F1 2017: Chinese Grand Prix Race Recap

rr F1 CHI

Lewis Hamilton won the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix, controlling the race from the start. Though Sebastian Vettel clawed his Ferrari closer in the final stages, he could not challenge for the race win, finishing second. Max Verstappen put on a good show, passing through the field from starting sixteenth to finish third, holding off teammate Daniel Ricciardo at the end. Despite power issues throughout the race, Kimi Raikkonen completed the top five.

Early laps saw a Virtual Safety Car after contact beached Lance Stoll’s Williams in the gravel. Antonio Giovinazzi brought out a physical Safety Car, crashing onto the front straight. The first quarter of the race saw plenty of action, as the Red Bull and Ferrari teammates squabbled. Bottas factored little, spinning behind the SC and dropping to the mid-pack for much of the race. Despite a slow start to 2017, the Chinese Grand Prix lagged little, with plenty of action for the duration.

Results of the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix

DRIVER TEAM GAP
1.  Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2.  Sebastian Vettel Ferrari  6.250
3.  Max Verstappen Red Bull 45.192
4.  Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull  46.035
5.  Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari  48.076
6.  Valtteri Bottas Mercedes  48.808
7.  Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso  72.893
8.  Kevin Magnussen Haas  1 Lap
9.  Sergio Perez Force India  1 Lap
10.  Esteban Ocon Force India  1 Lap
11.  Romain Grosjean Haas  1 Lap
12.  Nico Hulkenberg Renault  1 Lap
13.  Joylon Palmer Renault  1 Lap
14.  Felipe Massa Williams  1 Lap
15.  Marcus Ericsson Sauber  1 Lap
 Fernando Alonso McLaren
 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
 Stoffel VanDoorne McLaren
 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber
 Lance Stroll Williams

Qualifying Sessions:
Hamilton {1:31.678} won pole during damp qualifying sessions Saturday, after smog and low visibility cut Friday’s running short. Though Vettel led both Q1 and Q2, Hamilton held the fastest time through the final session, improving a messy lap by more than two tenths to start first. Bottas again qualified on row two, with a neat Merc-Ferrari 1-2-3-4 as Raikkonen qualified fourth. Ricciardo, Massa, Hulkenberg, Perez, Kvyat, and Stroll rounded out the top ten qualifiers.

Giovinazzi forced a delay of Q2, wrecking heavily while in 15th in the closing moments of Q1. His time forced Verstappen out in Q1, as an engine software issue hampered his time in the Red Bull. Grosjean and Palmer made their way into Q2, but would suffer penalties for passing under the yellows. Alonso made it into Q2, but would only qualify thirteenth.

A number of drivers, including Hamilton, Ricciardo, and Bottas wore supersoft, slick tires on their reconnaissance lap to the grid. By the time the lights went out, everyone but Sainz started on inters. Vettel reported on a drying track on the formation lap.

Lights Out:
The field got away on the damp track, as Palmer pitted for slicks before the start. Hamilton led into T1, with Vettel behind and holding off Bottas from an angled starting position. Ricciardo posted a fabulous start, taking fourth from Raikkonen around the outside. Hulkenberg trailed behind as the drivers drove away somewhat gingerly. Hamilton led Vettel, Bottas, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Kvyat, Verstappen, Alonso, Massa, and Perez as the top on at the end of L1. Stroll, with contact from Perez, spun into the gravel, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car with his breached Williams. Verstappen moved from a 16th starting position to 7th.

Vettel, Kvyat, Alonso, Massa, Ocon, Perez, Magnussen, Ericsson, Van Doorne, Hulkenberg, Giovanizzi, and Grosjean all pitted. Meanwhile, Race Control investigated Vettel for an improper grid position. Mercedes stayed on inters, as did Ricciardo, Raikkonen, and Verstappen, the top five. On the end of the VSC, Hamilton had a massive lead to his teammate. Ricciardo tried to keep Bottas from getting away.

Safety Car {L4 of 56}:
On L4, Giovinazzi brought out the traditional SC with another massive crash onto the front straight. He left carbon fiber strewn across the front straight, leading the field to be brought through the pit lane behind the SC. The top five pitted before coming in behind the SC. Verstappen moved up from fifth to fourth before the positions were frozen.

Restart {L8 of 56}:
On the Restart, Hamilton led Ricciardo away with no position change amongst the top five. Bottas spun behind the SC, losing position from fifth to twelfth. Verstappen made his way around Raikkonen, who complained of “zero torque.” Alonso sat sixth for a moment, only to lose the position to compatriot Sainz. He soon closed right up behind the battling Ferrari teammates.

End L10 of 56:
At the end of L10, Hamilton led Ricciardo with about a second and a half. Verstappen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Sainz, Alonso, Perez, Magnussen, and Bottas completed the top ten runners. Verstappen made his move on Ricciardo at T6 on L11 with the help of DRS, quickly gaining nearly a second on his teammate. Behind, Raikkonen continued to hold off his teammate. McLaren told Alonso, “Fernando, for reference, Sainz is quickest on track.” He responded, “I’m quickest on track in the corners.” Meanwhile, incidents involving Hulkenberg, Grosjean, and Ericsson were under investigation for passing under the SC.

