After all the bad luck during the weekend, nobody would’ve guessed that Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo would win the 2018 Formula 1 (F1) Chinese Grand Prix. This marks the Aussie’s sixth win in the top tier motorsport, all of which happened when he started outside the top three positions.
The beginning of the Chinese Grand Prix looked like it was going to be a duel between Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG. As the lights went out, Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel managed to stay in front of the pack after squeezing his teammate Kimi Raikkonen to the edge of the track. This dropped Raikkonen to fourth.
Mercedes-AMG’s Valtteri Bottas and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen were quick to pounce on the opportunity and took advantage to secure second and third, respectively. The other Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton followed closely behind in fifth while Ricciardo stayed in sixth.
In a surprise move, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing call in their drivers to pit in and switch to the more durable medium tires on lap 18. Mercedes-AMG responded with Hamilton entering the pits on lap 19 and Bottas on lap 20, hoping to leapfrog Ferrari when they change tires.
On the 21st lap, Ferrari opted to bring in race leader Vettel for a fresh set of tires but the slow pit stop handed the lead to Bottas. The other Ferrari driver Raikkonen stayed out longer, hoping to help Vettel by slowing down Bottas but it didn’t work out.
It looked like Mercedes-AMG’s strategy of pitting before their rivals paid off. Unfortunately, Toro Rosso teammates, Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, collided with each other, which brought out the safety car.
Be it a stroke of genius or sheer luck – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing gambled and immediately called their drivers in to switch to the stickier soft compound tires during the safety car period.
When the race resumed, an eager Verstappen, now on fresher tires, tried to pass Hamilton at turn 7 but failed. This gave his teammate Ricciardo the chance to pass him and try overtaking Hamilton himself, which he easily dispatched at turn 14 on lap 41.
Race leader Bottas and second place Vettel were now in range of Ricciardo. Red Bull’s gamble paid off as Bottas and Vettel struggled with grip and couldn’t defend against the faster Ricciardo. The Aussie took the lead on lap 46 and remained there until the finish line.
Verstappen, on the other hand, was now in fourth place, challenging Vettel for the last spot on the podium. But at turn 14, Verstappen’s unrealistic lunge to overtake Vettel ended with a collision and was later handed with a 10-second time penalty. Even with that, the Dutchman ended up with fifth place.
Meanwhile, Vettel struggled further with the car’s grip due to tire degradation and the damage from the incident, dropping him down to eight.
Here’s the official classification:
The fourth round of the 2018 Formula 1 season will be on April 29 at Baku City, Azerbaijan.