Which drivers excelled at the Shanghai International Circuit and who had a weekend to forget? Our driver ratings from the Chinese Grand Prix…
Daniel Ricciardo: Funny how Formula 1 works out. From two minutes away from not being able to take part in qualifying after his engine went pop, to winning the Chinese Grand Prix in emphatic style with a late surge after the Safety Car.
After four DNFs in his last six races, we have not been able to see Ricciardo at his very best – but in the race it was a completely different story.
The Aussie is an absolute master at overtaking and his attack on those ahead was a joy to watch. His move from a mile back on Hamilton at the chicane was the pick of the bunch and the victory was just reward for a pit crew that put together a new engine in record time and double stacked the Red Bulls in the pits on two occasions.
The manner of the victory will have also improved his stock when he heads back to the negotiation table to discuss his Formula 1 future beyond the end of this season. 10
Valtteri Bottas: It was another pretty impressive showing from Bottas this weekend, following up on a marked improvement in Bahrain.
He got the jump on his fellow Finn once again from the start and kept Vettel in close quarters heading into the pit stops. Mercedes reacted to Red Bull, but Ferrari didn’t react whatsoever and a fantastic out-lap from Bottas allowed him to make the undercut and take the race lead.
And although the timing of the Safety Car ultimately proved to be his downfall, he did make a smart getaway from Vettel to keep the lead for just that little bit longer.
With Ricciardo charging him down, he did suffer quite a big lock-up at the chicane but with or without that he would have been able to do nothing to stop the Aussie. It is another case of what could have been for Bottas. 8.5
Kimi Raikkonen: On provisional pole for second straight race weekend, Raikkonen left the door oh so very slightly ajar for Vettel to steal top spot from him. Had he matched his final sector time from his first Q3 run, Raikkonen would have done enough to clinch his first pole since Monaco last year. Alas, the wait continues.
Starting alongside Vettel on the front row, Raikkonen was squeezed out by his team-mate and lost out to Bottas and Verstappen this time as a result. He is the only driver since 2016 yet to gain a place in position on the opening lap of a race.
But it was Ferrari’s poor strategic calls that saw Raikkonen then play the infuriating role of sacrificial lamb and try and hold up Bottas. He simply deserves better than that.
But thankfully it did not end up on a completely low note for Raikkonen, who showed good pace after the Safety Car and managed to claw back a podium spot. 8
Lewis Hamilton: After topping the first two practice sessions, Hamilton looked to be getting in the usual comfort zone at a track that has proven a very happy hunting ground for him in the past.
But the cracks appeared with various spins in the lead up to qualifying, where he was simply unable to get anywhere near his best on the ultrasoft tyres. We are so used to seeing him light up the timing screens on his final Q3 run, not skulking down the pit lane after failing to produce a clean lap when it mattered the most.
From the second row and behind Bottas again, it was another cautious start from Hamilton and it was not long before he was on team radio reporting a lack of pace. But his big opportunity to get himself back into some sort of contention was not taken by Mercedes and, by not pitting under the Safety Car, he left himself vulnerable to the two Red Bulls and Raikkonen behind.
Like Bahrain, there was another incident with Verstappen (much more on him later) and with the Dutchman’s timed penalty for the Sebastian Vettel collision, it gave the Brit a small crumb of comfort of being able to re-take P4 and narrow the gap slightly from 17 points to 9 at the top of the World Championship standings.
This still has to go down as third race weekend in row to forget for Hamilton, who admitted he was pretty much in “no man’s land” in China. 6
Max Verstappen: Max, Max, Max. You are really going to have reign it in just a little bit. After a fantastic start from P5 to P3 on the opening lap and the Safety Car playing right into hands as well, Verstappen could have well found himself on the podium alongside his team-mate Ricciardo.
But the greediness took over once again. We got our first indication when he almost came together with Hamilton but his attempted overtake on Vettel was far too ambitious and completely unnecessary given that he was on much fresher tyres than Vettel. His 10-second penalty completely justified. 4
Nico Hulkenberg: The Hulk is fast becoming a model of consistency after he qualified P7 for a sixth consecutive race and once again out-qualified his team-mate Carlos Sainz.
The consistency continued throughout the race, despite initially running wide at the start, and was one of the drivers who benefitted from the Safety Car. There was also the added bonus of being able to get ahead of Vettel after his coming together with Verstappen to bring home another solid bank of points for Renault. 7.5
Fernando Alonso: Given McLaren’s lack of competitiveness in qualifying, Alonso is continuing to make up for it in the race. He initially made up two places at the very start but had a hard time getting past Romain Grosjean, which left him prone to the undercut from those around him.
But he still was able to stay aggressive throughout despite pitting just before the Safety Car and his P7 result would have tasted a whole lot sweeter after being able to overtake Vettel’s damaged Ferrari in the closing stages. 7
Sebastian Vettel: Following a stunning performance in Bahrain, Vettel’s quality initially started to shine through in qualifying once again as he held his nerve to beat a very game Kimi Raikkonen to pole position.
His 1:31.095 was an incredible lap under immense pressure and, given that nine of the previous 14 pole sitters have gone on to win the Chinese Grand Prix, set up a very strong platform to deliver a third consecutive win of the season.
