David Coulthard column: Lewis Hamilton in control in China

By David CoulthardBBC F1 co-commentator and former F1 driver
Faultless Hamilton wins in China

Lewis Hamilton's victory in the Chinese Grand Prix only heightened the impression that he is in complete control of the Formula 1 season at this early stage.

After three races, Hamilton has two dominant victories and a second place. His victory in China was his most impressive yet in 2015.

He was in a league of his own - even if in the end he beat team-mate Nico Rosberg to pole by only 0.04 seconds - and aced every aspect of the weekend.

Psychological warfare at Mercedes?

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton leads the world championship standings on 68 points, with Nico Rosberg third on 51, four points behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel

It is quite possible that Hamilton's performance level is what is really behind the outburst from Rosberg after the race, when he accused his team-mate of trying to back him into the Ferraris.

I was surprised to hear Nico say that.

There is no reason not to take him at face value when he says that exactly that risk was discussed before the race and he obviously felt uncomfortable.

The pressure of feeling Vettel close behind made his afternoon more complicated, so that instead of just being beaten, he also had to work to reduce pressure from behind.

It is a slight change of tack for Rosberg to bring it out into the public domain - normally he prefers to keep these things behind closed doors.

Chinese GP: Nico Rosberg criticises 'slow' Lewis Hamilton

I don't think that will be awkward for Mercedes to handle and they were scrupulously fair in letting him make the second stop before Hamilton to relieve any pressure he was feeling.

It will be interesting to see how that develops within the team, and it may fester a little in the days before the Bahrain race next weekend, but the underlying thing is Lewis just looks completely in control.

This was maybe Nico shaking the tree, wondering what he has to do to try to destabilise Hamilton and get in front of him.

In reality, all he needs to do is out-qualify Hamilton and convert that into a lead at the first corner, and his life will get a whole lot easier.

But of course that is easier to say than do and right now he is not looking on the verge of threatening Hamilton for this championship.

An ephemeral threat from Ferrari?

There was a lot of talk before the Chinese race about the threat to Mercedes from Ferrari, following Sebastian Vettel's victory in Malaysia.

To me, at the moment it doesn't look as if Ferrari can mount a genuine season-long challenge to Mercedes. It is more a question of them trying to keep the pressure on and take advantage if Mercedes make a mistake, such as on the strategy in Malaysia.

Fantastic Kimi Raikkonen is back - Coulthard

If Ferrari were able to get track position advantage, they would be difficult to beat but they don't appear to have the outright pace to do that.

But they might get a chance at the start of a race if someone does not make a great start, or perhaps they could pull a nice pass such as Kimi Raikkonen's on the two Williams cars on lap one in China.

It was, as an aside, nice to see Raikkonen looking racy and like the driver so many people admire.

The heat in Bahrain next weekend gives some hope they may be able to challenge more closely, as they did in Malaysia.

Fundamentally, though, I see Ferrari as a very solid second, with a chance to win more grands prix, and they need to add performance to the car to really become a credible title contender.

A rapidly rising star

Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen is the youngest driver in the history of the Formula 1, making his debut in Australia, aged 17 years, 166 days

Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen was exceptional in Shanghai. His overtaking moves were top drawer and it was very impressive to watch just how strong, committed and immaculate he was.

They were ballsy moves, and they underline that, at the age of 17, three races into his grand prix career, he has not put a foot wrong and he continues to impress.

Did Button deserve a penalty?

Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado clash in China

Jenson Button was docked five seconds and given two points on his licence - out of the 12 that triggers an automatic ban - for his collision with Lotus's Pastor Maldonado late in the race.

Giving Button two points for that seems bit harsh to me. It almost has the undertones of him being a bad driver, which is clearly not the case.

It is not as if he is wild on track. Button hardly ever has incidents like that. So for me a reprimand would have been a more suitable punishment, if the stewards felt one was needed.

A slightly surreal viewing experience

Eddie Jordan was not in China, but, to use an EJ-ism in his absence, it was a race of three halves. We were getting interested and entertained by just how close everything was in that first stint, Nico keeping Lewis honest about a second behind and then not a lot of distance back to Vettel and Raikkonen. And then that all changed.

It was almost like watching a scripted race, but one for which only Hamilton knew the lines.

He had a lot in hand, but the circumstances of the race meant he only unleashed that pace when he really needed to.

It's hard for me to understand what the drivers are going through because it is so alien to what F1 was like when I was driving.

To hear Hamilton say that going through Turn One they just have to be careful of the front tyre sounds odd to me. I have never driven a car in anger on tyres like that, so I can hear their words and try to imagine it, but it is nothing like anything I have ever dealt with.

David Coulthard was talking to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson

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