Mercedes boss Toto Wolff claims that Lewis Hamilton is in "a different league" after watching the three-time world champion hit back in a promising duel with Ferrari by claiming an emphatic victory at Sunday's (9 April) Chinese Grand Prix.
Having edged out Sebastian Vettel by 0.186 seconds to claim a sixth successive pole position, Hamilton led from start to finish at Shanghai's International Circuit and drew level with his rival in the drivers' standings with a 54th career triumph. A 106th podium finish also saw the Briton, victorious in five of his 11 races in China to date, tie Alain Prost for second on Formula One's all-time list. Only the great Michael Schumacher (155) has more.
Hamilton also joined the aforementioned Schumacher as the only F1 driver ever to win five times on three or more different circuits.
"Lewis, on his day, is in a different league," Wolff said, according to PA Sport and The Mail. "On a difficult day and difficult conditions there's nobody else I'd rather have in the car.
"He was managing the pace in the right way, our strategy was spot-on and, on an afternoon when there was lots of scope for making mistakes, he didn't put a foot wrong. It's now 1-1 for us against Ferrari and the development race is on. This is just the beginning."
While Hamilton provided yet another reminder of his enduring quality, things were not quite so rosy for new teammate Valtteri Bottas. Making just his second start for the Silver Arrows after crossing the line third on his debut in Australia, the former Williams favourite, who qualified on the second row of the grid, spun into the grass on lap six while trying to generate tyre temperature behind a safety car that was introduced following Lance Stroll's early crash.
Such an error saw Bottas drop from fifth to 12th, although he later defied a sluggish pit stop to take sixth place behind Hamilton, Vettel, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen.
Backing his former protege to recover from that mistake, Wolff said: "He threw it away behind the safety car – he just needs to recover from that now. It was very slippery out there and he lost it – and that's when the race was gone. [But] it's the second race of the season, there are 18 more – analyse and forget it.
"You could see during the race that he had the pace. He was doing Lewis's lap times at various stages, but once you're losing so many positions and you're not in the leading pack anymore, and you have to recover mentally, that is very difficult. He certainly has the character to recover from such a situation."
The F1 circus now heads to Sakhir for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
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- Chinese Grand Prix 2017: Lewis Hamilton beats Sebastian Vettel to clinch first F1 win this season
- Valtteri Bottas 'kind of fortunate' to get Mercedes seat says Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo
- Delighted Lewis Hamilton admits safety car was the difference after Sebastian Vettel misfortune
- Toto Wolff hails flawless Lewis Hamilton and backs Valtteri Bottas to recover from China error