Hamilton strikes back in China

Image: Mercedes-AMG F1 / Twitter

It's still early days, but the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship looks like it's shaping up to be an epic scrap between Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

After losing out to Ferrari in Australia two weeks ago, Hamilton struck back in Shanghai to win his first Grand Prix of the year in impressive style.

It was a perfect weekend for Hamilton, who in the process also recorded the third Grand Slam of his impressive career.

Slippery when wet

The Shanghai weather did not cooperate for the start of the Chinese Grand Prix, and the entire grid was forced to start the race on intermediate tyres.

The damp track was not a problem for Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who proved once again that there is no one in Formula 1 who is better than he in the wet weather.

Verstappen, who started the race in seventeenth after suffering an engine problem in qualifiying, passed nine cars on a stunning opening lap and went on to finish the race in third place.

It was a controversial start for Vettel, who positioned his car in his grid box in such a way to take advantage of a drier patch of track.

Vettel attracted the unwanted attention of the race stewards, who later declared that the rules were insuffuciently clear to determine whether or not the Ferrari driver had committed an infraction.

Safety cars make the difference

There was plenty of drama in the opening laps of the race.

A virtual safety car was deployed on the second lap of the race when Lance Stroll's Williams became stuck in the gravel trap after being punted off the track by Force India's Sergio Pérez.

Two laps later the safety car was deployed after Sauber driver Antonio Giovinazzi hit the pit wall and left a large debris field on the main straight.

Vettel and Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, who dropped down to sixth and twelfth position respectively, were the two front runners who were most affected by Giovinazzi's crash and resulting safety car.

Vettel fights back

The timing of the safety car deployment dropped Vettel down the order, and he was stuck behind teammate Kimi Räikkönen and the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo for a number of laps.

Driving the faster Ferrari Vettel made a number of impressive passes as he moved up through the race order, but the move he put on Ricciardo was the best of the lot.

Ultimately Vettel was unable to challenge for the lead, but he was the only driver within arm's length of Hamilton having closed the gap to just over six seconds by the end of the race.

Hamilton and Vettel are tied for World Drivers Championship lead after the first two races of the season, and will renew their battle this weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix.