Mercedes' Nico Rosberg claimed the first Formula One victory of his career, finishing ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton at the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai on Sunday.

The 26 year old enjoyed a relatively smooth ride to take the chequered flag for the first time in his 111 race starts. However, it proved to be a real battle for positions behind the young German. Button claimed second ahead of team mate Hamilton with just four laps to go and the Red Bull duo of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel finished fourth and fifth.

Rosberg - who started from pole - won by a massive 20.6 seconds over Button, after making just two pit stops and managing to hold off the rest of the field on worn tires.

"It's an unbelievable feeling. I'm very excited and it's been a long time coming. It's amazing and really nice to see how quickly we are progressing. I didn't think we would be that fast today," the Telegraph quoted the German as saying.

However, Rosberg's Mercedes team mate Michael Schumacher was forced to retire early in the race following a mistake in his pit stop. The seven-time former World Champion was in the pits for a routine stop when he was cleared to leave before the mechanics re-attached the front right tire properly.

As the veteran German pulled away, a member of the pit crew slapped the ground in frustration and the team's hope of one-two finish faded away. The stewards are to launch an investigation post-race into the incident, citing an unsafe release.

Meanwhile, Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was sixth, ahead of the Williams pair of Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado, Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, the Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez and Paul di Resta's Force India.

Earlier, Mercedes had locked out the front row of the grid after the qualifying session finished with Rosberg and Schumacher occupying the first two slots. Hamilton, who actually finished second in Saturday's qualifying, had to start from seventh due to a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox. This promoted Schumacher from third to second and he started beside his Mercedes teammate on the front row.

Hamilton now has 45 points and leads the Drivers' World Championship from team mate Button by two points. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso is third, eight points adrift.

McLaren lead the race for the Constructors' crown, with 88 points to Red Bull's 64 and Ferrari's 37.

The next race in the season is the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled between 20 April and 22 April.