Who was good, who was bad and who downright ugly in Shanghai? All the drivers rated after a cracker of a Chinese Grand Prix!
Lewis Hamilton – 10
After the disappointment of losing out to Vettel and Ferrari in Melbourne, you’d be tricked into thinking that a mild form of pressure had started to surround Hamilton in Shanghai. This was soon dispelled as his performance was nothing short of the class we should expect from a triple World Champion.
While the conditions caught out many others, Lewis kept his cool to record his third Grand Slam – pole position, race win, fastest lap and leading every lap of the race – of his career to strike back in a blossoming title race. It was a dominant display.
Sebastian Vettel – 10
“What a difference 12 months make” will be the consistent tagline for Sebastian’s 2017 season. In 2016 his podium celebration was dovetailing with a row with Daniil Kvyat over space when overtaking – a year later and we’re lauding the German for his prowess rounding teammate Raikkonen and slicing past Daniel Ricciardo, the latter being one of the best overtakes in the past five seasons.
Who knows what might have been thanks to the Safety Car’s early cameo and Ferrari’s decision to pit early hadn’t been undone. What can be said is that the game is well and truly on – and Ferrari are back in business.
Max Verstappen – 9
The list of adjectives that can be used to describe the boy wonder is getting smaller by the race. The potential was always there for an afternoon of dicing his way through the field, but did anyone really see the Dutchman being seventh at the end of the opening lap? Or in the podium places by lap eight?
The lock-up while under pressure from a hard charging Vettel does bring his overall score down a bit, mainly because a more mature driver might have controlled the pace and degradation slightly better. But for a driver to suffer the lack of rack time like Max did and make thirteen places up over the course of a race distance is quite the feat.
Daniel Ricciardo – 7
The horror of Albert Park must have spurred Danny Ric on in China to not only perform well but also to try and establish himself as Red Bull team leader.
In comparison to his teammate, he had a less eventful afternoon but did run as high as second thanks to the Safety Car before succumbing to Max’s supreme charge.
He also suffered being the victim of Vettel’s stunning, DRS-less pass mid-distance, which would knock the wind out of most drivers’ sails, but rallied to challenge Verstappen for the final podium place in the final few laps.
Bahrain will need to be a turning point for the Australian.
Kimi Raikkonen – 7
Another narrative that goes alongside Vettel’s resurgence into a title contender is Kimi’s lack of performance in comparison, only this one has been going on longer, and might be a bit more far reaching.
China saw the Finn becoming the guinea pig for strategy calls in the second half of the race, delaying his second stop, which ultimately cost him splitting the Red Bulls, or even a podium.
No matter what you think of Raikkonen, the facts don’t tell a good story – Vettel already has nearly double Kimi’s points tally. Must, again, do better.
Valtteri Bottas – 6
A strong weekend and confidence builder went begging thanks to a spin behind the Safety Car that even Bottas himself labelled “a stupid mistake”.
The marker for Bottas all year will be his relative pace to teammate Hamilton, and in China, it improved in comparison to Australia – two-tenths instead of three.
But those sort of gains will be quickly forgotten when glaring errors that shouldn’t happen, for some reason, do.
Carlos Sainz Jr. – 9
Th loss of Jenson Button from the F1 grid means there’s a vacancy for the resident wet weather specialist, especially when it comes to making instinctive decisions to try and turn a race.
Being the only man to start the race on slicks almost backfired when Sainz spun into Turn One and nudged the barrier, but the Spaniard quickly saw a return on the gamble by running sixth after the rest of the field made the switch to dry tyres.
Eventually winning a duel with hero Fernando Alonso was the icing on the cake of a fun afternoon of racing, one which continues to add weight to Sainz’s pedigree.
Kevin Magnussen – 8
The Dane kept himself out of trouble, and on the edges of the top 10, throughout the weekend, which was rewarded with Haas’ first points of the season. Excellent overtakes on the Force Indias and a flapping Felipe Massa added to the performance.
