Chinese GP

Lewis Hamilton wins in China, Vettel brings home points in second

After a weekend dominated with talk about wet weather, race day did bring rain but with drying conditions before the start of the race.

The forecast for the race being patchy rain throughout the afternoon, but Mercedes even considered running the supersoft tyre for the start of the race, heading to the grid.

The slightly mixed up grid with Verstappen at the back of the field, although bumped up due to the penalties of Giovinazzi in 18th, Grosjean and Palmer.

Carlos Sainz pulled the trigger though, the only driver on the supersoft tyre with everyone else on the intermediates. Vettel said overt the radio that it had dried up quite a bit in the 15/20 minutes they had last been on the track.

As Lewis Hamilton lined up on the grid it was Jolyon Palmer who would come in the pits from the back of the field.
Vettel was out of place of his grid spot, with a great start from Hamilton and Bottas. Sainz had a very slow start, but Bottas got overtaken by Vettel. Ricciardo got ahead of Raikkonen at the start as well. Stroll went off with right rear damage in the pack.

Sainz had fallen to the back of the field on the slicks, with Palmer catching him up at the back of the field. Verstappen was also claiming lots of positions up at the back of the field. Hulkenberg pitted at the end of the first lap.

With Stroll in the gravel, the virtual safety car was deployed, while Vettel was put under investigation for being out of position on the grid. Verstappen was now behind Kvyat and ahead of Alonso.

Perez was told to pit with a front right puncture, speculation that he hit Lance Stroll.

At the end of lap 2 there were a raft of drivers pitting including Vettel, Kvyat, Alonso, Massa, Grosjean, Giovinazzi – Hamilton didnt pit. Palmer and Hulkenberg had already spun, along with a slow Sainz. Hulkenberg on the soft tyre said over the radio that he was having trouble keeping temperature in the soft tyre he had just put on.

The virtual safety car came in on lap 3 with Hamilton, Bottas and Ricciardo no pitting at the front of the field. Verstappen had already climbed up to 5th in the sister Red Bull from the back of the field.

Giovinazzi crashed heavily again on the front straight with a huge amount of debris all over the circuit which brought out the safety car. With the car stranded on the grid. He lost it on the water under the media centre.

The leaders pitted as the field came through the pitlane. Ricciardo put another set of the intermediate although gained second. Bottas lost places. Ricciardo changed the tyres a lap later, and remained ahead of the Ferrari.

There was no action taken against Vettel for his startline ‘error’. While under the safety car Bottas spun while trying to keep up temperature.

The safety car came in at the end of the end of that lap, Perez tried to go down the inside of turn one, went off and then overtook him again. The Mexican also took the Toro Rosso of Kvyat. Verstappen also got ahead of Raikkonen, with Vettel right behind his teammate. The Finn complaining of no torque from the engine.

Sainz had also got ahead of Alonso further back, as the Spainard comes back from his poor start. Magnussen had also got ahead of Massa as he struggled, with Bottas also claiming that place – the Williams falling back through the field. Carlos Sainz also set the fastest lap.

The Red Bulls were keeping pace with the Mercedes, and Ferrari keeping on the back of the Red Bull. Sainz behind was also closing in on the leaders.

Raikkonen went wide at the hairpin on lap 10, but kept his teammate behind and still set the fastest lap of the race. Verstappen went down the inside of his teammate on lap 11, the Dutchman quickly pulling away from the Australian. Verstappen went on to set the fastest lap on the very same lap as he hunted down Lewis Hamilton.

Daniel Ricciardo was now under threat from Raikkonen and Vettel as the sister Red Bull was now over a second up the road. The threat from Sainz had slowed, but remained ahead of Fernando Alonso.

Verstappen was pulling away from the Ricciardo and Ferrari battle by about a second a lap, Ricciardo struggling with understeer in the Red Bull.

Hulkenberg was given a five second penalty for overtaking under the Virtual Safety Car, and was also under investigation of overtaking under the full safety car. Raikkonen was still complaining about engine problems in the Ferrari. Despite having the advantage of the DRS, the Ferrari drivers were not able to overtake. Perez was also closing in on the McLaren.

Hulkenberg was also given a 10 second penalty for overtaking under the Safety Car.

Vandoorne was told that he had a fuel problem at the back of the field and was instructed to pit at the end of the lap and retired. Kevin Magnussen was also put under investigation for driving too slowly under the safety car, the Haas driver currently in ninth place.

Bottas was still making gains, overtaking Magnussen for 9th on lap 19. Vettel went down the inside of Kimi Raikkonen on the next lap, while Kvyat parked the Toro Rosso.

Vettel was instantly on the back of Verstappen, with Raikkonen falling back slightly from his teammate. Magnussen wasnt given a penalty for driving slowly, while he got a place back from the Force India of Perez. He changed to a set of the supersoft tyres.

