Formula One was back to it’s very best in China. Several drivers put in fabulous performances but only one can walk away with Badger GP’s coveted TOP DOG award.
SPOILER: It’s NOT Max Verstappen…
Close But No Cigar
Max Verstappen was knocked out early in qualifying after his Red Bull Racing car found itself short of two cylinders. The result was a start from sixteenth place and a mountain to climb on Sunday.
Astoundingly by the end of lap two Verstappen rose to seventh place as he overtook a whopping nine cars on track. A few laps later he was a surprise second only to fluff it as Sebastian Vettel bore down on him. In the end Verstappen finished a cool third, holding off team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Carlos Sainz gambled on slicks as the race began. To most the risk seemed worth it but, as his Toro Rosso machine was swamped off the grid, Sainz must have wondered what he’d just done.
Instead of panicking, Sainz simply got on with the job at hand. He did a mammoth stint on his first set of soft tyres, dicing with Fernando Alonso brilliantly. His reward was seventh and enough points to haul his team up to fourth in the constructors’ championship.
Vettel Vanquishes 2016 Demons
Vettel split the Mercedes duo yet again in qualifying. He out-qualified Valtteri Bottas by an impossibly small 0.001 margin and gave Hamilton a headache or two for Sunday’s start. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was a further three-tenths back.
On the starting grid Vettel lined up slightly askew in his grid box, something he got away with as the stewards deemed no action necessary. He gained nothing as he bogged down in the first phase of his getaway but, recovered excellently by the first turn to edge out Bottas.
Ferrari brought Vettel in during the virtual safety car period and looked to have played a blinder. Upon leaving the pits Vettel was just eighteen seconds behind Hamilton and closing him down, easily close enough to jump Hamilton when he himself pitted.
However, a proper safety car was thrown for Antonio Giovinazzi’s unfortunate crash almost immediately. This gave Hamilton the time he needed to stop and come out ahead of Vettel. As did Raikkonen and the Red Bull pair.
With Vettel stuck behind a noticeably slower Raikkonen, Ferrari chose not to use team orders to help the championship leader. Instead, Vettel thrust up the inside of Raikkonen with a brave move in turn four. He now set off in pursuit of Ricciardo.
Just one lap later Vettel barged his way past Ricciardo, including some wheel banging, rather making Raikkonen look foolish. It wasn’t long before Verstappen was his next victim. Verstappen mistimed his braking into the hairpin allowing Vettel to breeze by into second.
Try as he might Vettel just couldn’t close the gap to leader Hamilton. He’d used up the best of his tyres fighting his way up the order. The four time champion had to settle for second and eighteen precious points, enough for him to retain the lead in the championship for now.
2017 has heralded the return of classic Vettel, superb qualifying runs and incredibly consistent stints during the races. He looks like the man who won four world championships. Hamilton might be relishing the rebirth of Vettel now but, we wonder if he’ll still be enjoying it come Abu Dhabi in November. It’s game on!