Daniel Ricciardo overtakes five to win sensational Chinese Grand Prix
Apr 16, 2018, 02:01
They may have lost a place apiece, but when the safety auto was recalled, their pace advantage over the Ferraris of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes' Bottas and Lewis Hamilton became clear.
The Chinese Grand Prix looked like it was going to be a replay of the first two Grands Prix of the 2018 season as Sebastian Vettel took the lead from pole, Bottas put his Mercedes in front of Raikkonen and Verstappen on the ball passing both Hamilton and then Raikkonen to sit in third.
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Only a minor miracle by his hard-pressed mechanics allowed him to qualify sixth, putting Ricciardo in the right place at the right time to capitalise on the safety vehicle that swung the race Red Bull's way.
The Australian had appeared set for a pretty boring drive to fifth in the first half of the race, without the pace to challenge those ahead and a solid margin to Kimi Raikkonen behind.
Free practice had suggested tyre wear would be a crucial factor in the Chinese Grand Prix, with Pirelli bringing the new ultra-soft tyres to the race, but nobody was sure just how long the tyres would last. Ricciardo showed him how it is done, coming from absolutely nowhere to cleanly pass Hamilton. "Sometimes you've just got to lick the stamp and send it", explained the Australian. His mechanics finished changing the unit with minutes to spare in the first part of qualifying. For me this is a massive reward but for the mechanics and engineers, they really earned this victory.
In came Max Verstappen and Ricciardo, the only front-runners to do so. Verstappen wound up fifth. Vettel limped on, falling down the order to eighth.
Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas appeared on course for an excellent victory over Vettel before the safety vehicle period after the Finn jumped the Ferrari during their pit stops. "It was my fault", said Verstappen. The Australian picked off Vettel thanks to DRS on the back straight to take second, leaving only Bottas on his radar.
Ricciardo drove aggressively as well, taking advantage of the tyre change during the safety vehicle to dart past Hamilton, Vettel and then Bottas in relatively short order to take a lead he would not relinquish.
Nevertheless, he still leaves Shanghai with a nine point lead in the drivers' standings. He was promoted to fourth after the Red Bull driver's penalty was applied.
"I don't think I need to say anything here", said a disgruntled Vettel. "(We were) thankful for a few incidents ahead that kept us in the battle".
Before the start of the 15th edition of the Chinese Grand Prix, you could be forgiven for thinking the Red Bulls weren't in Shanghai for a win, let alone a podium finish. "It's disappointing", he said.
"At the rate we were going through the field, and I could feel the tyres were holding on well, I was obviously fully set on the win". And he knew he got a bit lucky.
He committed F1's cardinal sin by crashing into team mate Brendon Hartley at the hairpin on Lap 30 of the 56, scattering debris across the track.
Both drivers said the crash was caused by miscommunication. "When he finally started to turn in normally, it was too late".
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