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F1 Chinese GP: Verstappen dominates as Norris splits the Red Bulls

Max Verstappen streaked to a fourth Formula 1 victory of 2024 at the Chinese Grand Prix in a race featuring two safety cars, as Lando Norris beat Sergio Perez to second.

On the back of scoring Red Bull's 100th pole position on Saturday, Verstappen was never threatened throughout the first race in Shanghai since 2019 and effortlessly overcame two safety car restarts in the middle period of the race.

After leading the field away without any real threat from behind, Verstappen unearthed a 1.6-second gap at the end of the first lap over the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso, who had opened his race with a sumptuous move around the outside of Perez into the first corner.

The usual Verstappen break-build that contemporary F1 fans have come to expect ended up being eradicated by a safety car on lap 20 of 56, as Valtteri Bottas' Sauber came to a halt at Turn 11 with an engine problem - which prompted an eventual virtual safety car prior to the emergence of the Mercedes-AMG GT.

On the restart, a punt on Yuki Tsunoda from Kevin Magnussen put the Japanese driver out, causing another safety car period to stunt the progress that Verstappen was able to make.

Tasked with leading the field away on both restarts, Verstappen opened the throttle on the exit of Turn 14 to hold his position and, when the second safety car period came to an end on lap 32, he resumed his progress at the front.

He was now leading from Norris, who took his sole stop of the race under the virtual safety car, and the decision from Red Bull to pit both Verstappen and Perez under the full safety car a few laps later ensured that the Briton cycled out in second.

Initially keeping Verstappen in his sights, Norris could not maintain the same level of pace as the lead Red Bull and instead focused on preserving the runner-up spot over Perez - who also dropped behind Charles Leclerc after his pitstop.

As such, Verstappen maintained his level of pace and crossed the line with 13.7s in hand over Norris.

The McLaren driver put together an expertly managed second stint despite his team's reservations about its pace in China, while Perez could not made any real inroads; at the flag, the gap between the other podium finishers stood at 5.3s.

Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished fourth and fifth after finding a way to make a one-stop - designated Plan D over the radio - work; although Leclerc was able to extend his first stint and managed to secure a stop under the VSC on lap 21, Sainz had pitted four laps before and had a tougher job to drag his efforts on the hard tyre to the end.

Sainz had also been able to resist a brief period of pressure from George Russell, who looked almost certain to catch the Ferrari driver until eventually having to back off to save his own tyres - preserving sixth in the process.

The pair had moved up a position when Alonso enacted a late stop as Aston Martin gambled on a set of soft tyres during the safety car.

This gave Alonso the momentum to rise to fifth, having lost positions as a result of stopping on lap 11 and ceding track position to those who benefitted from the safety car period to make scheduled stops.

But Alonso needed to pit again as the softs wouldn't make it to the end, and thus switched to mediums for the final 12 laps; he fell out of the top 10, but put together a string of moves to take advantage of those on worn hard tyres to break into seventh.

Oscar Piastri held off Lewis Hamilton for eighth despite damage to his diffuser; on the first safety car restart, Alonso outbraked himself and caused both Russell and Piastri to check up.

Daniel Ricciardo then nudged the back of his compatriot's car, but was in turn clouted by Lance Stroll. The resulting diffuser damage caused Ricciardo to retire.

Nico Hulkenberg thus picked up the final point as a result of that scuffle, finishing 2.3s clear of Alpine's Esteban Ocon to secure a vital point for the Haas team.

F1 Chinese GP - Race results:

   
1
 - 
5
   
   
1
 - 
2
   
Cla Driver # Laps Time Interval km/h Pits Points Retirement Chassis Engine
1 Netherlands M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 56

 

    2 25   Red Bull Red Bull
2 United Kingdom L. Norris McLaren 4 56

13.773

    1 18   McLaren Mercedes
3 Mexico S. Perez Red Bull Racing 11 56

19.160

    2 15   Red Bull Red Bull
4 Monaco C. Leclerc Ferrari 16 56

23.623

    1 12   Ferrari Ferrari
5 Spain C. Sainz Ferrari 55 56

33.983

    1 10   Ferrari Ferrari
6 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 56

38.724

    2 8   Mercedes Mercedes
7 Spain F. Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 56

43.414

    3 7   Aston Martin Mercedes
8 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 56

56.198

    2 4   McLaren Mercedes
9 United Kingdom L. Hamilton Mercedes 44 56

57.986

    2 2   Mercedes Mercedes
10 Germany N. Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 56

1'00.476

    2 1   Haas Ferrari
11 France E. Ocon Alpine 31 56

1'02.812

    2     Alpine Renault
12 Thailand A. Albon Williams 23 56

1'05.506

    2     Williams Mercedes
13 France P. Gasly Alpine 10 56

1'09.223

    3     Alpine Renault
14 China Z. Guanyu Sauber 24 56

1'11.689

    3     Sauber Ferrari
15 Canada L. Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 56

1'22.786

    4     Aston Martin Mercedes
16 Denmark K. Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 56

1'27.533

    2     Haas Ferrari
17 United States L. Sargeant Williams 2 56

1'35.110

    2     Williams Mercedes
dnf Australia D. Ricciardo RB 3 33

23 laps

    2   Collision RB Red Bull
dnf Japan Y. Tsunoda RB 22 26

30 laps

    2   Collision RB Red Bull
dnf Finland V. Bottas Sauber 77 19

37 laps

    1   Power Unit Sauber Ferrari

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