What. A. Race.
For two weekends in a row we’ve been treated to a spectacle. For all the doubts after Australia about the quality of the show, Formula One is looking better than ever after three rounds in 2018.
So much happened in the Chinese Grand Prix that it’s difficult to know where to start, but we’ll go with the star of the show – Daniel Ricciardo. On Saturday, it was looking doubtful that Ricciardo would even qualify for the race, thanks to an engine blow up in Free Practice 3. He made it out, and qualified in sixth after an incredible job by the Red Bull mechanics. His race was helped by a Safety Car, more on that shortly, but his impressive overtakes sealed the deal. All of the Australian’s race wins seem to have come with a little bit of luck, ferocious overtakes and as a result of an epic race – this was perhaps the most epic yet. Red Bull, and Ricciardo especially, have well and truly put themselves in the title hunt.
On the other side of the Red Bull garage, Max Verstappen was again making headlines, and again for the wrong reasons. The Safety Car bunched the top six together, and Max was in the best place after pitting, on fresh tyres and able to attack those ahead of him. He got a little too greedy, though, with an attempted overtake on Lewis Hamilton, where he ran wide and put his team-mate in the best place to win the race. After eventually getting by Hamilton, things went from bad to worse as Verstappen then collided with Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari, allowing Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen back past as the pair spun. Verstappen was handed a ten-second penalty for the incident and was eventually classified fifth, while Vettel’s race was wrecked and he finished down in eighth.
Nonetheless, Verstappen showed some maturity after the race, having a quiet word with Vettel behind the area where the drivers are interviewed. The Dutchman accepted responsibility, and admitted that he maybe needs to ‘oversee the situation a little bit more’. Vettel was not too fussed by the incident, accepting that mistakes such as the Red Bull driver’s, at least in that instance, could happen to anyone. The Safety Car also aided Kimi Raikkonen to his 93rd podium finish – which he was lucky to get after Ferrari’s strategy for him in China seemed to be to use him as a Bottas-blocker, to aid Vettel to victory.
Of course, the Safety Car came out because of a collision between the two Toro Rosso team-mates. Pierre Gasly slammed into the back of Brendon Hartley, spinning him around and leaving debris strewn across the track at the final corner. The move was somewhat of a comedown from Gasly’s star performance last weekend. The collision was blamed on a miscommunication, as Gasly had been told that Hartley would let him by. Hartley himself is under pressure, having not yet scored this year, and has reportedly already received a phone call from Helmut Marko, telling him to up his game.
The other notable stories from the rest of the field after China are at Williams and Renault. Williams are still yet to score a point this season, and had another race where both of their drivers were knocked out in Q1. The other, slightly surprising story, is that Carlos Sainz sits seventeen points behind Nico Hulkenberg after three races – not quite the tight battle we were all expecting. There’s a long way to go yet, though.
Seventeen points separate the top four in the Drivers’ Championship. Red Bull have joined the title hunt as we head to Azerbaijan and a track at which they won last season. Last year’s race, you may remember, was one of the most talked about of the 2017 season, with Sebastian Vettel losing his cool and ramming into the side of Lewis Hamilton’s car, the Force India drivers colliding, Valtteri Bottas being pushed a lap down before taking second place on the line, Lance Stroll scoring his first F1 podium and Daniel Ricciardo driving through all the madness to take an unexpected win. Surely it can’t be that action packed again… or can it?
See you in Baku!
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. Now in its sixth season, the blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics. Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and Motorsport Guides. In 2017 and 2018, he wrote for Badger GP. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast.