(Photo credit: Sara Cimino)
The real heroes of the weekend were the mechanics at Red Bull who got Ricciardo’s car into working order before the qualifying. With the time running critically low, they got the Honey Badger into qualifying and into P6. And we all know what happened next.
If they hadn’t put his car together in time on Saturday, he wouldn’t have had any chance of winning. So it's the mechanics who enabled Ricciardo to win the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix.
Ferrari had the perfect Saturday in China locking up the front row yet again. Vettel on pole with Raikkonen beside him, the two were poised to run away when the lights turned green. However, Vettel had a bad start and blocked his teammate into Turn One. Raikkonen fell to fourth and the hopes of an easy victory were thrown away. After Bottas passed Vettel with an undercut, the Ferrari playbook had only one thing left, sacrificing their queen, a move used in chess. Raikkonen was left out to block Bottas, to give Vettel another chance of taking back the lead. This didn’t work and sacrificing Raikkonen’s race seemed to have been in vain. But thanks to the craziness of the race, he ended up ahead of his teammate and on the podium.
Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly had an incredible drive last week in Bahrain, but drew a blank in China. Losing to his teammate Hartley in qualifying ensured that the young Frenchman wouldn’t be repeating the highs of the previous weekend. But he sank even lower in the race. Around the midpoint of the contest, Gasly tried to pass his teammate on the inside of Turn 14. Instead, he crashed into Hartley hitting home that Bahrain’s performance was just an oddity. Even though we learned later that the two were supposed to switch places, it was a dumb move on Gasly’s part to attempt it where he did.
Max Verstappen has had an awful start to the 2018 season. Spinning in Australia, ‘power surging’ to a wall in Bahrain’s qualifying and then puncturing his tyre in a fight with Lewis Hamilton and now this. Before the race in China, victory did not seem possible for the Austrian team, a podium finish the most realistic target.
But thanks to the collision between the two Toro Rossos (place your conspiracies in the comments) Red Bull had the strongest chance of a one-two in recent memory. The only top-six cars with fresh, softer tyres following the safety car incident, they set about blasting through the Ferraris and Mercedes. But only one of them did so successfully, Daniel Ricciardo winning the race despite being behind his teammate Verstappen in the decisive second pit stop.
Verstappen could have won the race ahead of his teammate, but the Dutchman's impatience cost him dear. Going into Turn 14, in almost a carbon copy of Gasly’s move, he tried to overtake Sebastian Vettel. However, he hit the German, sending both cars spinning and allowing Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo to pass. Another wasted opportunity from Verstappen. Can he get his act together in Azerbaijan?
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