Another one-two victory for Mercedes in Round 3 of 21
Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton brought home another win with teammate Valterri Bottas as they completed their third consecutive one-two finish for the season. The Mercedes drivers were joined in the podium by 2018 F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari).
The other Top 5 finishers were Max Verstappen (Red Bull) on the 4th position and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) on 5th. But guess who clinched the fastest lap in the 2019 Chinese GP? For the first time this season, it’s not from one of those in the Top 5!
Grandiose host to the 1000th F1 World Championship race
The 2019 Chinese Grand Prix, officially called Formula 1 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix 2019, was held last April 14, 2019 in the Shanghai International Circuit located in Jiading District, Shanghai, China. Incidentally, this round in China was also the 1000th F1 World Championship race since the first one was held in 1950. This is the 16th year that the Chinese GP has become a round of the F1 World Championship.
The Shanghai International Circuit is a 3.387-mile long permanent racing facility, which is ran for 56 laps and makes a total racing distance of 189.559 miles. It is not just a racing facility—it is a showcase of Shanghai’s opulence. It has a total capacity of 200,000 and features unique and lavish facilities for spectators, racing teams, and other people using the complex within the circuit. The shape of the track was inspired by the Chinese character “shang” which is the first character in the city’s name.
Aside from its aesthetic aspects, the circuit is also considered as one of the most challenging tracks in the F1 calendar. It starts with two 270-degree right-handers, two snail-speed turns followed shortly by a hairpin turn and by three high-speed chicanes right after. Next are three slow-speed turns and a hairpin, which are separated by one of the longest straights in the F1 series of races. There’s no shortage in strong Shanghai winds, too, making the turns more demanding for the drivers. Whew! That sounds like we’d be seeing some of the season’s most gut-churning actions here.
Just for the record, four of this year’s competitors were former winners in this circuit—Lewis Hamilton (2008, 2011, 2014, 2015, and 2017), Daniel Ricciardo (2018), Sebastian Vettel (2009), and Kimi Räikkönen (2007). The legendary Schumacher’s fastest lap record was broken 13 years later by Hamilton and the following year by Vettel. This batch of racers surely didn’t lack of champions and record-breakers.
Highlights from the qualifying rounds to the final race laps
- The qualifying result was rather interesting in that for the first 10 grid positions, each team’s drivers qualified next to each other, that is:
- Mercedes - Bottas for P1 and Hamilton for P2
- Ferrari – Vettel for P3 and Leclerc for P4
- Red Bull – Verstappen for P5 and Gasly for P6
- Renault – Ricciardo for P7 and Hülkenberg for P8
- Haas – Magnussen for P9 and Grosjean for P10
- The tyres made available for the coarse tracks of Shanghai International Circuit were: C2 (hard), C3 (medium), and C4 (soft). Pirelli disclosed that the fastest strategy would be a one-stopper starting with C4 for the first 18 laps, and then C2 for the remaining 38 laps. The next ideal strategy would be another one-stopper starting on C3 for 19 laps and finishing with C2. Those who are already on softs could use another strategy—a two-stopper—which would be to run 15 laps on softs, change to fresh softs for another 15 laps, before changing to hards to the finish.
- The first five racers were on used mediums, while the next five were on used softs. The rest opted to start on mediums, except for Giovinazzi and Albon who opted for softs.
- Everyone had been expecting some action right around the first corner. No one, though, was prepared to see cars spinning as early as the formation lap, which was what Verstappen’s car did and Kubica later! Tough luck on the curves ahead!
- The lights went out and away sped Bottas—but not for long! Hamilton beat him to the first turn, and Leclerc, too, took to Vettel’s heels! This circuit is going to be rough between teammates.
- It’s not too early for action, we’ve been saying, as the McLarens of both Sainz and Norris were hit and sent to the pit by Kyvat (Toro Rosso) at Turn 6 of Lap 1. This called for a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) to be implemented. The McLarens rejoined in Lap 3 shod with hard rubber.
- We’d like to take note of the impressive recovery drives early in the race:
- Lap 2 – Pérez (Racing Point) moved from P12 to P8.
- Lap 4 – Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo) took advantage of the DRS zone and moved from P13 to take Magnussen’s position (P11) and Grosjean’s (P10) a bit later.
- Lap 5 – Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) started from P19 and wove his way up to P15.
- The race ended early for Hülkenberg (Renault) and Kyvat (Toro Rosso) and who were retired in Lap 17 and Lap 42, respectively.
- The midfielders have started to pit and change tyres as early as Lap 10, with the frontrunners pitting later starting from Lap 17 with Verstappen changing to hard tyres. Vettel also donned hard rubber in Lap 18. Ricciardo, at P6, pitted for hard tyres in Lap 19. The hard-shod cars of Vettel and Verstappen tangled with each other in a heated battle for P3 in Lap 20. Mercedes decided to pull Bottas to the pit for fresh hard tyres in Lap 22. Hamilton and Leclerc were also pitted in Lap 23, with the Mercedes man rejoining in his original position in the lead and the Monegasque behind the P3 contenders.
- As of Lap 35, the racers have formed a train in this sequence: Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Vettel, Verstappen, Gasly, Ricciardo, Pérez, and Räikkönen, with Albon, Grosjean, and Magnussen fighting for the last point-paying position. In Lap 36, the Silver Arrows called in both drivers (!) for a change to medium tyres. Change of strategy past mid-game? Hamilton rejoined, taking his lead position back with the Monegasque behind him. The freshly-shod Finn though was right behind Leclerc and already breathing on his neck. Leclerc, albeit with troubled tyres, succeeded in stalling the Finn’s progress but only up to Lap 39 as he was already lapping so much slower on his old rubbers. Both Ferraris have yet to pit. Gasly at P6 pitted for fresh mediums before the end of the lap.
- At Lap 42, Vettel got within DRS range of Leclerc and moved past effortlessly. Leclerc pitted in the next lap, rejoining with fresh mediums in P5 behind Verstappen.
- