(Photo credit: pedrik)
Before the start of the 15th edition of the Chinese Grand Prix, you could be forgiven for thinking the Red Bulls weren’t in Shanghai for a win, let alone a podium finish.
But Daniel Ricciardo delivered a marvellous drive in the closing stages to clinch arguably his feistiest win, overcoming Saturday’s nightmare scenario of the Renault-powered engine’s blow-up, and assuaging the pain of his supporters to boot.
In winning the seventh Grand Prix of his career, Ricciardo, who began his Shanghai run from P6, bedazzled the Chinese fans, who would’ve been expecting a hat-trick of wins by Vettel.
In his remarkable late charge through the field, Ricciardo also spoiled the chances of Bottas and Raikkonen who secured a podium apiece for Mercedes and Ferrari, respectively, thus completing the first troika of the ‘big three’ this term.
Could Bottas (P2) have won?
It was Bottas’ win until Ricciardo – rightfully hailed as the master of late braking – stormed past the Finn in an inch perfect move on lap 46, in what will surely go down as one of the classic F1 drives.
Before that, Bottas had been dominating proceedings. The mild-mannered Finn had taken the lead and looked set to top the podium when he was usurped by the Aussie in a thrilling finish. Ricciardo, lightning fast on a fresher set of tyres kept Bottas behind in the run to the chequered flag, leaving the Finn reeling with tyre wear.
But that shouldn’t eschew Bottas’ magnificent effort in, first, passing third-placed Kimi Raikkonen in the opening lap, and then defending an attack from his fellow Finn in the final corners.
Could Raikkonen (P3) have won?
To be fair to Raikkonen, despite his face-saving third-placed finish on a forgetful day for the Scuderia, you’d have to say no.
At the risk of sounding condescending, anyone caught napping in the opening lap cannot expect to win the race. A P2 for Raikkonen should’ve easily have translated into a podium finish – and it did. But it was more by luck than design that the Iceman garnered a place in the top three.
Kimi showed signs of abrasiveness when he was squeezed aggressively by Vettel into Turn One and then passed by Bottas. But he later gained from the safety car which left him in fifth on fresh tyres, and then from Vettel being clipped by Verstappen during the closing stages.
The Iceman can take solace in his brave attempts to attack Bottas during the final ten laps. And for a while, Ferrari fans may have felt he was on course to subdue his countryman’s imperious race pace, with the SF 71H just as fast as the Silver Arrows in the latter stages. But the unflappable Finn had to be content with the all-too-familiar third spot on the podium.
Could either driver have done more to challenge for the win? Let us know in the comments below.
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