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Daniel Ricciardo shines and other key takeaways from Chinese Grand Prix

Niall McCague 2018/04/15

Daniel Ricciardo took advantage of a tactical masterstroke by his Red Bull team to win in Shanghai after championship leader Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen dramatically collided during a thrilling Chinese Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas appeared on course to claim his victory after a strategy error by Ferrari allowed the Mercedes car to move ahead of Vettel during their one and only round of pit stops.

But the race took a second dramatic twist when the safety car was deployed following a coming-together between the Toro Rosso pair of Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly on lap 31.

Unlike their rivals, Ricciardo and Verstappen dived into the pits to take on fresh rubber, and the gamble worked for Ricciardo as he passed Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Vettel and finally Bottas for a quite remarkable win.

Here, we take a look at some of the big takeaways from Shanghai.

Sublime Ricciardo

Starting from P6, the Australian produced a majestic performance for his first win of the season – a week after retiring on the second lap in Bahrain.

The 28-year-old has endured a frustrating campaign to date, with a fourth-place finish in Australia adding to his woes in the Gulf.

But the Perth man looked inspirational in China, going from P6 to first in a matter of laps after benefitting from fresh tyres during the safety car.

He came out of nowhere to overtake Hamilton, and then passed Sebastian Vettel on lap 42. With little space on the inside, he swept past Bottas for the move of the day on lap 45 to inch closer to victory.

With his teammate Max Verstappen finishing fifth, it proved to be a successful weekend for Red Bull.

Hamilton off colour

Not one of those race Sunday’s we are normally accustomed to seeing the Briton light up. He was not in the finest moods and sounded low on the radio all afternoon.

Quick across FP1 and FP2, the Briton was out-qualified by the two Ferraris and his teammate Valtteri Bottas, resulting in P4 on the grid.

But from the opening lap, the 33-year-old struggled to fire and despite pushing Kimi Raikkonen for brief spells, he failed to challenge for a podium place.

And with Mercedes’ poor decision-making on not pitting during the safety car, Hamilton had no grip to defend Verstappen and Ricciardo, and subsequently finished fourth.

The four-time world champion now trails Vettel by nine points in the championship race and needs to up his display in Baku to prevent the German from gaining more ground in the title race.

Mad Max

The Dutchman is clearly one of the most talented drivers on the gird, but based on recent performances, he is just too error strewn.

After retiring on the first lap in Bahrain, the 19-year-old looked to have returned to his blistering form of old when surging into fourth place on lap 39.

However, a failed attempt to overtake Hamilton resulted in him losing time and then his death-defying hit on Vettel ensued in a 10-second penalty.

Although he secured fifth place, he could have achieved a podium if not for his incosistencies.

Bottas steps up

After the criticism of his lack of killer instinct on the final laps in Bahrain last week when he failed to challenge Vettel, the Finn responded to show his class in China with a second place finish.

He held second on lap 21 when benefiting from Vettel’s slow pitstop, and seized the lead briefly on lap 26 when overtaking Kimi Raikkonen.

With 11 laps remaining, Ricciardo snatched victory from Bottas on his fresher tyres.

Although he may be disappointed not to taste a win, he did extremely well to defend from Vettel and Raikonnen for long spells of the race.

Red Bull thinking ahead of the game

Red Bull’s pitwall and tacticians are levels above any other team on the grid and this was highlighted in the late call to pit when the safety car was deployed on lap 31.

To have fresher tyres available to push to the end of the race was instrumental in helping Ricciardo’s remarkable push to victory and Verstappen’s fifth place.

After their disappointments in Australia and Bahrain, two top-five finishes this weekend will boost serious confidence ahead of the next race in Baku on April 29.

Hero to zero in seven days

After milking the plaudits for his virtuous fourth place in Bahrain, Pierre Gasly finished 17th and was the cause of a crash with his teammate Brendon Hartley on lap 31.

And after an investigation from the FAI, the Rouen native received a 10-second penalty for causing the collision in the hairpin turn.

The 22-year-old Frenchman is clearly a talented driver and with it being his first full season in F1, it’s easy to cut him some slack for some immaturity behind the wheel.

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Chinese Grand Prix Daniel Ricciardo Lewis Hamilton Max Verstappen Sebastian Vettel Valtteri Bottas