Nico Rosberg won the Chinese Grand Prix amid a drama packed race to extend his title lead over team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg started on pole but was overtaken by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo on the approach to Turn 1. Soon after, Ricciardo’s rear-left tyre dramatically flew off paving the way for Rosberg to control the remainder of the race and finish 37.776 seconds in front of Daniil Kyvat. Sebastian Vettel stormed through the field after receiving early damage to finish third.
A Lap to Remember
In a race that will long be remembered for some great driving, it was the opening lap that shaped the fortunes of most drivers.
With Ricciardo leading Rosberg at Turn 1, his Red Bull team-mate Daniil Kyvat darted through on the inside of Sebastian Vettel who took evasive action only to collide with fellow Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen with both damaging their front wings.
In front of the President of Ferrari, Sergio Marchionne – who made a rare visit to a F1 race – it was a bad look and Vettel placed the blame squarely on Kyvat saying after the race in the pre-podium room, “If I don’t go to the left you crash into us and we all three go out! You came like a torpedo!”
The Russian fired back unapologetically, “Well, I’m on the podium. You’re on the podium.”
The on-track incidents continued in the opening lap with cars further down the field also damaged.
Hamilton started at the back of the grid due to problems with his engine during qualifying and made good ground in the lead up to Turn 1. But Sauber’s Felipe Nasr attempted to avoid Raikkonen’s damaged car and in the process swerved into Hamilton hitting his front wing. As the lap unfolded, the wing fell under his car and became lodge for an extended period causing damage to the suspension and causing massive aerodynamic loss for the remainder of the race.
Pit Stops and Pursuits
The incident filled opening lap and the resulting safety car to clear the debris saw many drivers take early pit stops.
Having already changed his front wing, Hamilton opted for a unique strategy of stopping twice during the safety car period – doing only one lap on the super-soft tyres – on his way to five pit stops to ensure he could use the softs for the rest of the race. But the damage to his car was too severe to make any real fight for a podium spot and he later likened it to driving a “four poster bed”. His seventh place finish capped a disappointing weekend and now puts him 36 points behind Rosberg who is only the fourth driver in the sport’s history to win six consecutive races.
Elsewhere, the Ferrari’s of Vettel and Raikkenon also launched a fight back with both charging through the field to finish second and fifth. And Ricciardo continued his strong start to the season with another fourth place giving optimism to the Red Bull team.
“In the second part of the race I probably drove the best races of my life,” said the Australian.
“The package is really promising for sure.”
The Honeymoon is Over
The great start to Haas’s F1 debut season came to an end in China.
Driving on his 30th birthday, Romain Grosjean started 14th on the grid but an opening lap collision with Marcus Ericsson hurt his prospects and he finished 19th.
“It was a horrific race. The start was terrible when Ericsson turned into me and got my front wing.”
“It’s a difficult one after the two first races. Not the birthday I was hoping for.”
Meanwhile, team-mate Esteban Gutierrez will be pleased to have finished his first race this season despite ending in 14th place.