Just call him Sergio Switchback
When he barrelled up the inside of Felipe Massa’s Williams into Turn 1 at the start of lap eight and slid wide, it looked like Sergio Perez might be in danger of losing a position or two. But as it turned out, his unconventionally wide approach to the second part of the right hander provided the springboard for an extraordinary attack in which the Mexican made the most of some clever driving lines to superbly pick off both Massa and Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso. With driving like this, it’s little wonder the Force India star is in the midst of a 12-race points scoring streak.
Magnussen’s action-packed, wheel-banging opening lap
Max Verstappen’s remarkable lap one climb from 16th to seventh hogged the headlines, but as this clip attests, arguably the most entertaining opening lap came courtesy of Haas’s Kevin Magnussen. By the Dane’s own admission, his initial getaway was ‘really poor’ - but his driving over the subsequent 5.4km was nothing short of impeccable, brilliantly showcasing the unbelievable spacial awareness and hand-eye coordination possessed by modern F1 drivers. Watch out in particular for the sequence from Turn 8 to Turn 10 when Magnussen dramatically bangs wheels with McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, has another tyre-rubbing moment with Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber and then comes within metres of getting caught up in Sergio Perez’s clash with Lance Stroll. Hard but fair, uncompromising but respectful - a slice of F1 racing at its best.
Sainz spins - and spins again!
Carlos Sainz’s decision to start on slicks looked like it had backfired spectacularly when he was swamped by the latter half of an intermediate-shod field at the start. But by lap six, when the circuit had dried significantly, the Spaniard was in the box seat, having climbed to sixth as others were forced to stop for dry tyres. He’d eventually go on to finish a fine seventh - but only after surviving this rather comical moment when he spun not once but twice at Turn 3 within a matter of seconds - the latter pirouette occurring after a clonk with the tyre barrier. Fortunately for Sainz, only countryman Fernando Alonso got past in the mix-up - and no one else was coming when he rolled precariously back onto the track…
Hulkenberg’s gets a prime view of Giovinazzi’s crash
Following his impressive debut in Melbourne, Sauber’s Antonio Giovinazzi said he hopes to "cancel from his mind” his second Grand Prix weekend in China after suffering heavy crashes in both qualifying and the race. Both accidents occurred coming out of the final corner, but while the first happened in the dry, the second came as the Italian accelerated over a damp patch on the pit straight on slick tyres. “I just had some aquaplaning and lost the car straight away, nothing [I could] do,” Giovinazzi said afterwards – and it’s an explanation that appears to hold water (if you pardon the pun) when looking at the crash from Nico Hulkenberg’s perspective. However, what’s also telling from the Renault driver’s view is that the Italian seemingly abandons the usual racing line and instead crosses quickly to the left-hand side of the track towards a very wet piece of asphalt…
Look mum - no hands!
Max Verstappen’s instinctive save in Brazil last year (which you can watch here) highlighted the Dutchman’s innate car control – and the Red Bull driver was forced to lean on the same razor sharp skills to avoid an embarrassing moment in Sunday’s race. Shortly before the end of the safety car period, Verstappen lost the rear of his RB13 as he shifted from 2nd to 3rd gear around Turn 12. As you can see, the 19-year-old caught the slide in a flash, even taking both hands off the wheel for a split second to apply the right level of steering lock. Unorthodox? Certainly. Ridiculously skilful? Ditto.
Vettel bags two places in two laps
In his Red Bull pomp, when he won many races from pole, Sebastian Vettel’s detractors used to claim that the German was no match for some of his peers when it came to wheel-to-wheel combat - but even his most vociferous of critics couldn’t have failed to be impressed by the emphatic two-lap surge that lifted the Ferrari driver from fifth to third. Team mate Kimi Raikkonen was the first to be put to the sword, the Iceman paying the price for his inability to get past Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull as he was dispatched with a lunge up the inside into Turn 6. As if that wasn’t bad enough for Kimi, Vettel then showed that the RB13 wasn’t the unpassable object it appeared to be with a brilliant ‘elbows out’ move around the outside into the same corner. Sadly, in this clip Vettel’s helmet obscures the wheel-banging that followed - but you can watch it in the race highlights by clicking here!
Another early exit for Stroll
After a tricky debut weekend in Australia, Lance Stroll gave a better glimpse of his promise with a composed run to 10th in qualifying in China. But that good work was quickly undone in the race when a tangle with Sergio Perez at Turn 9 left his Williams beached in the gravel with suspension damage. “I was in front, knew the corner was mine and had to turn in eventually,” said Stroll, but by looking at both onboard camera angles you get a more nuanced view of the action. Yes, Stroll was in front heading into the left hander, but by running wide through Turn 8 he left Perez a small opening that the Mexican duly tried to exploit. Would a more experienced driver have been aware of that move? Perhaps. Will Stroll learn from what happened? Absolutely.
Battling Alonso can’t keep Sainz at bay
Midway through Sunday’s race in China McLaren told Fernando Alonso that Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso was the quickest car on the track. “I am quickest in the corners,” the feisty two-time world champion barked back, though even if that were true it didn’t help him when the two Spaniards were drawn together on Shanghai’s long back straight on lap 33. Riding with Sainz you can see that Alonso - giving away over 5km/h to the Toro Rosso before factoring in DRS - does all he can to try to break his countryman’s slipstream, but in the end the STR12 goes past easily. Fighting to the last, the elder statesman tried to duck back underneath his younger rival, but eventually had to admit defeat - and within a lap he was out with a driveshaft issue.
Grosjean passes Massa from a long, long way back
Pirelli’s 2017 tyres are certainly proving more durable than their 2016 counterparts, but that doesn’t mean that the value of fresher rubber should be understated - as Roman Grosjean’s lap 48 pass on Felipe Massa proved. Take nothing away from the Frenchman, but if his supersoft tyres hadn’t been around 11 laps fresher than those bolted to the Williams, it’s doubtful he would have been able to pass the Brazilian so easily around the outside, having come from so far back. Little wonder that Massa dived into the pits at the end of the very same lap…