Off the back of what’s sure to be one of the most action-packed races of the 2018 season, this weekend Formula 1 heads to back to China – the site of one of the most action-packed of last season.
What happened at the Bahrain Grand Prix?
The Bahrain Grand Prix looked all but sewn up after qualifying. Scuderia Ferrari put in a storming performance to comfortably cover the first row of the grid, whilst a beleaguered Valtteri Bottas sat third and a penalty-hit Lewis Hamilton was relegated to ninth. Further down the grid Daniel Ricciardo was there to pick up the pieces and start fourth, whilst Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team-mate Max Verstappen was down in fifteenth following an uncharacteristic qualifying crash. This qualifying pace would surely continue into the race and we’d be in for a comprehensive Ferrari win, right? Well…
Ferrari did jump out to an early lead, though with only one car – Bottas launched a daring overtake around the outside of fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen, putting himself between the prancing horses. Both Red Bulls were out by the third lap – Ricciardo on the first with transmission issues, Verstappen on the third after contact with Hamilton caused a rear puncture on the Dutchman’s car, with the tyre’s carcass doing irreparable damage to the car on the way back to the pits. A few positions back, a charging Hamilton put in an astonishing three-in-one overtake into the first corner on his way towards the podium. And that was just in the first few laps.
Once the race had settled down, thoughts turned to pit stops. As usual it was Ferrari who came in first, opting to replace Sebastian Vettel’s Super-Soft tyre with a Soft – that being theoretically the fastest set up. A few laps later, Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport brought in Bottas, this time opting for a Medium tyre – setting up a strategic battle for the win.
Ferrari’s turn for a pit stop again, and they brought in Raikkonen to swap his tyres. Unfortunately for all involved only three tyres were swapped before the light telling him to go changed. Raikkonen struck pit worker Francesco Cigarini’s leg, which was still in front of the not-swapped tyre, and broke it in two places. This resulted in a DNF for Raikkonen and a €50,000 fine for Ferrari.
Hamilton, meanwhile, had worked his way into fourth by this point, meaning he was promoted to third by Raikkonen’s retirement.
The remainder of the race saw Bottas chase down Vettel to no avail, settling for second place by .0699 seconds. Though Mercedes lost the race, they found how to take the fight to Ferrari in the heat – something they’d previously struggled to do.
What happened in the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix?
The Chinese Grand Prix was the second race of the season, and the first to see a damp track.
Nineteen of the twenty cars on the grid started on Intermediate tyres, with only Carlos Sainz Jr. brave enough to risk slicks (though Jolyon Palmer did dive into the pits for slicks at the start of the formation lap). This decision could have paid off were it not for a collision between Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll – the result of which was Stroll beached in the gravel and a virtual safety car. This gave drivers like Vettel the chance to swap tyres and lose less time than they would have at full speed, robbing Sainz of a potentially lucrative move.
This was compounded just moments after racing resumed as Antonio Giovinazzi, replacing the injured Pascal Wehrlein at Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, crashed on the pit straight, sending bits of his Sauber across the track and causing a full safety car. With the pit straight covered in debris, the safety car brought the field through the pits – giving yet more competitors the chance to swap to slick tyres.
Though stints behind the safety car are usually eventless, this safety car period saw yet another crash – this time between Bottas and himself. Trying to warm his tyres, Bottas spun behind the safety car and emerged far down the grid in twelfth place.
At the restart a hard-charging Verstappen made it passed team-mate Ricciardo for second, the Dutchman using his wet weather ability to rise from sixteenth to second in just eleven laps.
The remainder of the race was a battle fought in the pit lane. Differing strategies saw Vettel rise to second place, Ricciardo challenge (but not overcome) Verstappen, and Raikkonen complete the top five in what had been a turbulent and incident-filled Chinese Grand Prix.
What should I look out for this year?
The Chinese Grand Prix has never shied away from providing a memorable moment or two. Whether it’s Hamilton missing the pit entry and ending his 2007 Chinese Grand Prix in the barriers at the start of the pit lane, Red Bull taking their first win of Michael Schumacher taking his last, we always leave China with something to talk about.
For full reports on last year’s action, click the links below:
What’s the schedule?
Friday 13th April
3:00 BST / 10:00 CST – Practice One
07:00 BST / 14:00 CST – Practice Two
Saturday 14th April
04:00 BST / 11:00 CST – Practice Three
07:00 BST / 14:00 CST – Qualifying
Sunday 15th April
07:10 BST / 14:10 CST – Race
Where can I watch the Chines Grand Prix?
Qualifying and race highlights are being shown on Channel 4 this weekend – highlights of qualifying at 1pm on Saturday, highlights of the race at 2pm on Sunday.
As usual, Sky Sports F1 subscribers can watch all sessions live.
Unfortunately for streaming fans, F1’s streaming service still isn’t live (and there’s no word on when it will be either).
How can I keep up with the action?
The Checkered Flag will have updates, reports and quotes from everyone on the grid for every session this weekend, keeping you up to date with the news.
You can also follow Formula 1 on Instagram, on @F1.
Where is the circuit?
2000 Yi Ning Lu, Jiading Qu, Shanghai Shi, China