Sunday, July 21, 2024

Chinese GP: Max Verstappen claims maiden Shanghai win as Lando Norris denies Red Bull one-two

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Max Verstappen overcame two Safety Car interruptions to claim a maiden Chinese Grand Prix victory ahead of Lando Norris.

Verstappen appeared to be cruising towards victory until back-to-back mid-race Safety Car interruptions reduced his lead, but calmly rebuilt a 13-second advantage to seal his fourth win in five races this season.

The Safety Cars, caused by an engine failure on Valtteri Bottas’ Sauber followed by a crash at the resulting restart, helped McLaren’s Norris pull off a one-stop strategy that enabled him to leapfrog Sergio Perez and deny Red Bull a one-two.

Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were also able to pull off one-stop strategies but were unable to threaten Perez as they finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

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Watch the restart chaos as both RB drivers Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo are forced to retire at the Chinese Grand Prix

George Russell maximised the performance of his Mercedes to take sixth, finishing ahead of Fernando Alonso, who was hampered by a strange tyre choice from Aston Martin during the Spaniard’s pit stop under Safety Car conditions.

Oscar Piastri was eighth for McLaren, while Lewis Hamilton was another to benefit from the Safety Cars as the seven-time world champion salvaged ninth place having started from 18th on the grid.

Chinese GP result: Top 10

1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull

2) Lando Norris, McLaren

3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull

4) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

5) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

6) George Russell, Mercedes

7) Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin

8) Oscar Piastri, McLaren

9) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

10) Nico Hulkenberg, Haas

Nico Hulkenberg took the final point to continue Haas’ strong start to the season in the battle of the lower-midfield.

With Formula 1 returning to China for the first time since 2019, before Red Bull had become Formula 1’s dominant force, the Shanghai International Circuit becomes the 26th different track that Verstappen has won a Grand Prix at, having also triumphed in Saturday’s Sprint.

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Lewis Hamilton faced challenges with the Mercedes W15 during the Chinese Grand Prix

The victory extends Verstappen’s world championship lead over Perez to 25 points and keeps the Dutchman on course to seal a fourth successive drivers’ title.

Red Bull’s advantage over Ferrari at the top of the constructors’ standings grows to 44 points, with McLaren a further 55 points back in third.

Safety Cars halt Red Bull procession

While rain in Friday’s Sprint Qualifying shuffled the field and forced Verstappen to come from behind in Saturday’s shorter race, Red Bull’s dominance in the dry had left little mystery going into Sunday.

What looked to be a near certain Red Bull one-two came under early threat as Alonso pulled off an impressive pass around the outside of Perez at the first corner, but by lap five the Mexican had regained the position.

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Watch the opening lap of the Chinese Grand Prix as Max Verstappen held the lead and Fernando Alonso squeezed past Sergio Perez to take P2

Verstappen had opened up a 10-second gap to Perez by the time the pair opted to make their first stop, with the margin allowing Red Bull to bring in both cars in at the end of lap 13.

Norris and the Ferraris stayed out, but Verstappen was able to regain the lead on lap 19, just before Bottas’ engine failure triggered a Virtual Safety Car, which became a full Safety Car as the marshals struggled to remove his Sauber from the track.

Norris and Leclerc pitted under the VSC, before Verstappen – along with the rest of the drivers who had stopped just a few laps earlier – decided to follow under the full Safety Car.

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Valtteri Bottas is forced to retire with engine failure, prompting a safety car at the Chinese Grand Prix

While Verstappen retained a reduced lead, Perez came out behind both Norris and Leclerc, with the top four now all on equally fresh tyres.

Verstappen retained his lead at the rolling restart at the end of lap 26, but the Safety Car was quickly back out after two crashes, the first of which occurred before the action had properly resumed.

Lance Stroll was caught out by a train of cars braking in front of him, and drove his Aston Martin straight into the rear of Daniel Ricciardo’s RB, ultimately causing damage that would force the Australian out of the race. Stroll received a 10-second penalty for causing the collision.

Insult was added to injury for Ricciardo when he was later handed a three-place grid penalty for the Miami Grand Prix for overtaking Hulkenberg under Safety Car conditions.

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A deflated Daniel Ricciardo reacts to the incident with Lance Stroll which led him to retire from the Chinese Grand Prix

In a disastrous few moments for RB, it was Haas’ Kevin Magnussen causing a crash with Ricciardo’s team-mate Yuki Tsunoda in the first sector that left the latter stranded off track, triggering the return of the Safety Car.

The race would restart with 25 laps remaining, which most assumed would be enough time for Perez to clear Leclerc and Norris.

