Chinese Grand Prix: Race Recap

The Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen may have started on the front row, but the Chinese GP turned out not be the race the Scuderia hoped for, with Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo winning in Shanghai by 8.894 seconds, after a sensdational drive, ahead of Mercedes pilot Valtteri Bottas. The win was the sixth of Ricciardo’s Formula One career, his first of the season and his first at Shanghai.

We catch up with some of the teams, in theor own words, after an eventful race…

Scuderia Ferrari:

This race was decided by the arrival of the safety car and tyre strategy. Scuderia Ferrari finished on the podium thanks to Kimi Raikkonen’s third place, but having started from pole, Sebastian Vettel had to settle for eighth place after Verstappen ran into him, thus dropping him down the order. However, the German still leads the Drivers’ championship classification.

Both SF71Hs were on the front row, but the start was closely contested. Seb maintained his pole advantage, but Kimi had to give best to Bottas and also came under attack from Verstappen, who had the advantage of running the Ultrasoft tyres and had also passed Hamilton. The race leader extended his lead to a couple of seconds, to stay out of the DRS range and Kimi was also fending off Hamilton. At the moment, the very long Shanghai straight was not the scene of any overtaking.

Over the radio, it was time to discuss strategy. Red Bull did a double tyre change on lap 18 and Kimi made the most of the clear air to set his fastest time, while Hamilton headed for the pits to fit Mediums. One lap later (number 20) it was Bottas’ turn to pit and Ferrari reacted, but the pit stop took a few tenths too long and coming out of pit lane, Vettel found himself behind Valtteri, who had pushed really hard on his out lap.

Now there was a group of three: Raikkonen, yet to change tyres, was attacked by Bottas, but held him off at the hairpin. This allowed Seb to close and when Kimi had to give best before pitting, the number 5 car was in the DRS zone. Time for another thrilling duel, the third in as many races. On lap 32, the Safety Car came out to allow debris to be cleared away after the two Toro Rossos had collided at the hairpin. Our boys stayed out and Kimi gained ground on Ricciardo who had pitted.

The race resumed on lap 36 and, on new Softs, Ricciardo attacked Kimi who had lost time with Verstappen. Max himself went off track while attacking Hamilton, and Ricciardo got past. The Red Bull pair had the edge in terms of tyres and Verstappen was thus able to repass Hamilton, while Ricciardo got ahead of Seb. Verstappen also tried to get ahead of the German but instead, he tipped the Ferrari into a spin on lap 44. The Stewards investigated the incident and gave Verstappen a 10 second penalty.

Kimi was third, faster than Bottas, who had lost the lead to Ricciardo, but Sebastian had dropped down to seventh with damage to the side of his car, so that even Alonso barged past him. The world champion could do nothing other than defend his eighth place from a last attack from Sainz.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1:

In an eventful and hectic 2018 Formula 1 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix, the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team experienced two different sides to the race. Starting with a one pit stop strategy (from soft to medium tyres), Charles Leclerc showed a good and consistent pace in the first stint on soft tyres, and recovered positions, while Marcus Ericsson showed a strong midfield pace in the second part of the race on medium tyres. The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team leaves Shanghai with Marcus Ericsson having finished in 16th and Charles Leclerc in 19thplace. The young Monegasque driver experienced some issues with the balance of his car, after spinning off during his second stint and picking up damage to his floor. The team is analysing the collected data and starting their preparations for the next race which will take place on the Baku City Circuit.

Marcus Ericsson; “I had a good start today, but lost a few positions after I went slightly off-track in one of the turns. Overall, the race had two phases. The first part was on soft tyres; I was struggling quite a bit as the balance did not feel great. After changing to the medium tyres, I caught up with the lower midfield and could keep up with their pace. Once we look at the data, we can start our preparations for the next race in Azerbaijan.”

Charles Leclerc; “It was not an ideal race today. I started on a set of soft tyres. I was quite happy with my pace, and managed to advance to the midfield. Shortly after I changed to the set of medium tyres, I spun into the gravel. I picked up some damage to the floor, and started having some trouble with the balance of the car. Unfortunately, I lost a couple of positions there. We will look at our data and make sure that we are ready to do the best job possible in Baku.”

Frederic Vasseur – Team Principal;“The race had two different sides for us. We had both drivers on a one-stop strategy, starting on the soft, and changing to medium tyres. For Charles, the first stint was a very good one. He could match the pace of the midfield, and recover a few positions. After the pit stops, the race started to change. There was a safety car following an incident on track. The timing was not ideal for us, as our competitors took this chance to save time during their pit stops. Shortly after changing to the medium tyre compound, Charles spun into the gravel. He flat-spotted and picked up damage to his floor. Unfortunately, not much was possible for him after that. Marcus, on the other hand, had a good pace in the second stint and felt more comfortable on the medium tyres. He recovered a few positions and delivered a consistent performance. Overall, the race pace is there and we can see that we can get in the fight within the midfield. We still have some improvements to make for qualifying. That is the next step, and we look forward to the next race.”

HaasF1 Team:

Haas F1 Team earned its second straight point-paying result as Kevin Magnussen drove to a 10th-place finish in the Chinese Grand Prix Sunday at Shanghai International Circuit. Teammate Romain Grosjean finished 17th.

The single point earned by Magnussen strengthened Haas F1 Team’s seventh-place standing in the constructors’ ranks, as it increased its margin over eighth-place Sauber to nine points while cutting the deficit to sixth-place Toro Rosso to just one point.

Magnussen started 11th in the 56-lap race around the 5.451-kilometer (3.387-mile), 16-turn track. He employed a one-stop strategy, swapping the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tires he started the race with for the harder, more durable White medium tire on lap 24. The pit stop dropped Magnussen from a high of seventh to 10th, as the pit window opened early on lap 10 when Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley came in for service, setting off an elongated pit cycle that saw an array of strategies.

A safety car period beginning on lap 32 further complicated matters, as it allowed some drivers to duck into the pits for service and minimize any lost track position. Magnussen and Grosjean stayed out on the track, improving their track position as Magnussen climbed back to seventh and Grosjean broke into the top-10. The downside, however, was the drivers behind the Haas F1 Team duo were on much fresher tires, and when the race returned to green, the discrepancy was apparent.

Nico Hulkenberg wheeled his Renault past Magnussen on lap 35 to take seventh, while Grosjean came under attack from the McLaren of Fernando Alonso and the Renault of Carlos Sainz Jr., to fall out of the top-10.

Grosjean wound up with a two-stop strategy. He pitted on lap 16, jettisoning the Purple ultrasoft tires he used in the final round of qualifying for White mediums. He pitted again on lap 46, having wrought all he could from those mediums, for a slightly used set of ultrasofts that would take him to the finish. Grosjean emerged from the pits in 20th and rallied to finish 17th.

Magnussen held steady in eighth until lap 48 when both Alonso and Sainz got by. Magnussen was able to hold onto 10th and maintain the gap over 11th-place Esteban Ocon, crossing the stripe with a 4.456-second advantage over the Force India driver to finish in the points.

Formula One takes a weekend off before returning to action for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix April 29 at Baku City Circuit where Ricciardo is the defending race winner.



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