Sergio Perez – 6
The Mexican’s habit of scoring points no matter the scenario came to the fore in Shanghai, despite oversteering into the rear quarter of Stroll’s Williams, ending the Canadian rookie’s race on the spot.
Once the switch to slicks was made, the recovery from that incident saw another pair of points for Force India, which on an afternoon such as this could have been a whole lot worse as a result.
Esteban Ocon – 7
Ocon’s losing out to the yellow flags during qualifying didn’t hamper his race on Sunday thanks to Giovinazzi’s spin, making up ground in the conditions to secure another World Championship point by passing the more experienced Massa.
Romain Grosjean – 7
If being affected by Giovinazzi’s qualifying crash by failing to improve on qualifying time wasn’t enough for Grosjean, he was then slapped with a gird penalty for not slowing enough to see himself starting from the back row.
It took another fine drive to see that there’s pace in the Haas this season, with Grosjean able to pull off some sublime overtakes on Palmer and Massa to rise to just outside the points in 11th. A drive like this one deserved at least a point.
Nico Hulkenberg – 5
You might have had a keen eye on Hulkenberg’s Renault when the rain fell. A stunning performance to take seventh on the grid was quickly undone, thanks to a spin once on slicks, and overtaking under Virtual Safety Car and Safety Car in quick succession. The only positive is that he finished in front of teammate Palmer – just.
Jolyon Palmer – 6
Giovinazzi spinning his Sauber into the wall on Saturday and Sunday affected most drivers, but not as much as Jolyon Palmer.
Saturday’s bid to exit Q1 was scuppered by the Italian’s off, which was compounded by a grid penalty putting the Brit right at the back of the grid. And a gamble to pit after the formation lap and start from the pitlane was completely undone by, you guessed it, a spinning Sauber. Needs an absolute blinder in Bahrain.
Felipe Massa – 6
Another potential strong race scuppered by rain and Safety Cars. Felipe has never been a natural in cool, damp conditions, and this was reflected in a 14th – and lapped – finishing position from a solid sixth place start.
Marcus Ericsson – 7
With teammate Giovinazzi making all the headlines for the wrong reasons, Ericsson stayed out of the spotlight to record a solid, of not spectacular, result of finishing at the tail of the field. The Swede did benefit from the misfortune of others to sneak into Q2 again, but little wins like that will become few and far between as others get to grips with their operations.
Fernando Alonso – 9
You can’t fault Fernando’s tenacity when faced with adversity; the drive in China to keep his McLaren in the top ten was nothing short of miraculous.
The Spaniard’s race weekends are, however, an exercise in political manoeuvring in regards to Honda, McLaren, and the future of both, it seems. Don’t be fooled by the occasional radio sound bytes being lapped up by the fans – “I drive like an animal” was the latest – Alonso means business.
Among other radio messages to the team were clear; the car is fast in the corners and slow on the straights, which means Honda is still the target for Alonso’s ire. With a bit more power who knows where the car might be in terms of outright pace?
Daniil Kvyat – 8
Hydraulics failing for the Russian curtailed a weekend which saw another Q3 appearance and the possibility of points. Another building block in Kvyat’s recovery from last season’s abyss.
Stoffel Vandoorne – 6
A talent like Vandoorne doesn’t deserve to be cutting his teeth in F1 in a car like this McLaren – the Belgian failed to escape Q1 and retired within the first 20 laps thanks to, you guessed it, a loss of power.
Antonio Giovinazzo – 4
Back down to earth with a bump, the Chinese Gran Prix weekend was defined by the Italian’s double visit to the barriers. The debut in Melbourne now seems a distant memory and Sauber might be asking Pascal Wehrlein just how bad his back is ahead of Bahrain.
Lance Stroll – 6
It was a case of progress for Stroll in China and compared to his miserable debut two weeks ago, he put in a great set of laps on Saturday to appear in Q3 for the first time in his career. He was the innocent victim in being tagged by Perez on the opening lap, ending his race in the Shanghai gravel.