Lewis Hamilton has yet to win a race this season, but his consistency has led him to the top of the Drivers’ Championship after he achieved a third successive third-place finish in the Chinese Grand Prix.
The Brit leads McLaren team-mate Jenson Button by two points despite coming a place behind him, having secured a podium spot by passing world champion Sebastian Vettel late on, as did his Red Bull colleague Mark Webber for fourth.
The result is that the compatriots are 2/1 joint-favourites to close the campaign at the top of the standings, with Vettel considered their main rival at 9/2 even after a slow start which sees him fifth with 40 points fewer than this stage last year.
Star of the show in Shanghai though was Nico Rosberg who, having claimed pole position for the first time on the Saturday, saw out his advantage supremely to earn his first victory at the 111th attempt, 20 seconds clear of Button.
His prospects of mounting a strong challenge for the remainder of the season are open to debate, with the German – whose father Keke is a former world champion – rated a 6/1 third favourite to triumph next week in Bahrain.
However, the 26-year-old is a far more distant 10/1 to land the title, a consequence of both doubts over whether Mercedes are serious contenders and the fact that he failed to collect a single point in the first two races.
Button, whose 2009 success was enjoyed alongside Mercedes boss Ross Brawn, expects Rosberg to sustain the form shown this weekend.
He said: “I’m sure this won’t be Nico’s first and last win. They seem to be very fast this year and Nico hasn’t put a foot wrong all weekend. I think we’ll have a battle on our hands, which is good to see.”