Chinese GP: Max Verstappen pounces on Lewis Hamilton mistake to win the Sprint

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen smiling in his helmet

Max Verstappen smiling in his helmet

Max Verstappen pounced on a mistake from Lewis Hamilton to close up on the Mercedes’ rear wing before sliding through to take the lead and the win at the opening Sprint of the season in China.

Hamilton held on to second place ahead of Sergio Perez while pole-sitter Lando Norris was a disappointing P6 after a mistake of his own against Hamilton on the opening lap cost him positions.

Business as usual as Max Verstappen wins China Sprint

With free tyre choice in play, all the drivers except George Russell started on the mediums Pirellis. Burn-outs on the formation lap to lay down a bit of rubber on the green track, washed clean by Friday’s rain, and the 20 drivers including China’s first F1 driver, Zhou Guanyu, lined up on the grid for the first Sprint of 2024.

Lewis Hamilton challenged Lando Norris for the lead, drawing alongside the pole-sitter who ran wide at Turn 2 as he tried to defend the position. That allowed Fernando Alonso through into second place ahead of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz with Norris down in seventh.

Sainz tried to attack Verstappen for position into Turn 1 but fell short while Lance Stroll complained that Nico Hulkenberg had pushed him off the track. Russell, despite starting on the softs, lost a position to run 12th in the early running.

Sainz continued to harass Verstappen for third place, the potential 2025 team-mates running ahead of Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc. Verstappen was reporting a flat battery… and then put in the fastest lap to close the gap to Alonso.

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Having pulled out a 1.5 seconds advantage over Alonso seven laps into the 19-lap Sprint, Hamilton found himself chased by Verstappen who used DRS to pass the Aston Martin driver to run second.

A mistake from Hamilton at the hairpin allowed Verstappen to close right up on his rear wing and with DRS he took the lead on lap nine at Turn 14. With clear air ahead of him, he put two seconds between himself and Hamilton within the space of a lap.

With five to go, Alonso continued to run third but had Sainz on his rear wing as he led a train that included Perez, Leclerc and Norris. Russell, meanwhile, was trying to chase down Oscar Piastri for the final points-paying position.

As Sainz tried at almost every corner to stick his nose up the inside of Alonso’s AMR24, Leclerc was attempting something similar on Perez – all four within the space of just a few metres of tarmac. Alonso’s epic defence was undone on lap 16, Sainz momentarily ahead but as Alonso fought back Perez took them both.

Sainz and Leclerc then overtook Alonso, before a puncture – potentially from contact with Sainz – put him out of the race. Race Control noted the Alonso/Sainz tussle. Leclerc overtook Sainz in what was another fiery tussle as the Spaniard almost ran his team-mate off the road.

Out in front, Verstappen raced to the victory by a comfortable 12 second advantage over Hamilton with Perez completing the podium in third place.

Leclerc was fourth ahead of Sainz and Norris with Piastri and Russell completing the points as they overtook Zhou late in the Sprint.

Result

1 Max VERSTAPPEN
2 Lewis HAMILTON +13.043
3 Sergio PEREZ +15.258
4 Charles LECLERC +17.486
5 Carlos SAINZ +20.696
6 Lando NORRIS +22.088
7 Oscar PIASTRI +24.713
8 George RUSSELL +25.696
9 Guanyu ZHOU +31.951
10 Kevin MAGNUSSEN +37.398
11 Daniel RICCIARDO +37.840
12 Valtteri BOTTAS +38.295
13 Esteban OCON +39.841
14 Lance STROLL +40.299
15 Pierre GASLY +40.838
16 Yuki TSUNODA +41.870
17 Alexander ALBON +42.998
18 Logan SARGEANT +46.352
19 Nico HULKENBERG +49.630

Did not finish

Fernando Alonso Aston Martin – lap 18 – puncture

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