Daniel Ricciardo overtaking masterclass wins combative F1 Chinese Grand Prix
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo provided a fine example of overtaking prowess to triumph at a feisty Chinese Grand Prix, which saw championship leader ...
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo provided a fine example of overtaking prowess to triumph at a feisty Chinese Grand Prix, which saw championship leader Sebastian Vettel finish down in eighth place.
Taking advantage a safety car period - and a snap decision, tactical masterstroke from the Red Bull team - Ricciardo stormed from the third row of the grid to take his sixth career win in Formula One.
It was another illustration of Ricciardo's reliability and his ability to take opportunities in chaotic races. And of his sublime overtaking talent.
"We didn't think the tyres would last that long, but we had wicked pace on the softs," said Ricciardo, "it was a lot of fun!"
It should have been Sebastian Vettel's day, but Ferrari were passive on strategy in the first phase of the race and got jumped by Valtteri Bottas.
It should have been Bottas' day after that, but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Safety Car came out.
Prior to the safety car, Mercedes' Bottas put himself in prime position for victory on his 100th Grand Prix, but was powerless to resist a late-race overtake by Ricciardo on new soft tyres and was forced to settle for second place ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
Lewis Hamilton had an off weekend and finished in fourth place following a ten-second time penalty for Max Verstappen, who was demoted from fourth to fifth after a misjudged move on Vettel. Hamilton admitted he wasn't on his A Game and spoke afterwards about his own performance being below normal levels.
As the lights went out the Ferrari drivers got respectable getaways, but second-placed Raikkonen gained slightly more traction and challenged pole-sitter Vettel into turn one.
As the door closed the Finn backed off, which allowed compatriot Bottas an opportunity to sweep around the outside of turn one and take an early second place.
Whilst the Red Bulls - on the softer tyres - had similar traction to their rivals off the line, Verstappen passed Hamilton on the inside of turn two, then got alongside Raikkonen on the outside of turn six, completing the move for third place on the inside of turn seven.
Vettel led the opening stint of the race, with neither Bottas or Verstappen able to make any initial challenge to the race leader.
With both Haas drivers running in the points in the early laps, Romain Grosjean - on the ultrasofts - was instructed to allow team-mate Kevin Magnussen - who was running the soft tyres - through, much to the annoyance of the Frenchman.
Ferrari and Mercedes were keeping a close eye on the Red Bulls, who would be pitting first due to running the much softer tyres and hoping to undercut their rivals.
The Red Bulls made their stops on lap sixteen for medium tyres, with the team choosing the high-risk strategy of 'double-stacking' their cars. The stops were a success and pressure was on Mercedes and Ferrari to react.
Hamilton pitted one lap later for mediums and, despite Ricciardo setting purple sectors, maintained his position ahead of the Red Bull.
Up ahead, Bottas pitted on the following lap - also for mediums - and was comfortably ahead of Verstappen, and now it was up to Ferrari to respond.
Race-leader Vettel pitted for mediums another lap later, but a strong outlap from Bottas meant the Mercedes emerged ahead of the Ferrari, with only Raikkonen ahead, who was yet to stop.
The outcome of Vettel's stop meant Raikkonen was left out in the lead and deployed as a mobile chicane to try and back Bottas into Vettel, which worked to a degree, but the choreography wasn't perfect and the Mercedes man had to be bold to pass his fellow Finn with a fine move around the outside of T2 to lead the race.
Raikkonen yielded to Vettel moments later to allow his colleague to challenge the new race leader, and pitted at the end of that lap, but by this point Raikkonen's strategy appeared to have been sacrificed.
Second stint - advantage Bottas
Following the first pit stops, Bottas led from Vettel, Verstappen, Hamilton, Ricciardo and Raikkonen.
Bottas appeared to have Vettel under control and seemed to be on course for redemption after failing to pass the Ferrari in Bahrain, but a safety car changed the course of the race.
Pierre Gasly's Bahrain Grand Prix exploits appeared to be long forgotten after an ambitious overtaking move on his team-mate; the young Frenchman went for a gap at turn fourteen and clattered into the second STR13, sending Brendon Hartley into a spin.
The resulting debris was enough to trigger the safety car and Red Bull reacted brilliantly to bring both of their cars in for fresher tyres. It was too late for the leading pair of Bottas and Vettel; Verstappen was third at the time, so all the cars behind him, including Hamilton and Raikkonen, had the chance to do the same.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said, "Red Bull were bold. We thought track position was more important. We were wrong. We should have pitted him (Hamilton)."
Once again Red Bull brought both cars in at the same time and made the switch to the soft tyres with 26 laps to go. The Mercedes and Ferraris remained on the medium tyres.
The safety car came in and at the restart Bottas wasted little time in creating the one second gap necessary to avoid Vettel activating his DRS, whilst Verstappen and Ricciardo - in fourth and sixth respectively - set about taking advantage of their softer tyres.
Ricciardo made light work of Raikkonen by passing the Ferrari for fifth place at turn fourteen, whilst Verstappen was hounding Hamilton.
The Dutchman was challenging on the outside of turn seven, but the wider, lower-grip line caught him out and he scampered across the grass at turn eight, losing his place to Ricciardo.
It was now Ricciardo's turn to challenge the reigning champion, and he wasted little time in making his move. He caught the Mercedes man unawares and launched his car on the inside of turn fourteen and stole the position.
Ricciardo was soon on the back of Vettel, and once again made light work of his competitor with a standard out-braking manoeuvre on the inside of turn fourteen for second place.
Another lap later and Verstappen was hoping to replicate his team-mate's overtake, but his attempt was poorly executed and a late move resulted in him clattering into the side of Vettel, spinning both cars around.
Hamilton took evasive action and Raikkonen profited by passing all three for third place. Verstappen's collision saw him handed a ten-second time penalty, whilst Vettel fell down to seventh and was struggling for pace.
"To be honest I didn't see him until late, I had no intention to defend," said Vettel afterwards. "He misjudged the move and compromised both of our races."
"I tried to brake late into the corner and locked the rears a bit and hit him. That was, of course, my fault," admitted Verstappen.
Back at the front, Ricciardo was now challenging for the lead and, despite Bottas' attempts to close the gap on the inside, the Australian sent his car down the closing gap in Turn 6 and strong-armed his way into the lead.
Verstappen made his way past Hamilton for a third time, and set his sights on racing Raikkonen and Bottas, if only for pride.
Ricciardo was able to extend his lead in the final ten laps of the race and secured his first victory of the season. The battle for second place went to final lap, but Bottas fended off Raikkonen and Verstappen to take back-to-back second places.
Verstappen's penalty meant he dropped to fifth behind Hamilton, whilst Nico Hulkenberg secured a fine sixth place for Renault.
Fernando Alonso made a late-race move on a wounded Vettel at turn two to take seventh place for McLaren, ahead of Vettel, Renault's Carlos Sainz and the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.
All Photos: Motorsport Images
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CHINESE GRAND PRIX, 56 Laps,
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1h35m36.380s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 8.894s
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 9.637s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 16.985s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 20.436s
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 21.052s
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 30.639s
8 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 35.286s
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 35.763s
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 39.594s
11 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 44.050s
12 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 44.725s
13 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 49.373s
14 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 55.490s
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 58.241s
16 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m02.604s
17 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m05.296s
18 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m06.330s
19 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m22.575s20 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 51 laps Not running
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