Just when it looked like defending world champion Sebastian Vettel was going to turn the 2011 Formula 1 season into a procession with a hat-trick of wins up stepped Lewis Hamilton with one of the best drives of his career.

Hamilton’s thrilling victory in China pushed Vettel into second place and cuts the German’s lead in the overall standings to 21 points. But more importantly it sets up the season for what promises to be a fascinating battle between two great young champions and a supporting cast that includes their formidable team-mates – 2009 champion Jenson Button and Red Bull’s Mark Webber.

Formula 1 is sometimes too predictable and overshadowed by the sport’s politics to be taken seriously by a lot of sports fans. But the absorbing start to the new season and the return to prominence of Hamilton is just what Formula 1 needs. This could be one of the sport’s most exciting years ever.