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Chinese Grand Prix victor Lewis Hamilton says the final stint of the race was an example of "what racing is all about" because he and Sebastian Vettel were exchanging quick lap times despite a big gap on track.

"That was not bad I think", said the Dutchman modestly. "And Ferrari are at their best in years - in a decade, pretty much". "But I managed to hold on and it was a good race for the team as well".

And in China he once again proved why he is so highly rated by so many, going one better than his eighth place in Melbourne as team-mate Daniil Kvyat retired after 19 laps in with transmission failure.

Fourth was Vettel's Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, with a qualifying time of 1:32.140.

Hamilton and Vettel now sit on equal points in the championship as the battle really looks on between Mercedes and Ferrari.

The Briton, who started on pole, steered his Mercedes to his fifth Chinese Grand Prix win, beating Vettel's Ferrari by just over six seconds with Red Bull's Max Verstappen finishing third after an early safety vehicle drama. The Canadian beached his Williams in the gravel, bringing out the virtual safety vehicle.

Morning rain in Shanghai had soaked the track, but the weather improved by the start and the circuit was drying out in parts, leading to the majority of the grid starting on intermediate tyres.

Afterwards Hamilton said: "Today was very tough for us all".

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"They are the ones to beat, they have a very strong team, doing very well the last three years being flawless and smashing a lot of records". This year, as well.

The drive of the race belonged to Max Verstappen.

And pole-sitter Hamilton, for the second race in succession, made no mistake at the start as he nailed the 380-yard dash down to turn one to retain the lead with Vettel following in behind.

"Then on the exit I was a bit compromised, a bit in the dirt, getting a bit of wheel spin, but then I got a bit my elbows out". In the last 12 laps or so it was very, very hard to get to where he was.

The first half of the race brought plenty of daring passes as the Ferrari and Red Bull cars jockeyed for position behind Hamilton. The safety auto was gone in Lap 8 leaving Hamilton in total control followed by Ricciardo Raikkonen and Verstappen.

When asked if the timing of the Safety Car was unfortunate, Vettel said [via ESPN]: "Yeah". "But even if it wasn't there, you never know how it could have impacted on the race".

That remained for a couple of laps, with Hamilton now enjoying a healthy advantage and a number of drivers, including Vettel, opting to switch to slicks.

The race started on a slippery track with Fernando Alonso impressing for McLaren in running in the top six.