Race Report: Hamilton wins 5th Chinese GP

The 2017 Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix was always under threat of rain and while the helicopter rule from free practice was sorted, meaning the race would happen regardless of sm(f)og, the rain was still an issue as weather forecasts were gloomy.

Rain has a tendency to separate drivers from great drivers and many on the grid were hoping for rain. With a half hour to go before the lights went out, the rain had subsided and presented the drivers with what we call changeable conditions…not something the drivers actually like a lot—unless you’re Jenson Button. The big question? How will the new Pirelli wet weather tires perform? A real delta to the entire weekend as the 10 minutes of exploration laps prior to the grid up period was the first look they had at the tires. The general consensus was that it was a close choice between slicks and intermediate rain tires at the start.

If Ferrari wanted to dispel the one-off oddity of Australia, they did so with a qualifying effort under two tenths of a second off pole position. If the 1.5s advantage Mercedes has enjoyed since 2014 has eroded, then China was going to take everything they had to get on pole and that’s exactly what Lewis Hamilton delivered to secure his 6th pole position at this circuit.

Lewis Hamilton won the race and celebrates his 54 win and 106th podium. Mercedes, perhaps like Ferrari in Australia, benefitted from Vettel’s early pit under the VSC which spoiled his chance to take the fight directly to Lewis. Either way, it means that both teams are very close to each other and that could mean an exciting season.

Win

A win for Lewis who secured his 5th win in China from his 6th pole position there. Having controlled the race and his tire management, Lewis put on a clinic of how to win a race and due to Ferrari’s strategy, he was never really threatened.

A win for Vettel who suffered from a bad strategy and still managed to claim second place and limit his damage as he leaves China tied in the championship.

Sure, his Super Soft tires ran out on about lap 28 but Max Verstappen’s progress from 17th to second was a terrific run and comprehensive message.

A win for Red Bull who had a race most likely better than they were hoping for. Running 3rd and 4th for most of the day and showing that in dodgy conditions, the Newey designed car’s drivability and chassis come in to play. Max held off his teammate, Ricciardo, for his first podium in China. Max secured driver of the day.

A win for passing as the fear was the cars wouldn’t be able to follow each other and passing might be very difficult anywhere outside a DRS zone but there was quite a bit of passing in turn 6 and other locations that were not DRS fueled per se. The most notable issue was Romain Grosjean, a lap down, ahead of both Red Bulls with Max protesting that it was hurting his car’s performance. That may be but his teammate was on his tail and didn’t seem to have the same issue of following a car.

A win for Kevin Magnussen who lead Haas F1’s efforts to an important point-scoring position of 8th while his teammate languished in 11th.

A win for Force India and specifically Esteban Ocon for a double points finish and Ocon’s spirited drive to the top 10 for the team in his rookie season.

Fail

Certainly the initial 20 laps were riddled by the Virtual Safety Car and real Safety Car deployed for Stroll and Giovinazzi’s crash respectively. A tactical call by Ferrari saw Sebastian Vettel drop from second to 6th behind his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, and both were behind the Red Bull’s with Daniel Ricciardo holding them up and spoiling their race. While Lewis and Mercedes read the strategy right for VSC and SC periods, Ferrari got Vettel’s wrong.

Valtteri Bottas spun under the Safety Car (as best as I can tell from TV coverage) dropping him back and he spent most of the race hustling around 7th and 8th place. Not where the team needed him to be—which is right on Lewis’s tail.

A fail for McLaren as they retired Stoffel Vandoorne with a Fuel issue. Then later, retiring Alonso as well.

WTH

A fail for Antonio Giovinazzi who had a wonderful debut in Australia only to blot his career with an expensive weekend in China.

Why would Ferrari not see Kimi’s issues and make the call to let Vettel go knowing Seb was much quicker. By delaying, they handed a 10s gap to Hamilton by the 26h lap of the race.

What happened to Felipe Mass and Williams?

What was happening with Kimi? Other than complaining more than anyone about his tires, his engine and his software, it seemed he was simply not happy in that car on Sunday.

Photo by: www.Kymillman.com/F1

Results:

Pos. # Driver Chassis Engine Laps Gap
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 56  
2 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 56 6.250
3 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 56 45.192
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG 56 46.035
5 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 56 48.076
6 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 56 48.808
7 55 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso Renault 56 1’12.893
8 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 55 1 Lap
9 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 55 1 Lap
10 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 55 1 Lap
11 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 55 1 Lap
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 55 1 Lap
13 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault 55 1 Lap
14 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 55 1 Lap
15 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 55 1 Lap
Ret 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 33  
Ret 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 18  
Ret 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 17  
Ret 36 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber Ferrari 3  
Ret 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 0  

Photos By: www.Kymillman.com/F1