Chinese GP data debrief: Lando Norris dismantles a Red Bull 1-2

Pablo Hidalgo
A Ferrari and Mercedes

All the data after the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix.

We’ve dissected the data from the Chinese Grand Prix to bring you the most exciting observations from Shanghai.

Our resident data expert Pablo Hidalgo has crunched the numbers with Lando Norris, Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton all under the microscope.

Chinese Grand Prix data deep dive

Written by Pablo Hidalgo

The 2024 Chinese GP will not go down in history as an extremely entertaining race. However, the high degradation on track, influenced by the disappearance of the black paint layer and the appearance of lower gravel on the asphalt due to the cars running on the tarmac throughout the weekend, once again left us with an event marked by the strategic battle where two safety car periods have prevented us from seeing a 3-stop race.

And on the contrary, we have seen as we have already mentioned in our preview, that the strategy of going long and reducing the number of stops was a big handicap in favour as it turned out to be eventually.

‘Driver of the Day’ Lando Norris beats a Red Bull with a great final stint

The driver who has benefited the most from this reduction in stops, obviously affected by the first Safety Car period, has been Driver of the Day Lando Norris.

The McLaren driver, surprised by the pace he showed in the race, managed to steal second place from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez thanks to a long first stint with the medium and copying Charles Leclerc’s strategy as his battle was primarily against him.

Red Bull played a conservative strategy with their two drivers to easily try to lock in a 1-2, even copying the famous double stop format mostly appropriated by Mercedes a few years ago, but the first Safety Car period diminished Perez’s chances as he lost a position to Norris.

And the McLaren driver completed a long final stint on the hard under equal conditions which his rivals could not cope with. He was almost two-tenths of a second faster than Perez on average on that final run. Really, a very positive performance from Lando despite benefiting from the events of the race to scrape an extra position rather than just P3.

High degradation prevents Fernando Alonso from P5

Fernando Alonso has had to row against the tide with an Aston Martin that has fallen off on race pace compared to its marvellous one-lap performance.

The Spaniard, like Sergio Perez, was caught out by Valtteri Bottas’ Safety Car and, after an early stop on the hard compound following a high-wear first stint with the medium set, Alonso found himself in a very vulnerable position with a clear tyre life disadvantage to his rivals.

Having used one hard compound during Friday’s practice session – only Red Bull and Ferrari had two new ones for the race – Alonso missed an extra hard tyre available to stop under the Safety Car and on equal strategy with George Russell and Carlos Sainz. Against the latter, he would also have had a tyre advantage for the rest of the race because Ferrari decided to play with a one-stopper for both its drivers.

Alonso therefore found himself racing against the clock, taking advantage of the two long Safety Car periods to stretch out the soft tyre with which he had a good pace all the way to the cliff of the tyre’s operating window.

Finally, a last stint doing qualifying laps – which helped him to set the fastest lap of the race – allowed him to minimise the damage and grab P7 after overtaking Oscar Piastri with damage to his car.

Ideally, Aston Martin would have pitted him with a second stint with the medium or the soft tyre instead of the hard. But that is easier said than done once the race is over. Without the high degradation he suffered at the beginning of the race, he would have had better chances to finish just after Charles Leclerc.

Lewis Hamilton picks up the luck that Alonso lacked to make up for a very poor race

Lewis Hamilton started P18 and was even down to P19 in the opening stages of the race, running only ahead of Logan Sargeant.

After a good sprint qualifying in the rain and a sprint race where he managed to finish P2 holding off a Red Bull behind, the Mercedes driver seems to have had enough of racing for the remainder of the weekend.

A disappointing qualifying and a poor race in terms of pace, in which he was not at all comfortable as we could hear from his radio messages, was finally made up for a correct strategy choice by starting on the soft tyre, stopping on the medium and having the luck of the Safety Car timing to put the hard tyre on to extend to the end.

The many incidents provoked by his rivals put Hamilton in a very favourable P13 just before the second restart and overtaking Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg to reach the points.

Ferrari not keeping up to the expectations sees McLaren jump ahead

Everyone expected a close battle between Ferrari and McLaren. The quotes from Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc after qualifying left even Lando Norris and McLaren very pessimistic about a podium chance.

‘Tomorrow we will be stronger’, “We have a car setup focused on the race.” Well, that setup didn’t seem to work.

In the same strategy conditions between Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris, the Monegasque driver finished 10 seconds down on the McLaren. The Ferrari driver’s hopes for a podium finish finally disappeared after Sergio Perez overtook him on Lap 39. From there, the Mexican driver opened a gap that wasn’t possible for the SF-24 to recover.

A damaged Oscar Piastri’s car prevents him from a close fight against Alonso and Russell

McLaren’s weekend could have turned out to be almost exceptional just if Oscar Piastri could have finished the Chinese GP with an undamaged car.

The ‘papaya’ driver suffered the consequences of a pileup on Turn 14 right before the restart after the first Safety Car period and carried damage on his car diffuser for almost half of the remaining race. A damage that presumably cost him approximately half a second per lap comparing his lap times against Norris.

One thing is for sure, without that damage on the diffuser, the Australian would have been in a very good position to fight for P6 in similar conditions to George Russell, and why not, maybe also a potential P5 against Sainz.

And especially, he would surely have finished ahead of Fernando Alonso on his three-stopper strategy who would have never caught him with a ‘normal operating’ MCL38.

Read next: Chinese Grand Prix conclusions: Lando Norris response, Lewis Hamilton pain and more