Denies Vettel to make it five in a row
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton went from China crisis to champagne celebration on Sunday with a stirring victory that denied Red Bull's Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel a fifth win in a row.
Hamilton, who made it out of the Shanghai pit lane with only seconds to spare after frantic work on his car's engine before the race, hunted down his German rival remorselessly on better gripping tyres in the closing laps to win by 5.1 seconds.
Australian Mark Webber finished third for Red Bull after starting 18th while McLaren's Jenson Button was fourth following a rare blunder that saw him pit in front of the Red Bull mechanics.
Vettel now has 68 points after three races while Hamilton moved up to second overall with 47. Red Bull have 105 to McLaren's 85 and Ferrari's 50 in the constructors' standings.
"With the whole thing that happened in the pit lane ... perhaps I wasn't even going to be in the race," Hamilton told reporters after a thrilling and strategy-loaded race that left even drivers confused.
"I thought I was going to be back with Mark," added the Briton who gave a whoop of delight to celebrate his and McLaren's first win since Belgium in August last year.
Image: McLaren's Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit
Photographs: Getty Images
First driver to win twice in China
The 26-year-old, triumphant in Shanghai on his way to the title in 2008, was the first driver to win twice in China since the race made its debut on the calendar in 2004.
"The car just wouldn't start," he said of the pre-race problems that saw him drive out of the garage barely 30 seconds before the pit lane closed and without the rear engine cover installed.
Mechanics carried on their work once he was safely installed in third place on the grid.
Image: McLaren's Lewis Hamilton reacts after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit
Vettel had won the first two races of the season, after also finishing first in the last two of 2010, from pole position and looked the favourite again after grabbing the top slot.
His team's decision to go for a two-stop strategy, rather than Hamilton's three, proved crucial with the McLaren man making the most of his fresher tyres to reel in the Red Bull after his final stop.
"The pace was there," said Vettel, who had lost out to both the McLarens at the start.
"It was there all weekend but once we decided to go to two stop you have to be patient, look after your tyres and when it doesn't work, it doesn't work.
"I saw there were seven laps to go and not much I could do.
"I don't see second today as a disappointment ... all in all we are happy with second. First was not meant to be," he added.
Image: Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel celebrates after the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit
Hamilton and Button, who started on the front row, had both screamed past Vettel at the start with the older Englishman leading the eventual winner for the first 13 laps.
The 2009 champion then blew his lead on his first pitstop with a mistake that would have embarrassed even a rookie let alone one of the smoothest of drivers.
With Vettel following him in, moments after passing Hamilton for second place, Button stopped in front of the German's mechanics who hurriedly ushered him out to make way for their man -- who was then first out again.
"I was looking down and when I looked back up I could see I was in the wrong place," he said.
Image: Cars come out of their starting grid during the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit
While the top five were separated by less than eight seconds after more than a third of the race, Webber was on a charge of his own.
Robbed of his chances of winning by a technical problem on Saturday, he ran a different strategy to his team mate thanks to having three sets of unused option tyres due to his lack of track time on Saturday.
"I had a few sets of tyres left over from qualifying so that helped a bit," he said, adding jokingly: "Maybe that is the best way to do it all the time, not even take part in qualifying and just go from there.
Image: Mark Webber reacts during the Chinese Grand Prix
Alonso finished seventh
Germany's Nico Rosberg also enjoyed a moment in the limelight, leading after successive rounds of pitstops for Mercedes, but his hopes of a first career win after five seasons in Formula One faded as his team urged him to save fuel.
Rosberg finished fifth, ahead of Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso in sixth and seventh.
Seven times world champion Michael Schumacher crossed the line in eighth place for Mercedes at the circuit where he had his last podium finish with Ferrari in 2006.
Image: Michael Schumacher drives ahead of Fernando Alonso during the Chinese Grand Prix