World champion Lewis Hamilton admitted his relief after he succeeded in cutting Sebastian Vettel’s lead in the drivers’ standings despite missing the podium at the Chinese Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo won an incident-strewn race in Shanghai with a masterclass in overtaking, with Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas second and Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari third.
Hamilton crossed the line fifth but was promoted to fourth when Ricciardo’s colleague Max Verstappen was penalised 10 seconds for causing a collision with Vettel, who was eighth.
That meant that the Briton trimmed his chief rival’s advantage from 17 points to nine after three races of the new season.
“I was in no-man’s land today. I had no pace and was just trying to hold on for whatever I had,” said Hamilton.
“We have been underperforming. Yesterday and today was a disaster on my side. I have got to rectify that and get back into normal performance mode otherwise more points will be lost. [We were] thankful for a few incidents ahead that kept us in the battle.”
Vettel started on pole but lost the lead to Bottas during their pit stops, before the safety car’s deployment, following a crash between the Toro Rossos of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Harley, sparked change.
Red Bull stole a march on the field by switching their drivers to new tyres and Verstappen promptly went on the attack but the young Dutchman ran off when trying an ambitious pass on Hamilton.
Ricciardo capitalised by overtaking his team-mate and the Australian offered a reminder of his audacious talent by passing Hamilton, Vettel and Bottas on his way to victory.
Verstappen overtook Hamilton only to be demoted after the race for hitting Vettel during another misjudged overtaking attempt.