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What We Learned Chinese Grand Prix 2018

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The Big Picture:  The Asian market is critically important to the world’s economies, yet only Formula One has been able to establish a foothold for events among international racing series in Asia. The contests in China, Singapore, and Japan are a testimony to that.

The Event:  The contract for the Chinese has been secured until 2020, so if race organizers can figure out how to keep their event from losing money, it should continue to succeed otherwise.

In Our Last Episode:  Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel racked up his second victory in as many contests this year. Vettel was able to squeeze every bit of use out of his tires for a win over Valtteri Bottas in Bahrain.

Qualifying:  The grid came out Ferrari squared with Vettel ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, followed by the two Mercedes with Bottas over Lewis Hamilton, and then the two Red Bull cars. It was fairly routine and predictable except for Mercedes’ relatively lackluster performance.

Start: Good. No embarrassing schlimazels.

Race:  It was Mr. Ricciardo’s wild ride at the end. But it began fairly calmly for an F1 race as Vettel looked poised in the early race to take his third consecutive victory of the year. Then on Lap 30,  the Toro Rosso pilots Pierre Gasley and Brandon Hartley had a big accident which brought out a safety car. Critically, Red Bull opted to pit Verstappen and Ricciardo for a third time, while Ferrari and Mercedes left their four drivers out on their old tires, setting up Ricciardo’s eventual win over Bottas and Raikkonen.

Best Team:  Reluctantly, Red Bull. They were great in the managing they did of Ricciardo’s drive, but Max Verstappen was really a putz in how he treated Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, but none of the other teams surpassed them.

Biggest Surprise:  That polesitter Sebastian Vettel failed to parlay his advantageous start into a race win because of a safety car and Max Verstappen.

What We Will Remember:  How Daniel Ricciardo blasted from sixth on the grid late in the race to gain the race lead and then the win. How this is the first time in years that Mercedes failed to win even one of the first three events of the season.

Quote of the Weekend: “That was fun, a lot of fun and I just about believe it now. From where we were yesterday you would not have believed we would be here today. For me this is a massive reward but for the mechanics and engineers, they really earned this victory. Not only for the pit stops and strategy today but for getting me out in Qualifying yesterday which enabled me to get in the fight for victory, they should be very, very proud. The problem in free practice wasn’t their fault but they did all the hard work and made today happen. At the start of the race I thought we could fight for a podium but I didn’t really expect a win; then after the safety car and when I could see the way the race was going I knew we had a chance. Once I had a sniff of victory I wasn’t going to let it go. The team made a very quick decision to stop both cars under the safety car and it was a winning decision. I have lots of emotions. On the in lap I was just smiling and I didn’t have many words, then on the podium I was nearly in tears and in the press conference I was just thinking about the whole race and also about last week; how disappointed this sport can make you feel but also how high it can make you feel. Now we can all go and celebrate tonight.” Race victor Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull

Runner-up Quote of the Weekend: “This is disappointing; today doesn’t feel like winning a podium but like losing a win. Coming home second is not what we aimed for after the beginning of the race and the successful undercut. The team did a really good job, the pit stop was absolutely perfect and came at the right moment. We lost the race under the safety car. When it came out, Sebastian and I were already past the pit entry, so we were a bit unlucky – the cars behind us could react, but we didn’t have any choice. They could get fresh tyres, but I ended up doing nearly 40 laps on the Medium, so of course it was slower in the end. It’s very close between Red Bull, Ferrari and us, so we need to make sure we keep developing our car. Nearly winning both last weekend and this weekend is the worst feeling – but it makes both me and the entire team even hungrier. Thankfully there are a lot more races to go.” 2nd place driver Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes

Schedule:  Only two more weeks until the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 29th on the streets of Baku.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenwheel.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson is a graduate of the University of Arizona and spent her corporate career as a Controller. She is a lifelong writer who has been covering open wheel racing since 2000 and is the author of historical articles and co-author of one book She and her husband, photographer Jeff Davidson, have two daughters and make their home in Murrieta, CA.

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