The Chinese Grand Prix gave us a new winner for 2018 and a popular one at that. Chris Fawcett looks at the highlights from a dramatic round 3 of the 2018 Championship
Gasly – Not quite hero to zero
While the coming together of the two Toro Rossos on lap 31 was unfortunate, it certainly opened the race up to a whole new dimension. What looked like a straight fight between Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas was flipped on it’s head the moment last week’s man of the moment, Pierre Gasly committed the unthinkable and drove straight into his teammate Brendon Hartley.
It looked pretty cut and dry, Hartley left a gap which was unattainable, Gasly went in too hot, locked his wheel and couldn’t stop. Completely avoidable and perhaps with a little bit more experience, both sides could have done something to prevent it.
The truth lies in a miscommunication rather than hotheadedness though, as it was discovered after the race that Gasly was of the understanding that he would be allowed to pass his teammate at the hairpin. He said in the post-race press pen that “They [race engineers] told me on the radio ‘OK, Brendon is going to let you past at the end of the straight’. He saw the room left and went for it, it’s a pity then that Hartley believed the pass would take place after the corner as he’d already done earlier in the race.
It obviously wrecked the afternoon for both sides of the garage, with Hartley eventually retiring his car and Gasly picking up a 10-second time penalty. It could be the price paid for having two, young, inexperienced drivers, but lets hope it’s soon forgotten.
Before I go any further, I want to put it out there that the Marshalls used within motorsport, particularly Formula One, do a stellar job, with most doing it for the love of the sport. Without them, the show simply couldn’t continue.
Thankfully I can write this partly in jest because it wasn’t a serious incident, but what kept the Marshalls so long from cleaning up the debris after the Toro Rosso coming together? Were they having a game of cards and got caught off guard? It took them nearly two laps to even get on the scene, and when they did, they simply swept the remains of Gasly’s front wing into the grass. Ever heard of a dustpan and brush?
Kimi already playing bridesmaid
I’ll make this perfectly clear, in my eyes Ferrari have already got a clear number one for this season after just three races, and it isn’t Kimi Raikkonen. For sure, that’s how it’s been since Sebastian Vettel jumped ship from Red Bull, there have been times when many of us have even questioned if Kimi still has “it”. Before the season started I doubted it. But since Melbourne, I have been convinced the car suits the flying Finn and he should be given a fair crack of the whip so to speak.
If you compare the start of this season to last year in terms of head-to-head between the two Ferrari drivers over each session, Kimi is beating Seb 9-6, last year at the same stage, Seb had outperformed Kimi 12-1, minus the missed sessions in China due to the weather.
Kimi was essentially sacrificed in China, not in a way to just suit Vettel though, his race was ruined by poor pit wall decision making, not once, but twice. After leaving him out on tyres which were so degraded that he couldn’t defend against or to slow down faster-approaching cars (the team’s primary reason for leaving him out), they then missed the chance to pit him onto a faster compound under the safety car, à la Red Bull.
My point is, despite previous seasons of one driver coming out on top over his teammate, you cannot successfully put all of your eggs in one basket at this early stage of the season. Talking hypothetically, what if Sebastian runs away with it for the next few races then suffers a season-altering injury just like Michael Schumacher did at Silverstone in 1999. They’d be left playing catch up to salvage anything from the remaining races. I don’t like team orders, but I understand that to maximise the return at the end of the year, there does come a time when you need to think logically. Midway through the season perhaps? This gives both drivers a fair opportunity to prove why they deserve to be at a team as illustrious as Ferrari.
What is the point in muting a former World Champion at this point? Especially one who’s appeared to turn back the clock, and looks as hungry as ever…that appetite might soon die a death if Ferrari doesn’t re-think things.
And thank God Vettel didn’t make the podium, he’s had his hair cut again.
Max is not making any friends
It’s fair to say that after three full seasons, you’re no longer a rookie, you’re not expected to make rookie mistakes and your on-track craft should no longer need “crafting”. I like Max Verstappen when he burst onto the scene against all odds, he proved to the world that age is just a number, he showed maturity well above what was expected and blew the competition away in some stand-out performances. In short, he is the future of the sport.
Yet, with all the good he does for Formula One in terms of spectacle and excitement, it ends in disaster as often as it does in success. The reason being; he hasn’t yet figured out the percentage game. Some drivers will yield, others will not, either way, Max is going for that gap, in the same way that Senna used to bully his way through the field.
In the last two races, he’s come up against this generation’s two marquee drivers, they got there by being ruthless and holding no prisoners. And in the last two races, he’s come off badly. It’s easy to criticise from an armchair, but it’s clear to see that in order to dispatch drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, who are in faster machinery, you need to box clever. Going for a gap every single time will end in disaster.
Max doesn’t need to change his approach, we want overtaking, we want drama. He just needs to bottle it up and unleash it at the right time.
Ricciardo and Colgate; a perfect match?
Let’s keep this one short and to the point, it was fantastic to see Daniel Ricciardo pick up the victory in China, perhaps he’s the most likeable driver to ever be in the sport? Reason being, that huge pearly, white smile of his.
We’ve seen Jenson Button model hair products and banking facilities. Lewis Hamilton has the shoe-wear market sorted with his Puma endorsement, but no one ever thinks about toothpaste do they?
What better candidate to be the face of a toothpaste brand? Or better yet, put him on dentistry campaign posters – he literally never stops smiling. I for one hope it continues long into the season, because all jokes aside, a three-team battle for the title sounds a hell of a lot better than two, don’t you think?
Holy everything. Starting to come down.. Slowly. Thank you for the kind words. Today meant a lot pic.twitter.com/v1pvEzwbiI
— Daniel Ricciardo (@danielricciardo) April 15, 2018