CHINESE GRAND PRIX 9TH APRIL 2017
“I think this will be one of the closest (title fights) if not the closest that I have ever experienced.” (Hamilton)
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
6. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
7. Carlos Sainz Jr (Torro Rosso)
8. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
9. Sergio Perez (Force India)
10. Esteban Ocon (Force India)
Formula One is enjoying something of a renaissance. Even a wet start could not dampen the wheel to wheel battles and uninhibited joy of racing in Shanghai. The result could have swung in favour of either Hamilton or Vettel; but today the luck fell on the side of Hamilton.
Hamilton dominated the race from the front, while Vettel had to showcase his overtaking skills after ending up 6th behind 5 very strong drivers.
The crowd were treated to yet another incredible performance from Verstappen; who started from 16th and with some fine examples of overtaking – passed 9 cars during the first lap to make his way to 7th. Christian Horner called it ‘a remarkable drive’, as the 19 year old Verstappen defended his position with the maturity and skill of a much more experienced driver.
“It was a very challenging race, but I really enjoyed it.”
As Hamilton and Vettel continue to build on their place in the history books – Verstappen is head of the new generation.
Bottas couldn’t match his podium place in Australia today and spun behind the safety car, dropping to 12th – eventually finishing 6th.
Alonso drove a strong first lap to get up to 8th place and was a comfortable 7th up until the half way point, when his driveshaft failed. Despite not finishing, he described it as “probably the best race of my life” – as he demonstrated his skill in an ‘uncompetitive’ McClaren.
Lap 4 was a turning point. After a wet start, Hamilton led. The Lance Stoll crash and the subsequent safety car prompted Vettel and others to pit for new dry tyres on Lap 2. This decision dropped Vettel to 6th place, but ahead of him were drivers on intermediate tyres as the track was beginning to dry. So far, so good for the German.
But as Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Verstappen then pitted, they received a stroke of good luck in the form of another safety car – following a crash by Sauber’s Antonio Giovinazzi. This meant that they could make the pit without jeopardising their places and that Vettel must now pass Verstappen, Ricciardo and Raikkonen.
From here Hamilton was able to control the race; almost without any serious challenge – except for a late push from Vettel.
Verstappen passed Ricciardo on Lap 11 at Turn 5 and chased after Hamilton. Raikkonen spent 9 laps failing to pass Ricciardo and was then passed by Vettel on Turn 5.
It was Lap 22 which saw the ‘pass of the race’ with Vettel going all the way round the outside of the hairpin of Turn 5 to overtake Ricciardo- the two cars banging wheels as they accelerated towards Turn 6. With Vettel now ahead he was free to chase Verstappen, forcing a mistake from the Dutchman at Turn 14 on Lap 28 and taking 2nd place.
“It was a good match. It was good fun.” (Vettel)
Carlos Sainz Jr enjoyed an impressive race. His risky decision to start on slick tyres despite the rain, paid off when the track dried quickly and despite an early spin behind the safety car – he finished a well- deserved 7th.
Overtaking is now seemingly better than ever. There were fewer overtakes overall compared to last season but all were ‘well-earned’.
“It’s as it should be. The DRS is doing the job it was initially intended for: to give you the run but the driver still has to get the job done.” (Christian Horner)
Drivers are enjoying the new cars, taking risks and overtaking; this has already created some thrilling moments so far this year. Mercedes have some long awaited, serious competition in Ferrari. They “have done an extraordinary job over the winter and need to be taken very seriously.” (Toto Wolff)
In Formula One, at the moment, there is a lot to be thankful for….the optimism is infectious..