Lewis Hamilton turned in a faultless drive as he and Mercedes returned to winning ways at the Chinese Grand Prix ahead of Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton led away from pole and won the race during a perfectly-managed middle stint, where he appeared to drive conservatively despite calls from Mercedes to speed up in order to give team-mate Rosberg some breathing room ahead of Vettel. Hamilton then showed the true pace of the Mercedes by turning up the wick in the laps before his final pit stop. His seven second lead was nullified at the end by the race finishing under the safety car but it was still a perfect weekend for the world champion, collecting pole, the fastest lap and the race victory. Rosberg and Mercedes managed to do enough to secure the one-two, though Ferrari kept the world champions honest through the first two stints. Williams spent much of the race a distant fifth and sixth, confirming the fact it has fallen behind Ferrari in the pecking order.
At the end of his formation lap Hamilton pointed his car aggressively inwards for the start, wary of team-mate Rosberg alongside him. The world champion started well, immediately moving to cover Rosberg, who also started well enough to keep Vettel's Ferrari at bay into the first corner. Behind, a fast-starting Valtteri Bottas got the jump on team-mate Felipe Massa, who was also been dispatched by Kimi Raikkonen. Coming towards Turn 6, Raikkonen dived down the inside of corner to claim fourth from fellow countryman Bottas, who also lost another place to Massa as he went defensive. The Williams pair would remain fifth and sixth for the rest of the race. Daniel Ricciardo had a terrible start as he hit the anti-stall, dropping him way down the field. He quickly passed Fernando Alonso but then was made to work to pass team-mate Daniil Kvyat, despite the Russian being told by Red Bull not to fight for the position as the pair were on different strategies.
The order at the front did not change after the first pit stops, though Mercedes reacted to Vettel being fitted with soft tyres by replicating the call with both its drivers rather than taking on mediums as the team had originally planned. After the pit stops Mercedes failed to shake the Ferraris, with Rosberg soon complaining Hamilton was not driving fast enough out in front as Vettel chipped away at the gap to second. Hamilton was soon given the hurry-up by Vettel but his pace did not seem to pick up, suggesting the world champion was managing his tyres.
Away from the front, the main entertainment came from 17-year-old Max Verstappen, who executed a pair of beautiful moves on both Sauber drivers through the Turn 14 hairpin. The first, a ballsy, late-breaking manoeuvre on Marcus Ericsson on lap 10, was replicated ten laps later on Felipe Nasr. Later in the race, Verstappen passed Sergio Perez with a lovely move on the inside of Turn 5 that he then consolidated on the run down to the next corner.
Mercedes then sent an interesting message to Hamilton on lap 28, saying if he did not get his lap times down to the 1:43.3 mark they would pit Rosberg first, which had the potential to give the German the undercut and a shot at victory. It took two laps before Hamilton seemed to respond, recording a personal best on lap 30, which coincided with Rosberg complaining about his front left and Ferrari bringing Vettel in for his second stop. That meant Mercedes was forced to respond by pitting Rosberg first anyway, but this time to avoid Vettel's undercut, which they managed to do, albeit with the Ferrari much closer behind. Out in front, Hamilton's conservative laps seemed to be paying dividends as he smashed the fastest lap with a 1:42.208, over a second quicker than he had been in the previous ten laps of his middle stint. He emerged from his own pit stop well clear of Rosberg on lap 34 with the race seemingly his to lose.
Out in front, it was clear in the final stint Ferrari had no answer to Mercedes' pace on the mediums. The point of interest then became Raikkonen, who was closing in on Vettel with the benefit of fresher tyres. However, his charge came to nothing with a late deployment of the safety car, triggered when Verstappen's superb race ended in a puff of smoke down the start/finish straight three laps from the end. The marshals made a meal of moving the Toro Rosso through the exit gate meaning the race finished under the safety car, giving Hamilton an easy drive home for a deserved victory.
The McLarens had another race well outside the points, with Fernando Alonso having the ignominy of being lapped by both Ferraris towards the end of the race. Button seemed to give some glimpses of McLaren's potential late in the race as he diced with Maldonado's Mercedes-powered Lotus for 13th. However, when the pair continued battling on lap 49 Button and Maldonado made contact into Turn 1 when the 2009 world champion drove straight into the back of the Lotus. That allowed Alonso, who had been charging behind after a superb middle stint on soft tyres, through for 13th.
Aside from Verstappen, the race had three other retirements. Nico Hulkenberg's race lasted just 10 laps before the Force India's gearbox failed. Daniil Kvyat was the second on lap 16, with his Renault engine going up in smoke, prompting agitated faces on the Red Bull pit wall. Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz was the next man out of the race on lap 25 as his Toro Rosso's gearbox failed.