The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: China: Hamilton Ties Things Up

15-04-2017

By Jack Target

Two races in to the new Formula 1 season and we are all tied up at the top of the drivers championship.

Lewis Hamilton overcame a good practice from Ferrari to take pole and win the race relatively comfortable. It was however, not a bore-fest that plagued much of F1 last season as China threw up an intriguing race with some great overtaking.

Weather played its part as smog forced P2 to be abandoned and then a downpour on Sunday morning caused a few problems early on.

Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel again finished in the top two but it would end with three different teams represented on the podium for the first time since Austria, matching the feat also achieved in China last year. Max Verstappen in his Red Bull was the man to take 3rd after a fantastic drive in which he started from 17th, once again showing his incredible talent.

Verstappen started that far down the grid after a few problems in qualifying delayed his attempt at a decent lap before his final attempt was scuppered when Antonio Giovinazzi crashed coming out of the final corner at the end of Q1. The young Italian had another opportunity to impress with Pascal Wehrlein still recovering for Sauber, but he not once but twice crashed. After having a bit of a smash in qualifying, which stopped any quick laps that were possibly going to overtake his time, he actually had qualified in to Q2 and 15th. He will have to take better care of his car if he wants to grants every Ferrari fans wish of seeing an Italian driving the famous red car in the future. After a virtual safety car early on in the race, Giovinazzi skidded coming out of the same corner and caused a lot of damage to his car, ending his race. 

Not only was it bad for Ferrari fans hoping for a bright future from the Italian, it ended up being one of the reasons attributed to Ferrari not getting closer to another race win. With conditions on the track becoming dryer, Vettel went in to the pits during the early virtual safety car, only for Giovinazzi to crash as they started racing again. Hamilton was then able to change his tyres and the Ferrari couldn’t get close enough to challenge all race. 

All of this came ofter an interesting start to the race in which Vettel lined his car up almost halfway across his grid position, nearing the middle of the track. Nothing came of it from the race stewards but they will no doubt clamp on it becoming a new trend. 

Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg also hade positive starts with the Renault moving up to 6th, however German finished out of the points.

Valtteri Bottas, after an impressive debut performance for his new team, fell quite low when going for his pit stop halfway through the race and managed to get his car back up to fifth. He did chase down Kimi Raikkonen but couldn’t improve. The Finnish pair finished above the middle of the pack who are battling it out in what should be an interesting battle for the ‘best of the rest’. The two Force India’s were impressive in Australia last time out and took the last two available places in the points again this time. However, the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz impressed the most with a fine race as he finished in 7th whilst at one point mixing it with the big guns ahead. 

Despite all of this action all eyes were on Verstappen. On the first lap he overtook nine cars. NINE! He started the safety car lap in 7th. The replays from the cockpit of his car were fascinating as he stayed out of trouble and just glided past a mass of cars. Soon after, around lap 11, he moved in to 2nd after overtaking teammate Ricciardo. Hamilton was clearly quite safe but I must have not been the only person thinking there was a real chance the teenage dutchman could go on and win.

The Red Bulls were in the podium places due to the early safety cars and pit stops but Vettel proved once again, if he still needed to, that he can race as well as lead. One lap after another he pulled off two fine overtakes in corner six, firstly round the inside of Raikkonen and then on the outside of Ricciardo. It would not be the only time someone took advantage of that corner as Grosjean and Verstappen also pulled out some incredible moves to move themselves up the grid later on in the race. 

Sebby was back and chasing Lewis on lap 29 when he passed Verstappen, who had a lock up, leaving the Ferrari with a 10 second deficit to eradicate. That would be tough for anyone to do, let alone a four time champion. 

Things calmed down a little from there with a couple of position changes further down the grid and the once again depressing sight of Fernando Alonso retiring his McLaren. This time it came after a good battle with Sainz for 8th, which he only just lost before the car packed in. Another double retirement for the Honda McLaren. Their worst fears are coming true and we are in serious trouble of losing a great of the sport well before he should have to leave.

The last few laps were entertaining as Hamilton had to keep a check on the ever approaching Vettel, who was setting some very quick lap times. But the cameras were on the Red Bulls as Ricciardo was hunting down Verstappen in pursuit of being the Red Bull driver on the podium. 

Max defended very well and managed to just do enough to deservedly finish 3rd. There was a worry that his tyres weren’t going to be able to hold on as the rear of his car moved more than he would have liked coming out of certain corners and he wasn’t happy about being stuck behind Grosjean. Blue flags were being waved but there was plenty of space between the two and the Frenchman was not who Verstappen should have been worrying about. Sometimes we forget how young he is, but he got away with it this time. 

The podium was refreshingly quite a jovial one as all three drivers had good comradery with plenty of hugging and chat going on. Martin Brundle, conducting the interviews, was very complimentive of Max and mentioned to Hamilton that he was voted driver of the day. Lewis congratulated the Red Bull driver before proclaiming he was ok with being on the top step instead. Jokes aside the win for the Brit has set things up rather nicely for our first night race in Bahrain next week.