Max Verstappen as dominant as ever at F1 Chinese Grand Prix

It was another day where Alex Jacques, above the track on F1TV, rarely needed to mention Max Verstappen. Once more the Red Bull driver was pulling away from the field, ending the battle for P1 early and leaving the field fighting for the positions behind him. And with some fascinating fights shaping up all around Shanghai International Circuit, Jacques had more to discuss than the dominant Verstappen.

But in the closing stages Jacques did mention Verstappen, noting that evey by his lofty standards, the Red Bull driver has been “ludicrously dominant.”

It was that kind of weekend, and it is shaping up to be that kind of season yet again.

Verstappen was indeed dominant in Sunday’s Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix, as the Red Bull driver once again turned a F1 race into a scrap for second behind him. While some chaos behind him bunched the field together a few times, Verstappen was still able to pull away from the rest of the grid, finishing over 13 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Lando Norris.

It was another “masterclass” weekend for Verstappen, as described by Jolyon Palmer in the closing laps on F1TV.

“Yeah, it felt amazing. I mean, all weekend, I think we were incredibly quick. And yeah, it was just enjoyable to drive, every single compound as well,” said Verstappen trackside to Nico Rosberg following the race. “The restarts I think we all survived that well, and you had a car was basically on rails. And yeah, I could do whatever I wanted to with it. And those kind of weekends are of course amazing to feel and of course then to achieve basically what we did this weekend is fantastic.”

As incredible as his young career has been, Verstappen still managed to accomplish something on Sunday for the first time.

A win in the Chinese Grand Prix.

Verstappen noted that in the post-race FIA press conference.

“Yeah, this was definitely one that I wanted to win,” started Verstappen.

“I’ve been on the podium here, but I haven’t won here before, so that was great, for sure. And yeah, I mean, I definitely just enjoyed the whole weekend. It’s been really nice with a great car. Throughout the race, I mean, with the Safety Car and stuff, as always, things that you have to do well, the restarts and stuff,” added the Red Bull driver. “I guess they’re tense moments. The actual start, of course, and after that, just a management race, looking after your [tires], trying to extend the gap. So yeah, busy enough, but also enjoyable.”

Here are the full results from the Chinese Grand Prix, as well as some more winners and losers:

Winner: Lando Norris

If this weekend was all about damage limitation for McLaren, imagine what might happen later this year when they arrive at tracks they feel actually suit the MCL38?

Entering the Chinese Grand Prix, the word from the Woking-based outfit was that the slow-speed corners of Shanghai International Circuit would pose a problem for McLaren. However, this ended up being a strong weekend for the team. Lando Norris captured pole position for the sprint race, aided by a phenomenal performance in the wet conditions, and while he did not finish up front, the team banked a double-points finish with Norris in P6 and Oscar Piastri in P7.

Sunday was an even better result.

Norris started in fourth, but drove a masterful race, stopping just once under a Safety Car and managing his tires until the end, for a second-place finish. While Piastri encountered some difficulties along the way, he too finished in the points, giving McLaren a double-points result in each event this season.

No other team — not even Red Bull — can say that.

Norris sounded almost surprised at the result following the race.

“Surprised, I’m very happy. Very happy for the whole team. They deserved it. Good pit stops. Just today worked out. I don’t know why,” described Norris to Nico Rosberg. “I really wasn’t expecting it to be the kind of race we had today but got comfortable, could manage the [tires] a lot, which was an easier task that what I had yesterday. And I could just push. The car felt great and I felt comfortable. So, good day, good points and another podium, so I’m very happy.

“I was surprised by many things. The lack of pace from Ferrari today. Our good pace and, I guess, us comparing to the Red Bull, which was so surprising. I just wasn’t expecting today at all. I got everything ready to go home early and not be on the podium. So it’s a pleasant surprise but it shows the team have done a good job. We’re working hard and it’s paying off.”

Norris even mentioned that he had lost a bet due to his strong performance.

“I made a bet how far behind the Ferrari we would finish today. I thought 35 seconds and I was very wrong with that,” added Norris. “So yeah, happy to be wrong with myself, my own bets, but a good day for everyone.”

