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Verstappen charges to victory over Norris and Perez in action-packed Chinese GP

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 21: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Max Verstappen converted pole position into victory in a Chinese Grand Prix full of incidents and overtakes, leading home McLaren’s Lando Norris and Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez to make it four wins from five races so far this season.

Verstappen led the vast majority of a strategic encounter at the Shanghai International Circuit that featured a Virtual Safety Car and two full Safety Car periods, the Dutchman keeping his cool at the front as the drama unfolded behind him.

Norris was one of three drivers, along with Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, to complete just one pit stop, making the most of the VSC and Safety Car phases to jump Perez for second position, which he managed to hold to the finish.

Leclerc and Sainz followed in fourth and fifth respectively, despite some concerns from the Monegasque in the closing stages that his tyres would not be able to make it to the end, with George Russell leading Mercedes’ charge en route to sixth.

China 2024

Race results

PositionTeam NameTimePoints
1VER1:40:52.55425
2NOR+13.773s18
3PER+19.16s15
4LEC+23.623s12
5SAI+33.983s10
View Full Results

Fernando Alonso had an off-set strategy after pitting for softs, rather than hards chosen by the drivers around him, under the mid-race Safety Car, forcing him into a late stop for mediums and then a string of overtakes to recover from 12th to seventh – McLaren’s Oscar Piastri his final victim.

After his Q1 exit and some tyre-related struggles in the early laps, Lewis Hamilton worked his way up the order amid drama around him, and thanks to some smart overtakes, to wind up ninth, with Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg claiming the final point on offer.

Alpine pair Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly sandwiched the Williams of Alex Albon in positions 11 to 13, while Kick Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu crossed the line in 14th as he made history by becoming the first Chinese driver to compete on home soil.

A trio of sanctioned drivers followed, with Lance Stroll classifying 15th, ahead of final finishers Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant, after being given a 10-second penalty for his part in a collision with Daniel Ricciardo under the Safety Car.

Stroll ran into the back of Ricciardo just before the first Safety Car restart when the field bunched up at the tight final hairpin, and after the RB driver returned to the pits to retire with significant damage, stewards slapped the Canadian with his sanction.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 21: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes on

Norris came home in P2 for McLaren, splitting Red Bull pair Verstappen and Perez

Magnussen was 16th in his Haas after tipping the other RB of Yuki Tsunoda into a spin – and retirement – at the exit of the Turn 6 hairpin earlier in the race, a move that also saw the stewards add 10 seconds to his time.

Logan Sargeant finished 17th and last in the second of the Williams machines to conclude another difficult weekend, having been hit with his own 10-second penalty for a Safety Car infringement involving Hulkenberg.

Alongside the two RBs, Valtteri Bottas failed to finish when his Kick Sauber developed an apparent engine issue and forced him to pull off the track, with problems removing his car leading to the first Safety Car period.

With the top-three finishers heading to the podium to celebrate, Verstappen’s latest win means he now sits 25 points – and a Grand Prix victory – clear of team mate Perez in the drivers’ standings, as the F1 field get set for another Sprint in Miami in a fortnight’s time.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 21: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

There was drama from start to finish as F1 returned to China

AS IT HAPPENED

On an action-packed Saturday at the Shanghai International Circuit, which involved both a Sprint race and qualifying for the Grand Prix, it was Verstappen who reigned supreme by impressively doubling up for a commanding victory and pole position.

While Verstappen was a few tenths clear of the field in qualifying, the battle for the second spot on the front row was intense, with team mate Perez ultimately winning out over Alonso, the McLarens of Norris and Piastri and the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz.

There was a change to the starting grid shortly before the race, with Sargeant swapping his P20 slot – having spun out of the opening qualifying phase – for the pit lane to give Williams the chance to experiment with the set-up ahead of the next Sprint weekend in Miami.

When the drivers lined up on the grid and the tyre blankets came off, with Pirelli predicting a two-stop encounter in dry but overcast conditions, it was revealed that most drivers would be starting on medium rubber, while Stroll, Hamilton, Tsunoda and Sargeant went for softs and Magnussen chose hards.

As the lights went out and the 56-lap race got underway, pole-sitter Verstappen made a clean getaway from the front of the grid to hold his lead into Turn 1, where Alonso brilliantly swept around the outside of Perez to slot between the Red Bulls.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 21: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Verstappen kept the lead at the start, while Alonso snatched P2 from Perez

Norris and Piastri kept their McLarens in P4 and P5 respectively at the start, but there was plenty of action behind as Russell jumped to sixth and Hulkenberg to seventh, initially demoting the two Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz to the tail-end of the top 10.

Leclerc gathered himself to fight back at the end of the opening lap, though, clearing Hulkenberg with a move into the final hairpin, before Sainz emulated Alonso’s pass on Perez by going around the outside of the Haas driver at the first corner.

