Lewis Hamilton admits his Chinese Grand Prix victory would have been much closer had it not been for the timing of an early Virtual Safety Car period which Sebastian Vettel admitted halted his momentum.
Mercedes driver Hamilton secured his first victory of the 2017 in Shanghai, dominating the race with Ferrari's Vettel finishing behind the Briton in second place.
The German driver held second place early on but was among a clutch of racers forced to switch to slick tyres after an early Virtual Safety Car on just the second lap.
A full Safety Car provided further disruption a few laps later when Antonio Giovinazzi crashed. Vettel managed to force his way back into the podium spots having overtaken teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull duo Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, but was unable to challenge Hamilton.
When asked if the timing of the Safety Car was unfortunate, Vettel said [via ESPN]: "Yeah. My start was OK and then I realised that the intermediates had quite a lot degradation. It was very dry on some parts of the track, so I knew that they wouldn't last.
"I was happy to take the risk, obviously Virtual Safety Car you save a bit of time doing the pit stop, and then the safety car came just when I was about to feel that the dry tyre was a lot quicker, so I couldn't use the momentum, the advantage, and lost a lot of positions. But then I had a really exciting race, I really enjoyed it."
Hamilton, who now shares a lead with Vettel at the summit of the Drivers' Championship admitted post-race things might have been different had it not been for the stoppage. "We were matching times," Hamilton said of the German. "If there wasn't a Safety Car it would've been much closer.
"It's going to be one of the closest, if not the closest, fights I've experienced."
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