Even more impressive for McLaren — and perhaps a warning shot to the rest of the grid — was the strength of the MCL38 in the closing stages. With Norris under a potential threat from Sergio Pérez and the RB20, the British driver was able to extend his lead over the Red Bull driver over the final third of the race. Instead of Pérez catching Norris and giving Red Bull yet another front row lockout, as many expected, it was Norris who pulled away to finish comfortably in second.

Leading Jolyon Palmer in the F1TV commentary box to wonder what we could see from McLaren at tracks like Silverstone and Red Bull Ring, circuits that could truly suit the MCL38.

Screenshot 2024 04 21 at 9.23.46 AM

Losers: VCARB

A driver who might be looking ahead to the Miami Grand Prix the most?

Yuki Tsunoda.

A dismal weekend for the Visa Cash App RB F1 Team driver came to an early end on Sunday, as he was one of the driver caught up in some chaos on a restart following the safety car that came out for Valtteri Bottas. Tsunoda was on the outside of Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, and contact between the two caused substantial damage to the right rear of Tsunoda’s RB01, sending him off the track.

The lift would soon be deployed to get his car back to the garage, and Tsunoda could start thinking about South Beach. While Magnussen was hit with a ten-second penalty for causing the collision, it would be little solace for Tsunoda.

“It’s unfortunate and frustrating how it ended up today. I was happy with how I progressed in the race until my contact with Magnussen. After the Safety Car, the start was good and I gained five positions, so I feel I maximised what I could do but the pace itself hadn’t improved as much as we wanted,” said Tsunoda following the race. “We’ve been sliding more than other cars and the team has been pushing hard and helping me sort it out but overall, this week we weren’t able to show our true strong performance, and that’s a shame. We’ll look into why back in Faenza, and I know as a team we’ll come back stronger in Miami. It’s a shame that also Daniel had to retire because he had good pace in this race, so as a team, it’s frustrating that neither car finished the race and we couldn’t score points.”

His teammate would be in the same position shortly thereafter.

On the restart in question Fernando Alonso locked up his soft tires shortly before taking the green flag. That caused the drivers behind him to slow considerably — as they could not pass him before taking the green flag — and among those drivers were Daniel Ricciardo, and Lance Stroll behind him.

Stroll drove right into the back of Ricciardo’s RB01, lifting the car off the ground momentarily. When Ricciardo’s RB01 came crashing back to Earth, it caused substantial damage to the floor.

Eventually Ricciardo was forced to retire the car, giving up a shot at his first points of the season. His frustration continued well into the evening in Shanghai. “Getting ruined by someone else makes me frustrated and this is where the disappointment comes, because today we had an opportunity and we missed it,” said Ricciardo following the race in the team’s media report.

Things got worse for the Australian driver following the race, as he was hit with a penalty for passing Nico Hülkenberg while the Safety Car was deployed. So even when Ricciardo gets to Miami, he will face a three-place grid drop down in South Beach.

Winner: Nico Hülkenberg

Haas driver Nico Hülkenberg perhaps said it best following the Chinese Grand Prix:

“One point, in our world, is a lot!”

Hülkenberg brought that point home for the team with a tenth-place finish, after Saturday’s strong qualifying performance saw him start the Grand Prix in P9.

“It was a faultless and clean race from my side today. I think it was a well-managed and well-controlled race from the team. It’s a positive and I’m very happy about that – we got that one point that was up for grabs today. One of the top-five team’s cars had a problem and that’s the spot we got because of it, otherwise it’s not really possible to race with them,” described Hülkenberg in the team’s post-race recap. “It also shows we need to have a perfect qualifying on Saturday and a perfect race on Sunday to be able to be where we are today. We couldn’t have done much more.”

Team Principal Ayao Komatsu sang the German driver’s praises following the race.

“It was amazing to get a point again today with Nico. In terms of Nico’s race, from everyone – driving, operations, pitstop, it was perfection,” described Komatsu. “We knew exactly what we had to do in terms of getting ourselves into a good position to get that point – initially against Bottas. Both communication and execution were good. Honestly, I think we managed to execute a perfect race with Nico – it was brilliant.”

The Haas boss believes the team can head to Miami with some confidence.

“Now we look forward to Miami. I think we can take a lot of confidence from this race,” added Komatsu.