Bottas made his way back into the points by the end of L12. He sat more than 30 seconds behind his race-leading teammate. Hamilton set a race fast lap on the soft tires, giving himself a bit more room over Verstappen. His teammate fell into the clutches of the Ferraris. Raikkonen continued to complain that he had no power.

Race Control gave Hulkenberg a five second time penalty for passing Ericsson under VSC, then a ten second penalty for passing Grosjean under the SC. As the laps ticked by, Hamilton increased his gap to Verstappen to over three seconds. Ricciardo remained another five seconds back. VanDoorne retired on L18 with a suspected fuel issue.

Vettel finally passed his teammate for fourth on L20, diving up the inside into T6, slightly more aggressively than Verstappen took Ricciardo laps before. Further back, Kvyat retired. Teams and drivers had begun discussing the likelihood that the tires would last to the end, with Hamilton thinking he could before even halfway.

Vettel quickly dispatched Ricciardo, following his former teammate closely. The German went around the outside at T6, leaving Ricciardo no space but to lock up. The Australian fought back, they touched, and Vettel gained third position on acceleration. His teammate did not think his tires would last to the end.

Having made his way around the cars holding him up, Vettel nearly caught Verstappen by L25. Massa pitted as Hamilton began L26. Bottas took seventh from Alonso easily, who asked if Bottas had damage, telling McLaren it is “unbelievable” for Bottas to have been behind him.

Halfway {L26 of 56}:
Hamilton led Verstappen by nine seconds, Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Sainz, Bottas, Alonso, Magnussen, and Perez as the top ten at halfway. Ocon, Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Pamer, Massa, and Ericsson completed the sixteen runners. Grosjean took thirteenth from Palmer, who complained that he needed to switch tires. Verstappen miscalculated into T1, running deep and locking up, leaving lots of room for Vettel to take second. He ruined his front left, and as Ricciardo caught his teammate, Verstappen dove into the pits for a fresh set of supersofts. He rejoined sixth. Renault followed suit, pitting Magnussen from eleventh on L33.

At the front, Verstappen pushed for a race fast lap in fifth. Hamilton responded on L33, cushioning the Mercedes driver by twelve seconds over Vettel in second. Verstappen harried Bottas for fourth, again into T6. Raikkonen continued to remind Ferrari of his power woes.

Second Pit Stops Begin {L34 of 56}:
Hulkenberg added to the trickle of drivers pitting on L34. As Ricciardo made his second stop, Sainz tried to take Alonso’s eighth, with the older driver fighting back, but eventually losing the position. Vettel gave up second to this teammate on L35, pitting for fresh tires. L36 brought yet another retirement for Alonso, reporting his McLaren suffered a driveshaft problem before he pulled to the side of the track.

Bottas pitted on L36, getting away slowly. His teammate stopped from the race lead on L37, with Grosjean also stopping on that lap. The top end were a mix of the soft and supersoft compounds. Raikkonen pitted on L40. Ferrari indicated he would likely finish third, behind his teammate, if he stayed out, but he struggled badly on his tires.

With fifteen laps to go, Vettel quickened his pace as his teammate made his way around Sainz for fifth. Ocon pitted from eleventh on L43. Soon, Hamilton’s lead dropped to less than eight seconds. Hamilton responded with another race fast lap on L44, seven tenths quicker than Vettel’s on that lap.

10 Laps Remain of 56:
Hamilton’s lead equalized with ten laps to go. Vettel followed nearly eight seconds behind, with Verstappen more than twenty-five seconds behind the leader, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Bottas, Sainz, Perez, Magnussen, and Massa the top ten with ten to go. Ocon quickly took the last points position from Massa. Mercedes had a bit of a day on the radio, calling Verstappen Vergne to Hamilton in the middle of the race, later referring to Bottas as Nico to the Finn himself.

Magnussen harried Perez for eighth. The Haas driver firmly took the position, with Perez dipping into the pits fro fresh tires nearly immediately after. With six laps to go, Ricciardo looked set to give his teammate a run for third. Haas drivers rallied near the end, as Grosjean moved up to eleventh soon thereafter.

With four laps to go, Ricciardo closed on Verstappen, but could not seem to get up under the wing with a gap smaller than six or seven tenths. Verstappen continued to complain about wash from Grosjean more than a second ahead. They remained line astern through the laps, posting very similar times. Hamilton would comfortably take the win from Vettel, with the nail-biting race coming for third. On the final lap, Verstappen looked just safe enough to keep the podium, but Ricciardo continued to close incrementally. Verstappen locked up at T6, but the Australian could not quite capitalize. In the end, Ricciardo dove for it, but locked up massively and settled for fourth.

{VMR}

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