An ecstatic Daniel Ricciardo has won the Shanghai Formula 1 race and won whilst being the only race that red Bull has lead. The win comes on the back of an engine rebuild and installation getting the Perth born driver onto the track for qualifying with just a couple of minutes to spare.
With each of the front three rows locked out by teams, (Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull), it took less than a lap for that order to change. With track temperatures during the race some fifteen degrees higher than the qualifying sessions, the tactics of teams were tested, and in the early part of the 56 lap race, some unexpected placings.
Valtteri Bottas secured second early, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen showing his team mate Daniel Ricciardo how it was done by slotting into third within two laps. Ricciardo himself started sixth and stayed there, sitting a second and a half adrift of a despondent Hamilton.
The Force India team pitted Esteban Ocon first, swapping one set of soft tires for another, with a number of teams opting for swapping from ultra soft to medium compounds, such as Red Bull on lap 18. Mercedes quickly responded by pitting Hamilton then Bottas. Ferrari took a couple of laps to respond, with a pitting of race leader Vettel leaving him adrift of Bottas who took advantage of the potential mistiming by Ferrari.
Somehow though Raikkonen snared the lead which lead to an enthralling battle between Bottas, Raikkonen, and Vettel and lap 27 saw Bottas slide though and a dive from Vettel was successful in Vettel regaining second.
The race was incident free until lap 30 where the two Toro Rosso cars of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley came together. Hartley had slowed and turned right with Gasly too close for a safe brake, with the result being Gasly losing a fair chunk of his right front wing and copping a ten second time penalty. The debris gave birth to a safety car and quickly saw both Verstappen and Ricciardo in for another tire change to softs.
A somewhat extended safety car period ensued, with Bottas leading the pack, ahead of Vettel, Hamilton who expressed surprise at other cars sporting new rubber, Verstappen and Raikkonen. Fernando Alonso found himself in ninth after the restart.
Lap 39 saw a feint from Hamilton force Verstappen wide, opening the door for Ricciardo to take fourth before a dive bomb on Hamilton a lap later had the Aussie into third. The grip of the soft tires for Red Bull suddenly had Ricciardo into second and Verstappen pass Hamilton with fourteen laps to go.
But a brainfade from Verstappen had him collide with Vettel on lap 44 with the two pirouetting in unison. Vettel was pushed to seventh, Verstappen was granted a ten second time penalty, and seconds later a ballsy dive from Ricciardo on Bottas had Red Bull take the lead.
With ten laps to go Ricciardo timed the fastest lap of the race and opening his lead up by close to four seconds.
Lap 53 saw Hartley become the first and only retirement, while Vettel continued his slide backwards having Nico Hulkenberg pass him him and relegating the polesitter to seventh.
While all this was happening Fernando Alonso used his experience to take a racing line and passed an unhappy Vettel, moving Alonso to seventh.
It was however the call from Red Bull to change tires during the safety car that gave the Red Bull team their first win for 2018 and Ricciardo’s sixth F1 career win. Although Vettel finished eighth he still retains the championship lead. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was second and Mercedes third thanks to Valtteri Bottas.
But it’s the man from Perth on the western coast of Australia that stood atop the podium and Shanghai resonated with the trademark Ricciardo smile and his now famous “shoey”.