Lewis Hamilton cruised to his first win of 2017 at the Chinese Grand Prix. Mixed weather in Shanghai made for an up and down race, swinging from procession to some of the best overtaking F1 has produced in several years.
Here is my run down of the heroes and zeroes from the 2017 F1 Chinese Grand Prix.
2017 F1 Chinese Grand Prix Heroes
Hero – Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton and his Mercedes team ran a pretty much flawless race. Rapid off the start Hamilton punched in key laps when it counted. Mercedes were bang on with strategy – getting a bit lucky with the safety car to pit Hamilton – and put the 3-time World champion is in a great position to execute the win.
Hamilton leaves China level on points with Sebastien Vettel in the race for the championship. Hopefully a sign of a nip and tuck battle for the title to come all season.
Hero – Fernando Alonso
The Spaniard continued to dazzle in the woeful McLaren-Honda. Fernando squeezed every tenth out of the car, and then squeezed some more. It is starting to feel like every race of 2017 for Alonso is going to be an extended advert for his services. If he keeps performing like this, every team on the grid will be after his signature.
Hero – Sergio Perez
Running slicks on a very damp Shanghai circuit, Perez pulled off some awesome moves. Overtakes on Felipe Massa and Danill Kvyatt were delightful. The move on Massa in particular demonstrated great improvisation and his natural racers instinct.
Hero – DRS
After being maligned as making overtakes too easy, DRS came in to its own at the Chinese Grand Prix. The system was marginally ineffective at times on the longest straight on the F1 calendar.
DRS in most case – but not all of them – to put a car closer to the one in front. Aiding but not making the overtake. The positive outcome was that is forced the drivers in to ballsy, marginally risky moves for overtakes. The race offered up some sweet moves from Verstappen, Perez, Vettel and a ridiculous round the outside move by Grosjean on Massa.
A big thumbs up for DRS today. Bet you never thought you would ever read that.
2017 F1 Chinese Grand Prix Zeroes
Zeroes – Ferrari
From nailing their strategy calls in Melbourne and forcing Mercedes to react to their moves, it was back to the old, error prone Ferrari in China.
The decision to move Sebastien Vettel on to slicks during the virtual safety car was ill-timed. Too early for the conditions, the damage was limited by the spectacular crash of Antonio Giovinazzi. The resulting safety car reduced the time deficit but the result was pretty much confirmed.
Zeroes – Ferrari (again)
Ferrari appeared to be completely focused on Vettel’s race. At times it looked like the team had forgotten that Kimi Raikkonen was still in the race.
Despite making the call for a new set of tyres (in wonderfully expletive laden radio calls), Raikkonen was left out for what seemed like an inordinate amount of time. The ‘Iceman’ was left to rue what might have been, lapping on the pace of his German team mate in the closing laps to a distant 5th place.
Zero – Max Verstappen
The Dutchman was in contention for a hero listing with his moves through the field to finish in 3rd. And then he started whingeing. A lot.
In the closing laps of the race, under severe pressure from his teammate Ricciardo, Verstappen was on a ‘Vettel blue flag’ rant. Despite being nowhere near back marker Romain Grosjean, Verstappen was on the radio regularly asking Charlie Whitting to do him a favour and move the Frenchman.
Max is wise beyond his years most of the time. But the teenager he is started to shine through under pressure for the final podium place. Red Bull will need to keep an eye on that.
Zero – Antonio Giovinazzi
Like Ferrari, Giovinazzi swung from heroic super-sub in Melbourne to zero in China. From talk of replacing Werhlein for the full season and a career rejuvenated, it all went south.
Two very expensive accidents in qualifying and the race made the Italian look like the rookie he is. F1 is a brutal sport, especially for drivers. You hope that his performance in China has not completely derailed his prospects after a brilliant debut in Australia.
Zero – Valterri Bottas
This was a race to forget for Bottas. A clumsy accident under the safety car plus a couple of instances of weak defence on track, left Bottas looking pretty average.
Jumping in to Mercedes and trying to match Lewis Hamilton from day 1 was always going to be a massive struggle. Bottas will be focused on the next race.
Race rating – 6 out of 10
A times processional but the banzai overtaking moves that took place were extremely entertaining. The race win seemed never in doubt for Hamilton but there was plenty to entertain up and down the field.