running a very long first stint.

That meant Toro Rosso's points scoring run came to an end, with Sebastian Vettel finishing only ninth and Sebastien Bourdais down in 13th following a first corner tangle that took Jarno Trulli's Toyota out of the race.

One-stopping David Coulthard (Red Bull) beat Rubens Barrichello's Honda to 10th, while Mark Webber charged up the order initially following his engine change penalty but fell back into heavier traffic after his early first stop and had to settle for 14th behind Kazuki Nakajima (Williams) and Bourdais.


The Chinese Grand Prix
Shanghai International Circuit, China;
56 laps; 305.066km;
Weather: Cloudy.


Pos  Driver        Team                      Time
 1.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      (B)  1h31.57.403
 2.  Massa         Ferrari               (B)  +    14.925
 3.  Raikkonen     Ferrari               (B)  +    16.445
 4.  Alonso        Renault               (B)  +    18.370
 5.  Heidfeld      BMW Sauber            (B)  +    28.923
 6.  Kubica        BMW Sauber            (B)  +    33.219
 7.  Glock         Toyota                (B)  +    41.722
 8.  Piquet        Renault               (B)  +    56.645
 9.  Vettel        Toro Rosso-Ferrari    (B)  +  1:04.339
10.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Renault      (B)  +  1:14.842
11.  Barrichello   Honda                 (B)  +  1:25.061
12.  Nakajima      Williams-Toyota       (B)  +  1:30.847
13.  Bourdais      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    (B)  +  1:31.457
14.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault      (B)  +  1:32.422
15.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota       (B)  +     1 lap
16.  Button        Honda                 (B)  +     1 lap
17.  Fisichella    Force India-Ferrari   (B)  +     1 lap

Fastest lap: Hamilton, 1:36.325

Not classified/retirements:

Driver        Team                      On lap
Kovalainen    McLaren-Mercedes      (B)    50
Sutil         Force India-Ferrari   (B)    14
Trulli        Toyota                (B)    3

World Championship standings, round 17:                

Drivers:                    Constructors:             
 1.  Hamilton      94        1.  Ferrari               156
 2.  Massa         87        2.  McLaren-Mercedes      145
 3.  Kubica        75        3.  BMW Sauber            135
 4.  Raikkonen     69        4.  Renault                72
 5.  Heidfeld      60        5.  Toyota                 52
 6.  Alonso        53        6.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari     34
 7.  Kovalainen    51        7.  Red Bull-Renault       29
 8.  Vettel        30        8.  Williams-Toyota        26
 9.  Trulli        30        9.  Honda                  14
10.  Glock         22       
11.  Webber        21       
12.  Piquet        19       
13.  Rosberg       17       
14.  Barrichello   11       
15.  Nakajima       9       
16.  Coulthard      8       
17.  Bourdais       4       
18.  Button         3       
All timing unofficial
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