Hulkenberg’s demise continued when soft starter Stroll found a way past for P9, with Bottas now running just outside the points in 11th, followed by Ocon and Albon – the Williams driver complaining that his Alpine rival was “moving everywhere” to maintain position.

Gasly held 14th in the other Alpine, ahead of RB pair Ricciardo and Tsunoda (the Australian losing a few spots on mediums and the Japanese racer gaining a few on softs), and a train of Hamilton, Magnussen, home favourite Zhou and Sargeant.

Back at the front, Perez used DRS to close in on Alonso, get the Aston Martin firmly in his sights and then reclaim second place with a simple overtake into Turn 6, meaning Red Bull were now running in P1 and P2 again – Verstappen romping into the distance.

2024 Chinese Grand Prix: Alonso jumps Perez for P2 as Verstappen leads away at the race start

Replays then showed some wheel-to-wheel contact between Hulkenberg and Stroll during their aforementioned swap of positions, with Hulkenberg claiming he was forced off the track and the stewards deciding to take a look. Albon and Gasly were investigated for a similar skirmish.

After losing out to Perez, Alonso fell into the clutches of Norris, who used DRS down the back straight on Lap 7 to take the final podium position away from the two-time world champion, with cameras then cutting to Russell battling hard to avoid the same fate from Leclerc.

Russell defended cleverly into the final hairpin to provisionally keep Leclerc at bay, but the Monegasque exited the slow right-hander well to stick to the Mercedes through the last corner and then complete a pass around the outside of Turn 1 at the start of Lap 9 for P6.

Lap 9 also brought the first pit stops of the day, with Zhou and Hulkenberg swapping to hard tyres and Tsunoda moving to mediums – replays showing the RB and Kick Sauber almost making contact in the rush. This prompted a flurry more midfield tyre changes on the following tour.

Leclerc continued his rise by clearing Piastri for P5 into the final hairpin on Lap 12, which then brought the first front-running stops as Alonso pitted to swap his mediums for hards, and Russell stopped to take on more mediums.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 21: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20

Alonso dropped back down the order after his initial rise to second

With the pit stops coming thick and fast, Gasly endured a particularly slow visit before replays showed him pulling away from his box before all four tyres were fitted, leading to a mechanic falling over. He was soon told over the radio, though, that no injuries had been suffered.

Verstappen decided that enough was enough regarding his starting set of mediums and pitted on lap 14, duly moving to the hard compound, with Perez following him in for the same rubber and releasing Norris, Leclerc, Piastri and Sainz into the leading positions.

Hamilton, having switched to mediums, looked fired up after a challenging first stint on softs, the cameras picking up a fine move around the outside of Tsunoda into Turn 1 – but he struggled to make an impact thereafter and lamented over the radio that his car was “so slow”.

Verstappen lit up the timesheets on his fresh tyres, catching and passing Leclerc into Turn 6 for P2 on lap 16, before stops for Piastri and Sainz left Norris and Leclerc as the only front-runners yet to pit – with Magnussen also going long in the midfield.

There was drama shortly afterwards as Bottas ground to a halt at the exit of Turn 11, reporting that the “engine is gone”, with yellow flags initially flown to cover the incident before Race Control decided that the Virtual Safety Car was required.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Kick Sauber C44 Ferrari on

Bottas triggered a Safety Car when he stopped at the side of the track

That played into the hands of those yet to stop, with Leclerc immediately taking the opportunity to pit before Norris stopped next time around (Stroll and Hamilton also taking on fresh tyres under caution), only for the VSC to turn into a full Safety Car shortly afterwards – Bottas’ car seemingly stuck in gear.

A host of drivers opted to pit under the Safety Car as mid-race distance approached, with Verstappen, Perez, Alonso, Piastri and Russell the front-runners to do so, followed by Hulkenberg, Ocon, Tsunoda, Albon, Zhou (suffering a slow stop) and Gasly, meaning an already open strategic race reached another level.

The order after that rush of activity was Verstappen (two stops) from Norris (one), Leclerc (one), Perez (two) and Sainz (one), all on hards, ahead of Alonso (two) on softs, Russell (two) and Piastri (two) on hards, Ricciardo (one) on mediums and Stroll (two) on hards.

“We think everyone will try and get to the end on the hard tyre apart from Alonso,” was the message to Norris before the Safety Car peeled into the pits for the restart, which occurred at the end of lap 26 – Verstappen calmly leading the field away.

There was further drama a few moments later, though, as Tsunoda, who had earlier swapped places with team mate Ricciardo on opposing strategies, got tipped into a spin by Magnussen exiting Turn 6 – leaving the RB with terminal rear-right damage and sending the Haas limping back to the pits with a puncture.

2024 Chinese Grand Prix: Drama on the restart as Stroll hits Ricciardo and Magnussen knocks out Tsunoda

Replays then showed a dramatic concertina effect as cars bunched up at the final hairpin just before the restart, with Stroll running into the back of Ricciardo and briefly sending the RB airborne, while littering debris all over the track in the process.

