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.
China Grand Prix : a race full of twists and turns
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.
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