World Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel has been told to move over for his Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo for the second straight race.
Ricciardo has finished fourth in the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai on Sunday in a race marred by a farcial finish caused by a flag error.
Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line first, getting away smoothly from pole and rarely being troubled as he finished 18 seconds ahead of his team-mate Nico Rosberg, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso third.
But there was more controversy in the Red Bull garage, with Vettel not taking too kindly to instructions to let Ricciardo pass.
Rosberg and Vettel became engaged in a wheel-to-wheel battle for third place on lap 23, from which the Mercedes driver emerged in front.
Their fight enabled Ricciardo to close on his team-mate and Vettel was asked to move over, as he had in the previous race in Bahrain, to let the quicker Ricciardo through.
But Vettel this time was less accommodating.
“Tough luck,” he said of Ricciardo’s position over team radio, and he defended his fourth place only to be passed by Ricciardo a couple of laps later.
It has been an eventful season so far for Ricciardo, who started the race in Bahrain from 13th place after receiving a 10-place grid penalty from Formula One authorities for a technical rule breach with regard to fuel during the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne last month.
There was a bizarre finish in Shanghai, when Hamilton was inadvertently shown the chequered flag early, meaning that the race was later declared over after 54 laps instead of the 56 completed.
“I was thinking ‘am I seeing things?’ I looked up as I was coming across the line expecting to do another lap and I saw a chequered flag,” said Hamilton.
“I asked the team, ‘Was there a flag? And they said ‘No’ and I kept going,” he added.
The mishap did not change any race positions apart from Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi, who was demoted from 17th to 18th after his late pass on Jules Bianchi was ruled out.
Although he has now racked up consecutive wins in Malaysia, Bahrain and now China, Hamilton still trails Rosberg by four points in the standings as he seeks to regain his 2008 world title.
“I can’t believe how amazing the car is. I was able to look after the tyres and then I was racing myself,” said Hamilton.
Rosberg retained his championship lead with a dogged second place after fighting past the Red Bulls and Alonso despite telemetry problems and an early bump.
For Ferrari, their first podium of the season was sweetly timed for new team principal Marco Mattiacci, who replaced Stefano Domenicali this week.
But there was more woe for McLaren when both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen finished out of the points.
No one was able to come close to Hamilton, who powered away from pole position and in dry, cool conditions, had a four-second cushion by lap six.
However, Rosberg remains top of the standings despite a tough weekend when he spun in qualifying and had telemetry problems which meant he had to keep his team updated on measurements over the radio.
After four races out of 19, Mercedes already have a sizeable lead in the constructors’ championship with 154 points, 97 more than second-placed Red Bull.