After a great start, Vettel looked well in control to deliver it – but it started to go very wrong, very quickly. Ferrari were caught snoozing on strategy, leaving Vettel vulnerable to the undercut from Bottas.
He was able to keep the Finn in close quarters, but Vettel would also be one of the drivers who was vulnerable under the Safety Car to those able to switch to fresher tyres.
He was powerless to resist a rampaging Ricciardo but, as he tried to limit the damage, he felt the full force of an aggressive Verstappen and left him limping home with a damaged car in P8. A hugely disappointing result and not one he could do a whole lot about. 8
Carlos Sainz: The Spaniard still does not have an answer to Hulkenberg’s superior pace in qualifying and that has to be a concern to see the battle so one-sided so far this season.
But he did make amends slightly by bring home a second double points finish of the season, switching to the softs for the conclusion of the race and quickly moving into the points places after the Safety Car. A wounded Vettel proved to be just a little out of reach. 6.5
strong>Kevin Magnussen: A bad out-lap prevented him from challenging for a Q3 spot in China, but a P11 start meant he was the first driver to have the luxury of free tyre choice to start the race with.
Much to Grosjean’s dismay, Magnussen was allowed to pass his team-mate as he was on the longer first stint and was ultimately able to make the one-stopper work and record back-to-back points finishes after the disaster of Australia. 6.5
Esteban Ocon: A self-confessed mistake on the final corner ended all hope of a Q3 spot for the Frenchman and it did not get much better during the race, either. Squabbles with Perez and Alonso put him on the back foot and the attempted undertake to try and get himself back into points contention was cancelled out by the Safety Car. 6
Sergio Perez: There were signs that Force India are starting to play catch-up with their midfield rivals and Perez was initially able to show that by getting in front of a Renault and a Haas in his first Q3 session of the season.
In the race, though, lining up from P8, it unravelled pretty quickly as the Mexican lost six places on the first lap alone and getting involved in another intra-team battle with Ocon which were so accustomed to last season. The Safety Car did not work out for either Force India, who were in the points but quickly fell back out of them6
Stoffel Vandoorne: A quiet race for the Belgian, who failed to collect points for the first time this season. He was another driver to get off to a poor start and big vibrations from the car toward the end mean he was left languishing in P13.
He will only be really remembered this weekend for being the latest driver to be subject to an unsafe pit stop release in practice. 5.5
Lance Stroll: You know just how far Williams has fallen when you consider a P14 finish for Stroll to be a pretty good job. The Canadian made up six laps on the very first lap to put a dismal qualifying behind him and claimed a pretty respectable finish all things considered.
Stroll looked to be showing some promise in qualifying after the season opener in Australia, but has now been out-qualified twice since by his rookie team-mate. So still plenty of work to do for both driver and team. 6.5
Sergey Sirotkin: The Russian will no doubt be happy with his qualifying performance, yet it appeared to be another pretty lonely race for him. He did make up a little ground at the end, though, after pitting under the Safety Car and finishing a couple of seconds away from his team-mate. 5.5
Marcus Ericsson: After his first points finish in 50 races last time out in Bahrain, Ericsson was slapped with a five-place grid penalty and three penalty points for ignoring yellow flags caused by team-mate Leclerc in qualifying. Back in a more familiar spot of P16 and another to benefit from Gasly’s penalty. 5
Romain Grosjean: The Frenchman has been lurking in Kevin Magnussen’s shadow in the early stages of this campaign, but did well to overcome brake-by-wire issues in FP3 and pinch P10 just ahead of his team-mate.
The positives ended right there and then, though. He was incensed after being asked to swap places with Magnussen in the very early stages and then the timing of the Safety Car left him on the rather weird strategy of ultras-mediums-ultras, pitting for the final time with just nine laps to go. 5
‘The stand off between two bulls in mating season. here we see the rare creatures in its natural habitat…’ pic.twitter.com/5Wf38gicIR
— Giedo van der Garde (@GvanderGarde) April 15, 2018
Pierre Gasly: From the highs of Bahrain, the Frenchman came crashing down with a rather large thud after being eliminated in Q1 with a Torro Rosso-Honda car which he admitted had “lost all of its strength”.
Languishing down in P17 on the starting grid, Gasly’s morning only got worse as a mindless overtaking attempt on his team-mate saw him pick up a 10-second penalty. Franz Tost is said to be furious that the two team-mates collided; Red Bull will probably be a little happier with him as he inadvertently paved the way for Ricciardo to win. 4
Charles Leclerc: The mistakes are still there for all to see in what is proving to be a pretty steep learning curve for the Ferrari academy product. There was another spin at a crucial time in qualifying and then another big one in the race himself to leave him last of the finishers. 4.5
Did not finish
Brendon Hartley: A very scrappy race in Bahrain and it was the same story in China, too. However, he was essentially a sitting duck when Gasly barged into him, forcing the Safety Car that paved the way for a remarkable Red Bull win. The New Zealander would bring up his first DNF of the season, retiring within the final few laps with a gearbox problem. 5