Vettel and Ricciardo went side by side, banging wheels. In clear air, Vettel had a small gap to Ricciardo and Raikkonen. The German set the fastest lap of the race, but it was only a tenth faster than Hamilton who was nearly ten seconds up the road on the Ferrari.

Bottas, recovering after his spin got ahead of Fernando Alonso, this time using the DRS along the long back straight on lap 26. Raikkonen, falling away from the back of Ricciardo was complaining that the tyres would not last until the end of the race despite being on the soft tyre. Perez, who had pitted and on a fresh set of tyres was making a good comeback in 10th.

Palmer was struggling for grip in the Renault in 13th, which helped Grosjean get ahead of him, with only 16 cars left in the field on lap 28.

Hamilton was told that he was two laps to the pit window on lap 28. Verstappen made an error into the hairpin which let Vettel ahead. He had a big lock up in the Red Bull, which Carlos Sainz pitted from 6th.

Verstappen pitted a lap later in the Red Bull, it was another set of the supersoft tyres and came out just behind Valtteri Bottas in 6th place, but ahead of Alonso and Sainz.

Having just pitted, Carlos Sainz set the fastest lap of the race in eighth on the soft tyre, with Vettel also setting his fastest lap of the race in the Ferrari, and nearly ten seconds down on the leader Hamilton. Vertappen was also setting fast times in the Red Bull, Hamilton losing nearly a second to Vettel.

Hamilton then turned the screw a little on Vettel, setting the fastest lap again at the front of the field. Raikkonen was also struggling with tyres, while Verstappen got ahead of Bottas for 5th place, the Red Bull driver on newer tyres than the Mercedes.

If Hamilton stops, they have to be careful of the advancing Red Bull, making the earlier pitstop. Ricciardo pitted on lap 34, another set of the supersofts for the Red Bull. Sainz got ahead of Alonso, but the McLaren got ahead and then ran wide, with Toro Rosso getting the better of the McLaren. Alonso still in the points though.

Although he had been doing well in the points, the McLaren then started cruising with a ‘driveshaft problem’.

Ferrari pitted Vettel on lap 35, a set of the soft compound tyre coming out just ahead of Verstappen.

Bottas pitted on lap 36, with Mercedes taking the soft tyre like Ferrari, coming out ahead of Perez in the Force India. Hamilton pitted on the same lap with Kimi Raikkonen now outside the window of the leader. He also had the soft tyre, with the Finn staying behind the Brit.

Magnussen was closing in on Ocon for 9th with 16 laps remaining, with Raikkonen pitting on the same lap with a set of the supersofts. He fell behind Sainz in 6th. Magnussen quickly got ahead of Ocon for 9th.

Vettel picked up the pace, gaining on Hamilton by over a second, the gap decreased to just over eight seconds on lap 41. Raikkonen was all over the back of Carlos Sainz after the pitstop, with the team suggesting that he was on course for third. He got ahead of Sainz quickly using the DRS on lap 42. Now nearly 15 seconds behind Ricciardo and Verstappen.

Bottas was now closing in on Sainz, just less than a second between the two. Ocon pitted from 10th, losing a place to Massa on lap 44 elevating the Williams into the top ten. It only a lap for Bottas to get ahead of Sainz, with the Toro Rosso covering the inside heading into the hairpin, which was ultimately the wrong decision.

At the front, Hamilton maintained the gap at just over eight seconds. Verstappen and Ricciardo line astern in third and fourth, Bottas six seconds back on Raikkonen.

Further down the field, Magnussen who had taken an extra pitstop was right on the back of Perez for 8th. It was an easy move on the back straight for the Dane, although a long way down on the Toro Rosso. Ricciardo was also coming back on Verstappen for the podium. Grosjean made a really good move on Massa, all the way around the outside at turn 1.

Perez pitted on lap 51 with effectively a free pitstop on his teammate, Grosjean now in third after Massa had dropped all the way back to 14th behind the two Renault drivers.

Verstappen was complaining that Grosjean was in the way with five laps remaining, but Ricciardo was now right on the back of his teammate. Red Bull told him that he had to be within a second of the Haas, Verstappen complaining that he was picking up understeer in the process.

With Verstappen and Ricciardo battling, Raikkonen and Bottas were closing in on the Red Bull drivers with Grosjean staying ahead of the Red Bulls. Verstappen went wide at the turn 4 hairpin on the final lap. Ricciardo locked up into the final hairpin, but Verstappen got the final podium position behind Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Raikkonen was fifth ahead of Bottas and Sainz.

About the author

Ashley Quint

Ashley founded the Purple Sector website back in 2012, later renamed to SpeedMajor which now covers both Formula 1 and Formula E. As well as writing on Formula 1, Ashley also works within the world of luxury travel and was a finalist in the Aspire Travel Trade Writer of the Year competition in 2013.

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