Mercedes entered Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday a bit befuddled with their ability to get the heat cycle correct in their tires and the ability of the Ferrari’s to run well in both warm and cool temperatures. Lewis Hamilton found it odd that the Ferrari’s seemed able to have the pace they do on three very different circuits and temperatures.
Sebastian Vettel, on pole, and Kimi Raikkonen held the front row ahead of the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. The Red Bull’s of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo on row three and ready to pounce on any Ferrari or Mercedes who managed a poor start or difficult race.
If strategy played a role in Sebastian Vettel’s win in Australia, it didn’t return the favor to Mercedes in Bahrain but it showed up in spades for them in China. What looked to be a cruise to a win, Ferrari got caught out by a quick-thinking Mercedes and Valtteri Bottas took the lead with an undercut.
Valtteri was leading the race on lap 21 after undercutting Vettel’s Ferrari and this left the red team using Kimi Raikkonen, who was leading having not pit yet, as a blocker to back Bottas up into Vettel’s clutches.
Kimi was squeezed by his teammate at the start, lost a few spaces and was running out of sequence in the lead. He managed to bring his race back towards the front after fate continued to deliver strategy surprises but this time, for Red Bull.
Ferrari looked set to win, then Mercedes seemed to pull a strategy move to deny Ferrari the honors but in the end it was Red Bull who had their Australian-style Safety Car strategy play completely into their hands just as Ferrari had down under.
Stacking their cars twice for pit stops for soft tires during the Safety Car, Daniel Ricciardo pulled off a series terrific passes to pass all the front runners for the lead and the win.
A huge win for Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo. After suffering a turbo failure just ahead of qualifying, Ricciardo nearly didn’t make qualifying but incredibly hard work from the team, two double-stacked stops and a win was a payoff to not only Ricciardo but the entire team.
A win, once again, for Nico Hulkenberg who finished 6th instead of his customary 7th place and had the race been slightly more pedestrian, Nico may have been my driver of the race given the amount of passing he did for the entire race. A terrific race for the German.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso gets a “Win” for dragging McLaren into 7th place. A win for Kevin Magnussen in his Haas F1 car and once he got around his alternate strategy teammate, Romain Grosjean, he set about finishing in 10th and in the points.
Not sure if it is a win but Carlos Sainz getting into the points in 9th is a move in the right direction for the Spaniard. It is a win for Marcus Ericsson who beat his much-hailed teammate, Charles Leclerc again as the Frenchman spun and struggled for most of the race.
A fail for Ferrari who left Vettel out to long allowing Bottas and Mercedes to undercut their leader. On their backfoot, Ferrari then set about using Kimi as a blocker and that’s on top of Sebastian squeezing him at the start causing him to lose places early. The chaotic nature of the race actually saw Raikkonen recover to the podium.
A fail for Mercedes and Ferrari for not diving quickly into the pits during the Safety Car choosing track position over fresh tires. It’s easy to see the failure in the call but Ferrari were going to mirror Bottas and as Mercedes didn’t pit, Vettel didn’t either. In hindsight, the fresh Soft tires were just too much and retaining track position over fresh tires wasn’t the right call.
A fail Romain Grosjean who finished 17th and out of the points while looking dramatically slower than his teammate.
A WTH for Max Verstappen who took out the championship leader in a diving attempt to pass him instead of letting his grippier tires bring the race to him. Ricciardo showed that Red Bull’s strategy would only work with a few key passes so Max had to make a run at it but that wasn’t the place or time for the attempt. For his part, he got a 10s penalty that will drop him from 4th to 5th.
A WTH for Pierre Gasly who clouted his teammate, Brendon Hartley, and then complained about it on the radio sounding a bit of a jerk about it.
Finally a WTH for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. I am not sure what issues Lewis was having but he looked uncomfortable in the car all weekend and couldn’t mount an attack on anyone. Lewis said they are just underperforming right now but Bottas, by contrast, seemed to suggest that the Mercedes had more pace and ability to fight for the win than what Lewis could coax from his car.
|1||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||56||1h35m36.380s|
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||56||20.436s|
|11||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||56||44.050s|
|12||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||56||44.725s|
|18||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Honda||56||1m06.330s|
|20||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso/Honda||51||Gearbox|