Surprises and setbacks: A technical recap of Chinese Grand Prix qualifying and Sprint

Uros Radovanovic
Max Verstappen won the Chinese Grand Prix Sprint.

Max Verstappen won the Chinese Grand Prix Sprint.

New qualifications but another pole position for the current championship leader, Max Verstappen, at the Chinese Grand Prix. His sixth consecutive P1 start.

Although Max dominated both in the earlier sprint race and in qualifying, we have to admit that we had some very interesting racing on Saturday in China. Let’s see what the telemetry data says – can anyone try to challenge Red Bull tomorrow and who can we expect that from?

Sprint Race Analysis – What Teams Can Learn From It?

The rainy qualifying for the sprint race mixed up the cards and gave us a more interesting battle in the sprint race itself. It was all about managing the tyres in this 19-lap race, where everyone except Russell started on the soft compounds. George did very well on the red tyres and provided his team with valuable data that will surely affect their strategy tomorrow.

Alonso and Hamilton had a pretty good start and even managed to pull away from Red Bull at one point. However, this later cost them pace due to higher tyre wear while Max drove at his own pace and easily passed both of them to finish 13 seconds ahead of the second-placed Lewis.

The sprint race was more than a clear indication of where Red Bull stands compared to the others, and we can expect the same thing on Sunday. They simply dominate in all areas, and unless there are any unexpected failures, we could very easily see another lights-to-flag race from the perspective of the fight for first place. recommends

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Qualifying Data Analysis – Who Will be the Second Fastest Team?

Surely the biggest and also negative surprise of the qualifying was Mercedes. Hamilton lost a lot of time due to a mistake in T14 and dropped out in the Q1, something we rarely saw in his long career.

Mercedes was average in the second and third sectors, while surprisingly being the slowest in the first. The Brackley-based team came to China with high expectations, which increased even more after Hamilton’s brilliant second place in the Sprint race.

The first sector is characterised by the first so-called “snail” corners, which are very demanding. Here you need maximum precision but also stability of the car, which Mercedes obviously didn’t have enough of. We could see how the rear of the car was unstable, and we already know that this problem has been troubling the team since the beginning of the new era.

Mercedes brought a medium-loaded aero package to China, so we can assume that they sacrificed this part of the track to enable better top speeds on the straights.

When it comes to positive surprises, then our incredible veteran Fernando Alonso is there. With a spectacular lap, he secured P3 for tomorrow, which will surely turn into valuable points for the team. Aston Martin is a team struggling in race pace, but they looked great in qualifying today – at least one driver did.

Fernando made the most difference in the first sector, and unlike the mentioned Mercedes, this car looks really stable through the first corners. The Silverstone-based team showed everyone last year how fast they are in slow corners, and it’s great to see progress compared to that. Maximum speeds are very good, while they manage to maintain recognisable stability in slow corners. It’s really great to see Alonso competing at his age.

In the picture above, we can also see the stability of Aston Martin. Pay attention to T3 and T4 where Alonso adds more throttle than others and carries greater speed through the corners.

When it comes to other teams, McLaren is definitely worth mentioning since both of their drivers were ahead of Ferrari as well as Mercedes.

McLaren managed to record very good laps despite being almost at the bottom of the table in terms of maximum speed. This is certainly an area where they must improve if they want to consistently fight for the podium. However, what brought them the result is the first sector.

Although quite similar laps between Leclerc and Norris, differences between these teams can be seen in some parts. Norris almost always has higher speed at the exit of the corner and is able to carry that speed into the next one – especially in the first sector. It’s interesting to see how Leclerc consistently releases the throttle later when entering the corner, allowing for greater stability of the car.

However, McLaren maximally utilised the advantages of their car and secured an excellent start for the race on Sunday.

Among the teams at the bottom of the table, Sauber should be mentioned, which has significantly improved. Zhou was great in qualifying for the sprint at his home race and almost scored points this morning. On the other hand, Bottas took advantage of Lewis’s exit in Q1 and qualified for Q3 for the first time this season. We hope their pace during the race will be good enough to fight for the first points in 2024.

Read next: Winners and losers from the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix qualifying