The Mexican, who has made a strong start to the season as he attempts to seal an extension to his expiring contract, got the first part of the job done as he cleared Leclerc on lap 39.

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Max Verstappen secures another win for Red Bull at the Chinese Grand Prix

Norris, however, would prove elusive and by the end of the race had extended his advantage over Perez to more than five seconds.

The result, a second podium of the season for Norris, provided some consolation after a poor start to Saturday’s Sprint saw him miss out on the chance to claim a maiden F1 win from pole.

Verstappen was untroubled out front as he made it 21 wins from F1’s last 23 races, and ensured that by the time the season resumes with another Sprint weekend in Miami at the start of May, Sainz will be the only other driver to have won a grand prix in the preceding 365 days.

Alonso loses out, Hamilton salvages ninth

Behind the front three, Ferrari had to settle for a first race this season without a podium as the Italian team failed to deliver the pace they had expected on Sunday.

Their cause wasn’t helped by Leclerc forcing Sainz off track at the first corner in an incident which saw them lose positions to Russell and Hulkenberg.

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Fernando Alonso saves himself from going into the wall with a quick reaction and shortly after overtakes both Lewis Hamilton and Oscar Piastri

While they were able to regain those places, Norris’ significantly superior pace during the second half of the race puts Ferrari’s early-season status as best of the rest behind Red Bull in doubt heading to Miami.

Unlike Norris, Alonso was unable to avoid going backwards after his strong start, but his challenge was stiffened when Aston Martin gave him a set of soft tyres under the first Safety Car, which wouldn’t enable him to get to the end of the race like the hard tyre that his rivals were on.

He would be forced to stop again 13 laps from the end, after which he made four late passes to claim a seventh place that would have surely been at least sixth with a more optimised strategy.

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Lewis Hamilton makes stunning move over Nico Hulkenberg to secure P8 at the Chinese Grand Prix

One of the cars Alonso passed on his late surge was Hamilton, who completed a 50th race since his last F1 victory at the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Brit would finish ninth but was assisted by the Safety Cars as the W15’s lack of pace left him battling with backmarkers in the early stages.

Hamilton, who is leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari next season, is ninth in the drivers’ standings with just 19 points from the opening five rounds.

What the top three said

Max Verstappen, Red Bull – 1st: “It felt amazing. The whole weekend we were incredibly quick. Just enjoyable to drive on every compound.

“We survived the restarts well and the car was basically on rails and I could do whatever I wanted with it.

“Those kind of weekends are amazing to feel and to achieve what we did this weekend is fantastic.”

Lando Norris, McLaren – 2nd: “I don’t know why, it was not the race I was expecting to have today, but just got comfortable and could manage the tyres a lot, which was an easier task than what I could have yesterday.

“I was surprised by many things: the lack of pace from Ferrari, our good pace, and I guess us comparing to the Red Bull which was so surprising.

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Lando Norris felt McLaren exceeded there expectations after claiming second place in China and finishing behind Max Verstappen feels like a win

“I just wasn’t expecting today. I got everything ready to go home early and not be on the podium, so it’s a pleasant surprise. But it shows the team have done a good job, have worked hard and it’s paying off.

“I made a bet how far behind the Ferrari we would finish today. I thought 35 seconds – and I was very wrong by that. So happy to be wrong with myself, and my own bets, but a good day for everyone.”

Sergio Perez, Red Bull – 3rd: “It really cost us quite a bit unfortunately we got the Safety Car and lost two places.

“We did most of the lap on the hard and fighting like that in the early laps, the life of the tyre goes off dramatically but at least we got onto the podium. But it would have been good to be one and two.

“We were definitely lacking some pace, especially on the medium compound, we struggled a bit with the balance.

“We changed a lot from yesterday to today, so we didn’t read the conditions as perfectly as we could, but overall it was a strong weekend and we understand the reasons today why the race pace was a little down.”

Chinese GP Result

Driver Team Time
1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:40:52.554
2) Lando Norris McLaren +13.773
3) Sergio Perez Red Bull +19.160
4) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +23.623
5) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +33.983
6) George Russell Mercedes +38.724
7) Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +43.414
8) Oscar Piastri McLaren +56.198
9) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +57.986
10) Nico Hulkenberg Haas +60.476
11) Esteban Ocon Alpine +62.812
12) Alex Albon Williams +65.506
13) Pierre Gasly Alpine +69.223
14) Zhou Guanyu Sauber +71.689
15) Kevin Magnussen Haas +82.786
16) Lance Stroll Aston Martin +87.533
17) Logan Sargeant Williams +95.110
Daniel Ricciardo RB Did Not Finish
Yuki Tsunoda RB Did Not Finish
Valtteri Bottas Sauber Did Not Finish

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