Hamilton aims for sixth win in China

Trend of dominance in Shanghai boosts Briton's hopes of cutting Vettel's 17-pt championship lead

SHANGHAI • Sebastian Vettel can complete a hat-trick of wins in a perfect start to the season on Sunday, but China also offers Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes a perfect opportunity to end his rival's run of success.

The 33-year-old has won the race on Shanghai's outskirts an unprecedented five times, with his most recent triumph coming last year.

Unlike Mercedes, who have won four in succession, Ferrari have not enjoyed the same level of success, with their last win coming in 2013.

And Hamilton will be desperately hoping the Shanghai International Circuit delivers a sixth win for him as he bids to claw back the 17-point deficit to championship leader Vettel.

"It's always been a good track for me," said the four-time world champion, who finished third in Bahrain last Sunday after starting ninth due to a gearbox penalty.

"So I really hope that I'm able to climb the ladder and get back to where we've been working towards in the last two races."

CONFIDENT OF VICTORY

It's always been a good track for me. So I really hope that I'm able to climb the ladder and get back to where we've been working towards in the last two races.

LEWIS HAMILTON, Mercedes driver, who is the favourite to win the Chinese Grand Prix this week, having won in Shanghai an unprecedented five times.

Wins in the Australian season-opener and Bahrain mean the momentum is with Vettel, the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2004 to start the year with successive victories.

The last time a driver failed to win the title after clinching the opening two races was in 1982, when Alain Prost started strongly but lost out to Keke Rosberg.

Hamilton can take comfort from last year, when he lifted his fourth world title despite Vettel also winning in Australia and Bahrain, which was the third race that term.

He can also draw encouragement from the speed and reliability of his Mercedes, with the Briton poised to set a record on Sunday of 28 straight races in the points.

Hamilton had a clear edge over Ferrari in Melbourne and team-mate Valtteri Bottas came within a second of snatching victory from pole-sitter Vettel in Bahrain.

"That was the minimum result we should expect with both Red Bulls and (Vettel's team-mate) Kimi (Raikkonen) out of the race," Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said.

"So we started to analyse what went wrong in Bahrain to improve for China and come back stronger."

Hamilton also met senior members of his Mercedes team ahead of Shanghai to discuss their communication during races.

"We have to work out some strategy. I don't want them to keep talking to me sometimes when I don't need them to talk to me," he said.

"So it's (about) working out a rapport that works best.

"It's even more important that it's precise information, because we're at a point where it means a position and points."

REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2018, with the headline 'Hamilton aims for sixth win in China'. Print Edition | Subscribe