Resident F1 writer and lover of all forms of motorsport, Nick van der Meulen, presents his F1 review China 2019.
Chinese New Year is a magnificent spectacle, where one witnesses many costumes, much dancing and plenty of fireworks. One hoped to see some of this in the 1000th points-scoring F1 Grand Prix held at Shanghai. There were fireworks at the start when Daniil Kyvat (Toro Rosso Honda) made contact with both McLarens at the start (he moved over on – and was tagged by – Sainz and pitched into Norris) but, after that, the race fizzled out like an old, wet cracker…
Click here to read some interesting stats from the history of the F1 world championship.
Races are often won and lost at the start these days. At Shanghai this was no exception, when Lewis Hamilton got the drop on team mate (and pole sitter) Valtteri Bottas at the start and checked out. Hamilton posted his 75th victory and Mercedes’s 90th as a constructor. Bottas remained strong throughout the race to finish second and this is how they stand in the current world championship standings.
At 6s and 7s
One of the “take home” messages from this race was that Ferrari cannot strategise. The team on the wall spent too much time looking at Red Bull Racing when they should have been looking forward. Vettel was always going to finish comfortably ahead of Max Verstappen, but Ferrari fluffed Charles Leclerc’s strategy and he finished well behind Verstappen in fifth place as a result.
One of the highlights was the brief encounter between Vettel and Verstappen, when Max raised some dirt after he was run a bit wide by the German. German television pundit, and ex-world champion, Nico Rosberg noted that Ferrari was too slow accelerating out of the slower corners in comparison to its rivals – which certainly had its role to play in the race result.
Almost raging Bulls
Verstappen and Red Bull have shown their tenacity and Verstappen is third in the championship standings ahead of Vettel and Leclerc, although it’s very close between the three at this early stage of the season. From pre-season expectations, Ferrari is performing well below their giddily high standards.
Pierre Gasly, team mate to Verstappen, had a lonely race to finish sixth but is steadily improving and getting more comfortable in the Red Bull team. He had a huge gap over seventh-placed Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault such that he could pit in the dying stages of the race to fit new rubber and claim the point for fastest lap of the race.
It was interesting to see how the harder tyre compound, as part of the one-stop strategy, wasn’t going to work out to be the fastest means of racing on the day – a fact that the top teams realised during the race. The drivers taking home the lower-paying points positions stuck it out using the one-stop strategy nonetheless.
In the team mate wars, Sergio Perez (Racing Point) gave the boss’s son a good hiding in the race, charging to eighth place, while Lance Stroll could only manage a 12th place finish. Kimi Raikkonen finished a feisty ninth and his Ferrari-powered Alfa Romeo looked stronger than the two Haas-Ferraris, passing them with ease. If Antonio Giovinazzi is to learn from his veteran team mate, he needs to up his game substantially.
Hats off to Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso-Honda) who worked hard to glean the last point after starting from pitlane, holding off a desperate Romain Grosjean (Haas) in the process. He richly deserved the “Driver of the Day” award. While Williams are clearly running at the back of the field so far in 2019, the team had a good race under the circumstances, with George Russell showing well and racing with the McLarens for much of the race.
In closing, F1 dropped the ball when it came to the showing of statistics: they only began two laps from the end of the race! It was more of an afterthought and it could have made the show far more interesting if they had begun much earlier…
Click here to see video highlights of the race.