Chinese GP: Max Verstappen shrugs off mid-race chaos to beat Lando Norris in Shanghai

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen celebrates yet more success

Max Verstappen celebrates yet more success

Max Verstappen’s dominance was on display in the Chinese Grand Prix as the reigning World Champion shrugged off two mid-race Safety Cars to win by 13 seconds over Lando Norris with Sergio Perez third.

Valtteri Bottas’ power-less Sauber necessitated a VSC that became a Safety Car when the marshals weren’t able to clear his car while the restart saw Lance Stroll crash into Daniel Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen take out Yuki Tsunoda, and a second SC.

Max Verstappen extends championship advantage with fourth win of 2024

There was pre-race drama at Aston Martin after Fernando Alonso broke the right side of his floor on the way to the grid. His mechanics worked furiously to repair it, finishing up with minutes to spare.

And given Alonso’s flying start, it seemed they did a good job. The Spaniard flew off the line to take second place off Sergio Perez, the two running behind pole-sitter and race leader Max Verstappen.

The Ferrari teammates, Charles Leclerc pushing Carlos Sainz wide, lost a position to George Russell while the other Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton dropped to 19th before passing Zhou Guanyu to reclaim 18th. Daniel Ricciardo lost four places as Yuki Tsunoda made up three, the RB teammates running 15th and 16th.

Perez regained second place on Lap 5, passing Alonso up the inside at Turn 6 with McLaren letting Lando Norris know Alonso had been abusing his tyres to stay ahead of Perez. Norris caught Alonso on Lap 7 and used DRS to pass him up the inside at the hairpin before quickly taking the racing line and closing the door.

The power of the DRS was evident as Leclerc stormed past Russell at Turn 1 and then three laps later did the same to Piastri to run fourth on Lap 12. His next target was Alonso only for the Spaniard to pit, as too did Russell who was being hounded by Sainz. His teammate Hamilton had stopped two laps earlier, one of the first to pit.

There was pit stop drama for Pierre Gasly as he went to leave his pit box before his rear-right had been fitted and knocked over one of his mechanics. It was a 19s stop for the Alpine driver who dropped to P20.

14 laps in, Verstappen and Perez pitted from first and second with Norris and Leclerc promoted to the top two with McLaren keeping Norris out as they speculated Leclerc could go for the one-stop. Verstappen overtook Leclerc, the Ferrari driver not fighting the move, before he chased down Norris to regain the lead on Lap 19.

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20 laps in, everyone barring Norris and Leclerc had pitted as they ran two-three behind Verstappen and ahead of Perez, Alonso, Russell, Piastri, Lance Stroll, Sainz and with Nico Hulkenberg in the final points-paying position.

The yellow flags were waved a lap later for Valtteri Bottas’ power-less Sauber, that upgraded to a VSC which prompted Leclerc to dive into the pits with Norris unhappy after missing the pit entry. The marshals struggled to remove Bottas’ car, which appeared to be stuck in gear, meaning the VSC remained and Norris got his cheap pit stop. Hamilton and Stroll also pitted.

The Safety Car was deployed on Lap 24. Verstappen pitted from the lead, Perez and Alonso amongst those who also pitted. The running order was Verstappen, Norris, Leclerc, Perez, Sainz, Alonso, Russell, Piastri, Ricciardo and Stroll. The top ten on the hard Pirellis barring Alonso on the soft tyres and Ricciardo on the mediums.

There was drama even before the restart as, bunched up by the leaders, Alonso locked up and Stroll went into the back of Ricciardo who hit Piastri. Then on the restart, Kevin Magnussen and Tsunoda collided as the Haas tried to dive up the inside and instead collided with the RB, Tsunoda out of the race. The Safety Car was back out. Stroll and Magnussen pitted for repairs while Ricciardo and Piastri reported damage.

The race was back underway on lap 32 with Verstappen quickly pulling clear of the Norris/Leclerc battle with Perez and Alonso lining up behind them. Meanwhile, Ricciardo’s floor damage cost him positions with the Aussie falling to 18th before retiring the car in the pits. Stroll and Magnussen were given 10s penalties for causing collisions, and Logan Sargeant received one for a SC infringement.

Back at the front, Verstappen led Norris while Leclerc had Perez on his rear wing. Perez finally made his move at the Turn 6 hairpin, taking third on lap 39. He was four seconds down on Norris with 17 laps remaining. As McLaren confirmed Piastri had “significant” damage, behind him Hulkenberg and Hamilton went wheel-to-wheel over ninth place with Hamilton gaining the position on Lap 41.

Heading into the final 10 laps, Verstappen was nine seconds up on Norris, who in turn was four ahead of Perez with Leclerc a further two adrift. Alonso dropped out of the top ten, down to 12th, as he pitted for a third time to swap his soft tyres for mediums.

He made short work of Alex Albon and then Esteban Ocon to run P10. Overtaking Hulkenberg, Hamilton and Piastri, Alonso was up to seventh with five to go.

Verstappen stormed to the win, his fourth of the season, by 13 seconds ahead of Norris to add another 25 points to his championship quest with the McLaren driver scoring 18. Perez was third, the Mexican driver lacking the speed to even challenge Norris.

Leclerc was fourth ahead of Sainz and Russell with Alonso’s late pit stop putting him P7 with the Aston Martin driver also scoring the fastest lap point. Piastri, Hamilton and Hulkenberg completed the points.

Results

1 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING 1:40:52.554
2 Lando Norris MCLAREN MERCEDES +13.773s
3 Sergio Perez RED BULL RACING +19.160s
4 Charles Leclerc FERRARI +23.623s
5 Carlos Sainz FERRARI +33.983s
6 George Russell MERCEDES +38.724s
7 Fernando Alonso ASTON MARTIN +43.414
8 Oscar Piastri MCLAREN +56.198s
9 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES +57.986s
10 Nico Hulkenberg HAAS +60.476s
11 Esteban Ocon ALPINE +62.812s
12 Alexander Albon WILLIAMS +65.506s
13 Pierre Gasly ALPINE +69.223s
14 Zhou Guanyu KICK SAUBER +71.689s
15 Lance Stroll ASTON MARTIN +82.786s
16 Kevin Magnussen HAAS +87.533s
17 Logan Sargeant WILLIAMS +95.110s

Did not finish

Daniel Ricciardo RB – lap 34 – crash damage
Yuki Tsunoda RB – lap 27 – crash
Valtteri Bottas Stake – lap 21 – engine failure

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