It’s a dam grey day is Shanghai; the circuit is wet but with no more rain who will take the risk to start on intermediate tyres of slicks. But there is an air of excitement, the weather making for an unpredictable race in store as we still continue to learn more about these new cars.
Staring the race, Giovinazzi gains a 5 place grid penalty for a gearbox change, Grosjean and Palmar sent to the back for not slowing down enough under double waved yellow flags during Giovinazzi’s crash in qualifying. Palmer peels off the track on the parade lap to be the first to switch to slick tyres and start the race from the pit lane.
Awaiting the lights and Vettel parks to the left of his grid slot, starting smoothly he holds of Bottas at turn 1 while Daniel Ricciardo makes round the outside of Kimi Räikkönen in turn 1 to take 4th place. Lance Stroll is off, this brings out the virtual safety car on lap 2, replaying shows Perez making an ambitious move up the inside but no penalty is awarded. Having made an incredible first lap Max receives a radio call describing a soft puncture. Lots of cars pile into the pits, Palmer spins out. Cars running out of grip as they struggle to get their slicks up to temperature.
A crash rash for Giovinazzi as he loses the rear end on the start finish straight, crashing right in front of the grandstand., this brings out safety car as marshals rush to clean the circuit. The safety car the field through the pit lane. Bottas spins out as his tyres lose temperature, taking him right down to 12th, it will be a long race for the Fin. Action on the restart as Perez takes Massa on turn 1 then Kvyat on turn 3, fantastic couple of corners for the Mexican.
The restart sees a close battle for the lead, Hamilton, followed by Riccardo, Verstappen, Räikkönen and Vettel. Max passes Daniel to take 2nd and close an expanding gap to Hamilton, then making the fastest lap of the racing in the process, Hamilton explains tyre temps are low. The gap between Max and Daniel expands as he holds up the two Ferraris, a frustrated Kimi radios the team about a repeated lack of power.
Hulkenberg gets a 5 second penalty for overtaking under the virtual safety car, followed by a 10 second penalty for overtaking under the safety car, stacking up the penalties in unusual fashion. Stoffel Vandoorne receives a message on the team radio explaining of a fuel problem, requested to box the car. Meanwhile Torro Rosso of Daniel Kvyat pulls off, Vettel Passes Räikkönen at turn 6 and runs quickly onto the back of Daniel Riccardo. Vettel closes on turn one, positions his car and goes round the outside at turn 6, a spectacular move.
Grojean overtakes Palmer, the Haas seeing significantly more grip on a new set of super soft tyres. Vettel closing rapidly on Max who locks up at the end of the main straight, Vettel overtakes and moves up to 2nd place. All of the advantage gained by Max suddenly vanishes as Daniel is right onto the back of him, the team pull Max in the pits for another set of super soft tyres. Max overtakes Bottas, the Red Bull performing much better on new rubber.
Alonso slows from 8th place following a battel with Carlos Sainz, not confirmed drive shaft issue, making for a double retirement from McLaren. Hamilton makes his second pit stop, changing to the soft tyres and maintaining track position to the end. Vettel is quicker than Hamilton at this stage, but with just 11 laps to go the 7.7 second gap might be just too much to make up. While Bottas battles with Sainz for 7th place, eventually passing him aided with DRS. Ocon passes Massa for 10th place, both Force India’s move into the top 10. Lap 48 and Kevin Magnusson onto the back of Perez in a battel for 8th place, Kevin taking the place under DRS.
The battel between Max and Daniel is fierce in the final laps, Max continues to complain that Grosjean in front should receive blue flags, despite the Red Bull making no progress in terms of pace and not being close enough to the Haas to attempt an overtake. A heated battle ensures, Daniel closing at the end of the long DRS zone but unable to capitalise, Max locking up into turn 6 on the final lap, both Red Bull’s head to toe but not enough time to make the difference. Hamilton wins the Chinese Grand Prix with Sebastian Vettel taking 2nd place and Max Verstappen with a well earned podium in 3rd.
An exciting Grand Prix, the new rules making for more organic overtaking while the conditions and safety cars bunched up the field. Lewis Hamilton enjoying a straight forward race, always in the lead and with no overtakes required. However, a fantastic overtake from Vettel moved him past Daniel and that worked out to a solid second, making both drivers equal on points at the top of the world championship standings as we roll into Bahrain next weekend. Red Bull will be overjoyed with their result this weekend, the car having under-performed so far, Max putting in a solid performance and under pressure from his team mate in the closing laps. We’ll have a full race analysis in our podcast to follow later this week.