F1 Grand Prix of China

Photo by Kym Illman/Getty Images

Winner: Lewis Hamilton

Normally, a ninth-place finish is not something that lands seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton into the winner’s column.

But in the topsy-turvy world that is F1 in 2024, Sunday’s P9 is the kind of drive that does.

Starting down in P18 on a soft set of tires, Hamilton entered the Grand Prix hoping that compound would see him picking off drivers one-by-one following the start. But that was absolutely not the case, as Hamilton actually slid backward shortly after the lights went out. “I’m making no ground with this tire,” reported the driver on the second lap.

But slowly, Hamilton was able to negotiate the W15 into a better window, and started making up ground. Some retirements in front of him pulled him closer to the points, and some overtakes of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg inched him closer to a result.

While he could not hold off Fernando Alonso in the later stages, a P9 was probably the best result Hamilton could have hoped for when the day began.

“I went forwards and got into the points, but it was a tough race. Ultimately, I made a bad set-up change to the car yesterday and I paid the price for it. I plan to make sure I don’t do that in the future! The car does seem to work in a small window, and I did think it was the correct thing to do. Sadly, it made today very difficult,” described Hamilton after the race. “The team did a great job with the pit stops though and George did well to score some solid points. I’m sure the next race in Miami will be better.”

Loser: Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas started the Chinese Grand Prix up in the top ten, giving Sauber their best shot at points this 2024 F1 season.

His day ended with his C44 off the track at Turn 11 on Lap 21, stuck in the runoff area with a dead engine. Any hope of points had fallen by the wayside.

“Today marks a rather disappointing ending to a very promising weekend: starting from P10 put me in a good position to fight for points, and the race was going well overall until I suddenly lost drive and my engine turned off — something we’ll have to thoroughly investigate in the coming days,” described Bottas in the team’s post-race report.

“It’s quite unfortunate, while there was still a long way to go, I was fighting with Nico [Hülkenberg] who made it into the points. It’s tough to accept, but this is racing, and many more opportunities will arise: our pace is improving and as a team, we’re making small steps on many fronts all the time,” added Bottas. “We’ve been around P10 the entire weekend and were able to learn a lot about our car and our upgrades that will allow us to maximise our potential. As we keep making those steps, I’m looking forward to racing in Miami again, a track I have enjoyed a lot in the last years.”

Winner: Zhou Guanyu

He did not finish in the points Sunday.

But this weekend was about more than points for Zhou Guanyu.

The Sauber driver made history on Sunday, becoming the first Chinese driver to start an F1 race at home. Despite finishing outside the points, Zhou gave the fans in the grandstands plenty to cheer about, including some impressive overtakes throughout the race. He finished 14th, but more importantly, he gave his supporters memories to last a lifetime.

Perhaps inspiring the next generation of Chinese drivers behind him.

“This hasn’t been the race we expected, it hasn’t been the race we wanted,” described Team Representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi. “Before going into the analysis of the race, it’s worth acknowledging the important page that Zhou, together with the team, has written for the history of motorsport and Formula One in China. Testament to this is the support of all the spectators throughout the whole weekend, from Thursday onwards: it was something impressive, that went beyond our expectations. We saw how much the popularity of Formula One is increasing in China thanks to Zhou, and we’re proud that our team could part of this with him.”

Following the race, Zhou acknowledged the emotions of the weekend.

“This weekend has been an amazing experience: for years, I dreamt about racing at home and finally I was able to do it. To see the passion and the love from everyone on the stands was something I’ve never experienced before: the in-lap, in particular, was something I won’t ever forget, seeing so many people cheering and shouting your name. I made sure I waved at each grandstand, at every corner with fans. As much as I treated this as a regular race weekend, the emotion was undeniable and it really got me in the end, especially when I stopped in Parc Ferme: it was a special moment, topping off the honour of being the first ever Chinese driver to race in a Chinese Grand Prix.”

Sometimes it is about more than points.

Zhou Guanyu’s weekend is a prime example.

Winners: Alden and Carol Schofield

If you will allow me a personal moment, dear reader …

My parents celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary this past week. In any year, that would be a tremendous accomplishment. But this year, it means the world.

I have said before, and on many occasions, that I want to be my dad when I grow up.

The past few months have only solidified that idea.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. Here’s to many more.

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