Lewis Hamilton admitted the Safety Car played a useful role in his Chinese Grand Prix victory ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
The Mercedes driver was able to change onto slick tyres early in the race when the Safety Car was deployed for Antonio Giovinazzi’s crash. That kept him ahead of Vettel, who had pitted from second place onto slicks during an earlier Virtual Safety Car period.
Vettel chased Hamilton late in the race but the Australian Grand Prix winner was unable to catch the Mercedes. But Hamilton acknowledged they were “matching times” towards the end. “So I think we feel that if there wasn’t a Safety Car it would have been much closer.”
Hamilton said the pair were “both pushing” at the end. “Those last 20 laps or so, exchanging times. I kept having to be fed what times he was doing so I could try to match it. And he was closing the gap a little bit but I managed to stay ahead.”
He predicted the championship battle will be “one of the closest ones, if not the closest, personally I’ve ever experienced.”
“I’m looking forward to this fight, not only Sebastian but these other guys as well, they’re still going to be in amongst it.”
The race started on a damp but drying track. Hamilton said the conditions were “very tough for us all and it was “difficult to know” which tyres to use for the start of the race.
“I went out on inters initially on the laps to the grid, then I tried a slick which was impossible.”
“And then we all started on inters and it was very hard because there was a lot of dry patches everyone. Mostly dry, but there were a lot of corners which were wet. Trying to keep the car on the track and look after tyres at the same time was definitely very tough.”