That all meant the Safety Car was forced into action once more, with the sole change of position towards the front of the field being Alonso swapping sixth for fifth, having cleared Sainz down the back straight moments before the race was neutralised.

After their earlier checks on Hulkenberg/Stroll and Albon/Gasly, the stewards were called into action again over a potential Safety Car infringement involving Sargeant and Hulkenberg, with the aforementioned Tsunoda/Magnussen and Stroll/Ricciardo incidents also being looked at.

Behind the top 10 runners, Hamilton, Ocon, Albon, Sargeant, Zhou and Gasly had all stopped twice and were now running hard tyres, with Magnussen (two stops) and Stroll (three stops) both on mediums as they brought up the rear after their dramas.

It was time for the race to resume again at the end of lap 31, with Verstappen repeating his earlier, smooth restart to keep the lead over Norris, Leclerc and Perez, as odd one out Alonso (on softs rather than hards) held fifth from Sainz, Russell, Piastri and Hulkenberg.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 21: The FIA Safety Car on track during the F1 Grand Prix of China at

The Safety Car was called into action on a couple of occasions

“I’ve got no rear on the exits,” lamented Ricciardo as he tumbled down the order from the points to P13 in a matter of corners, as Hamilton, Ocon and Albon all capitalised and news came in that Stroll had been given a 10-second penalty for causing that collision.

Ricciardo had to pit at the end of the lap to retire his car, meaning he joined Tsunoda and Bottas and the sidelines, while further 10-second penalties landed for Magnussen due to tipping Tsunoda into a spin and Sargeant for a Safety Car infringement.

Despite their impending penalties, Stroll and Magnussen embarked on a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle for 16th position, running side-by-side on several occasions before the Canadian finally made a move stick into the sweeping Turn 1/2 complex.

As the laps ticked by, the main battle centred on Leclerc and Perez over the final podium spot, with the Ferrari driver defending for several tours before Perez finally found a way past into Turn 6 on lap 39. “Are we sure we are pushing for Plan D? Because the tyres are not great,” the one-stopping Leclerc radioed.

“How much damage do I have?” Piastri then asked the McLaren pit wall, with further replays showing that he had also been caught out in that incident with Stroll and Ricciardo, leaving him with “significant” rear-end damage of his own.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin and Spain  during Sprint Qualifying

Alonso fought his way through from 12th to seventh in the closing laps

The action continued when a happier Hamilton hounded ninth-placed Hulkenberg for several corners before excellently slipping past at Turn 8, with his attentions then turning to Piastri – nursing that aforementioned damage – who was a few seconds up the road.

As McLaren had predicted, Alonso came into the pits with 12 laps remaining to swap his soft tyres for mediums, dropping him to 12th position and setting up the prospect of an overtake-filled final stint from the Aston Martin man.

Alonso soon made progress, posting the fastest lap of the race and passing Albon down the back straight for 11th place, before picking off Ocon, Hulkenberg, Hamilton and Piastri in quick succession – via a particularly wild slide at the final corner.

There was another dose of entertainment for the capacity crowd in the closing laps when Zhou cleared Sargeant for P15 into the final hairpin, prompting cheers around the track as the Chinese racer did his best to put on a show. Gasly had also put a move on Sargeant but called the American an “idiot” for his defence.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 21: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle

Verstappen stayed clear of the drama to take the chequered flag

From there, no more troubles ensued as Verstappen saw out the final few laps to secure victory over fellow podium finishers Norris and Perez (the McLaren driver doing well to keep his Red Bull rival at bay), followed by the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz and the Mercedes of Russell.

Alonso took his reward for a strong comeback drive in seventh, from Piastri, Hamilton and Hulkenberg, with Ocon, Albon and Gasly not quite able to enter the battle for a points-paying finish in respective 11th, 12th and 13th places.

Zhou made another late move on Magnussen to end his home race in 14th, while Stroll also placed ahead of the Dane and Sargeant at the finish as all three drivers ended their afternoons with those 10-second time penalties.

Sargeant was the last of the 17 finishers, just managing to keep himself on the lead lap after the Safety Car periods, as Ricciardo, Tsunoda and Bottas all watched from the sidelines after their aforementioned incidents.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 21: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull

Verstappen punched the air with delight after his Chinese Grand Prix win

Key quote

“It felt amazing,” said Verstappen. “All weekend I think we were incredibly quick. It was just enjoyable to drive every single [tyre] compound as well. [At the] restarts I think we survived that well. The car was basically on rails, I could do whatever I wanted to with it, and those kinds of weekends are of course amazing to feel. Then, to achieve what we did this weekend is fantastic.”

What’s next

The next event on the 2024 F1 calendar will be the Miami Grand Prix over the weekend of May 3-5. Head to the RACE HUB to find out how you can follow the action at the Miami International Autodrome.

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