Hamilton charged off the line to take an immediate lead over his teammate Valtteri Bottas who started on pole.
One hopeful is Zhou Guanyu. The 19-year-old driver has this year graduated to Formula 2, the racing series widely considered as the final step on the ladder before F1.
In a sign of how competitive the top three teams look, one driver from each registered a fastest sector, with Verstappen quickest in the first sector, Bottas strongest in the middle and Vettel in sector three.
"In Bahrain ... there are definitely things I could have done better", said Bottas.
"We are definitely closer and also I was quite happy with the vehicle".
"It's only the third race", said the five-times world champion.
With English the dominant language in worldwide motorsport and numerous world's top racing teams based in the UK, Zhou elected to move to the country at age 12 in order to pursue his dream.
Grosjean added: "That's the problem when you are furthest away from the leaders".
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The Rockets are led by MVP candidate James Harden, who led the league in points per game, and the ever-reliable Chris Paul. The German star was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2007 and the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in 2011.
"I am happy to be on the podium, but it's tough because we tried to stick with them [the Mercedes drivers] but we couldn't", he said. "You saw last weekend that we don't stand on each other's feet when one auto is faster than the other".
"You also have exams in school, and you can't do badly in those either, so it was hard". Everybody just lining up and they are just f*****g it up.
The circuit is unusual in that it is "front limited", which means the front tyres take more of a hit than the rears and are the limiting factor when it comes to performance degradation and wear. "You know that the guys who have a lap have a chance of overtaking you".
This weekend was the 16th time that the F1 circuit came to Shanghai.
"I haven't actually driven on it yet!"
As well as milestone races, this year will also see Liberty confirm the regulations to be used in Formula 1 from 2021 and beyond. "I would never try to screw anyone just for the hell of it".
Ayrton Senna celebrated winning the European Grand Prix at Donnington in 1993 (David Jones/PA) Lewis Hamilton won his first world championship at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2008 (Rui Vieira/PA) Rubens Barrichello (322) has competed in more grands prix than any other driver. Those in charge of the sport must have watched through their fingers, then, as a procession, ruined further by Ferrari's team orders farce, promoted some of the duller elements of Formula 1.
"I think there was not much in it".