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Daniel Ricciardo clinched his first victory of the 2018 Formula 1 season and won the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday thanks to Red Bull’s supreme tyre tactics.
Mercedes and Ferrari also took spots on the podium after Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen finished second and third, respectively, while standings leader Sebastian Vettel settled for eighth after a late spin caused by Max Verstappen.
Defending Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton couldn’t add to his record as the most decorated winner in Chinese Grand Prix history and finished fourth at Shanghai International Circuit thanks to a Verstappen time penalty.
Red Bull’s pit team played their role in Sunday’s victory and swapped their drivers on to the softs when called in during the race’s latter stages, and it showed as Ricciardo and Verstappen excelled in the second half.
The official Formula 1 Twitter account provided a breakdown of the top finishing times on Sunday:
Formula 1 @F1
INITIAL CLASSIFICATION (END OF RACE): Best #ChineseGP ever? #F1 https://t.co/swi6LQExwh
Formula 1 Standings (Points)
1. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari (54)
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (45)
3. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes (40)
4. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull (37)
5. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari (30)
6. Fernando Alonso, McLaren (22)
7. Niko Hulkenberg, Renault (22)
8. Max Verstappen, Red Bull (18)
9. Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso (12)
10. Kevin Magnussen, Haas (11)
Ricciardo’s run to a maiden Chinese Grand Prix win got off to a clean start, but early eyes were on Vettel, who edged out team-mate Raikkonen and quickly built up several seconds’ lead over Bottas after a few laps.
The action took its time to intensify in China compared to other races so far this season, with Hamilton struggling to close the gap after starting fourth on the grid and Vettel building a powerful lead as Bottas pursued.
The safety car was called out on the 31st lap after Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly collided with team-mate Brendon Hartley at Turn 14, and German outlet DW Sports showed the fallout:
DW Sports @dw_sports
Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly receives a 10-second time penalty for causing this collision in the hairpin turn. [@F1] https://t.co/9VecbAkqfb
Red Bull made the most of their stoppage as debris was cleared and capitalised by changing on to soft tyres, and Ferrari had further cause for concern after Bottas’ fine restart gave him a cushion at the front of the race.
Ricciardo pegged Ferrari back once again as he got the drop on Raikkonen at Turn 14 to climb into fifth, one place behind team-mate Verstappen and with better tyres preparing them for race’s end.
It wasn’t long before both Red Bulls, first Ricciardo and then Verstappen, nipped in front of Hamilton to push him back to fifth, reaping the rewards for their bold manoeuvres and benefiting from the earlier tyre switch.
Tensions spiralled on the 43rd lap, however, as did the cars of Vettel and Verstappen, when the latter was overzealous in his attempts to keep up with his Red Bull team-mate and hit the former into a spin, via Movistar+:
F1 en Movistar+ @movistar_F1
Verstappen hace ‘strike’ contra Vettel. #CHNmovistarF1 https://t.co/FK5VXPUkWo
The manufacturer’s Australian wonder wasn’t content with a podium place, though, and, in a whirlwind two minutes for the team, timed a take-out of Bottas to perfection, as shown by Sky Sports F1:
Sky Sports F1 🏎 @SkySportsF1
Bottas looked to have covered it, look at that closing gap Ricciardo got through! 📺 Sky Go: https://t.co/Ajb7RejTVG 🗒️ Blog: https://t.co/SzGssX5IJr #SkyF1 #F1 #ChineseGP 🇨🇳 https://t.co/1redvvXHcr
Bottas stood to benefit from the controversy unfolding behind him, as Formula 1 confirmed Verstappen’s actions had incurred a 10-second time penalty, but it wasn’t long before Ricciardo soon leapfrogged him, too.
Motorsport.com editor Nick DeGroot juxtaposed the calculated manner of Ricciardo against that of Verstappen, for whom a podium place now looked incredibly unlikely:
Nick DeGroot @ndegroot89
Both Ricciardo and Verstappen are great drivers, but look at the difference in how they’ve moved thru the field since the restart. Ricciardo methodical, Verstappen chaotic. #ChineseGP #F1
The same could be said for Vettel, cast down to seventh following that spin, while Verstappen jumped ahead of Hamilton into fourth, and the Briton hoped their tyre difference wouldn’t let the Dutchman get a 10-second advantage or more.
The race winner looked to be decided a few laps from home as Ricciardo’s cushion out in front grew, standing at seven seconds with two laps left and his peers merely looking to see who would complete the podium. Bottas would hold out for second in the end, Raikkonen ultimately able to hold out for the bronze medal.
Fernando Alonso was next to capitalise on Vettel’s woes—seemingly struggling with some car issue—and pipped the German to seventh, just behind sixth-placed Niko Hulkenberg for Renault.
Ricciardo’s response in Shanghai was the dream scenario following last week’s retirement in Bahrain, and he becomes the first driver to take a win from Vettel this year to spice up the championship race.