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Apr 12, 2015 6:51 AM

Lewis Hamilton wins 4th Chinese Grand Prix

The Associated Press

SHANGHAI (AP) Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes back on top with a win at the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday, but it may have come at a cost another schism with teammate Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton made sure there would be no repeat of Ferrari's surprising win two weeks ago at the Malaysian Grand Prix, conserving his tires to withstand a challenge by the Italian team's Sebastian Vettel and easily capture his fourth Chinese Grand Prix and the 35th win of his career.

Rosberg finished second again and angrily accused his teammate of holding him back in the race.

Hamilton's tire-conservation strategy ensured he could open up a sizeable lead over Vettel after the second pit stop, but Rosberg said afterward that Hamilton's measured pace allowed the Ferrari driver to stay close to him and caused his tires to wear by the end of the race.

"It's just now interesting to hear from you, Lewis, that you were just thinking about yourself with the pace in front and unnecessarily that was compromising my race," he said. "It was unnecessarily close with Sebastian as a result and it cost me a lot of race time."

Hamilton responded afterward by saying he didn't intentionally try to impede his teammate.

"It's not my job to look after Nico's race. My job's to manage the car and bring the car home as fast as possible and that's what I did," he said. "I just was focused on myself. If Nico wanted to get by, he could have tried."

Tire degradation is what cost Mercedes the race in the tropical heat of Malaysia two weeks ago, so the team was careful not to let it happen again on a warmer-than-expected track in Shanghai.

Hamilton kept his pace in check on soft tires through the first half of the race, prompting a frustrated Rosberg to say to his team over the radio, "Lewis is driving very slowly, so tell him to speed up."

The British driver did speed up after Vettel pitted for the second time, clocking his fastest lap time of the day to build a substantial lead by the time he pitted a couple laps later.

Vettel faded after the second pitstop and trailed by more than 15 seconds when the safety car came out with two laps remaining after Max Verstappen's Toro Rosso car stalled on the track. The race came to an anticlimactic finish with the drivers rounding the circuit twice behind the safety car.

"We knew that the Ferraris were very, very good with their long-run pace and also looking after their tires so today the real goal was to manage the tires and my goal was to look after my car," Hamilton said.

Hamilton and Rosberg have been friends since childhood, but tensions began to emerge between the teammates as they battled for the drivers' championship last year, including a crash between the two at the Belgian Grand Prix that knocked Hamilton out of the race.

The safety car may have come out just in time for Vettel, who was holding on to a 1.6-second lead over Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen at the end of the race. Vettel finished third and Raikkonen had to settle for fourth, just missing his first podium finish since the Singapore Grand Prix in 2013.

"We tried to put more pressure (on Mercedes) by stopping fairly early for the last set of tires, but I think on the harder tires they were just that bit too quick, so they were able to pull away," Vettel said.

The Williams cars of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were fifth and sixth, respectively, followed by Lotus' Romain Grosjean, Sauber's Felipe Nasr, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Sauber's other driver, Marcus Ericsson.

McLaren achieved its stated goal of having both cars finish the race for the first time this season a major step forward as Honda tries to improve the engine on its return to the sport after six years.

Fernando Alonso was 12th and Jenson Button ended up in 14th place after a collision with Lotus' Pastor Maldonado that caused the Venezuelan driver to retire from the race. Maldonado has yet to finish a race in 2015.


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