Lewis Hamilton stands on the brink of becoming the youngest Formula One world champion after a stunning pole-to-flag victory in today’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Hamilton drove faultlessly at the Shanghai International Circuit to claim his fifth win of the season and ninth of his 34-race career.
With Felipe Massa taking second, Hamilton now holds a seven-point cushion over the Ferrari driver ahead of the final race of the year on the Brazilian’s home turf of Interlagos in a fortnight’s time.
By a remarkable coincidence, Hamilton led by seven points to Kimi Raikkonen last year when the Briton suffered heartbreak as he lost out to the Finn by a point.
After all the drama of last Sunday's race in Japan, and all the criticism that had been directed Hamilton's way, he was wheel perfect on this occasion.
It was the simple continuation of a truly remarkable weekend as he had topped the timesheets at the end of both of Friday’s practice sessions.
Then in qualifying yesterday he chalked up the fastest lap at the end of all three sessions, producing an astonishing time when it mattered most in the final 10-minute run.
Hamilton had finished over 0.3secs faster than Raikkonen, with his achievement underlined come the conclusion of the first round of pit stops.
But prior to that we saw a perfect start as Hamilton made a clean getaway, blowing away the mayhem that had unfolded at the Fuji Speedway just seven days ago.
On that occasion Hamilton suffered a rush of blood to the head as he allowed Raikkonen to pass him on the run down to turn one.
Instead of sitting back, the McLaren star opted to attack the Finn, only to outbreak himself and force Raikkonen off the track.
It led to a drive-through penalty, and after later being speared by Massa – who incurred his own drive-through for the manoeuvre – it was ultimately a day to forget for Hamilton.
The Hamilton critics then poured out of the woodwork as drivers past and present poured scorn over the Briton, who must have felt as if the whole world was against him.
Hamilton was accused of being too aggressive, whilst Mark Webber even suggested an accident could unfold if he continued to drive the way he had been doing.
All Hamilton could do was clamber back in the car and underline to them why he was still the leader of the world championship.
He did just that, starting in practice, and finishing with a pole-to-flag victory, his fifth win this season and ninth throughout his career, and claiming the fastest lap.
It was all thanks to a dream start because whilst he understandably appeared pensive as cameras covered his every move on the grid, those nerves disappeared as soon as the five red lights did.
It was as clean a getaway as he could have wished as the threat from behind, with Raikkonen second on the grid, Massa third and bitter rival Fernando Alonso fourth, never materialised.
Mercifully, there was no drama in the pit lane either, not unlike last year when he slid into the gravel trap on severely-worn tyres and a damp track, a nightmare that helped cost him the title.
In turn, the McLaren pit crew did their job, matching Ferrari at the first stop as Raikkonen filed in behind Hamilton, and then beating them at the second by 1.6 seconds.
It was all as formulaic as Formula One gets, with only Jarno Trulli in his Toyota and Hamilton’s team-mate Heikki Kovalainen enduring any trouble.
Trulli was forced to retire after just two laps as he was caught by Sebastien Bourdais in his Toro Rosso at the opening corner, sending the Italian into a spin.
As for Kovalainen, he suffered a puncture, the kind of mishap that has befallen Hamilton so often in the past, but in this instance it was the turn of the Finn to suffer.
He was comfortably on for a potential fourth place, but also had to retire, leaving McLaren 11 points adrift of Ferrari in the constructors’ championship.
Come the conclusion, Hamilton finished an easy 14.9secs clear of Massa who passed Raikkonen all too comfortably on lap 50 shortly after trailing by a second, although that was to be expected.
Behind the leading trio, Alonso, who had won the last two races, was fourth, with Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica fifth and sixth, the latter now out of the running as far as the title is concerned.
They were followed by Toyota’s Timo Glock and Nelson Piquet in his Renault, with David Coulthard 10th in his Red Bull and Honda’s Jenson Button 16th of the 17 finishers.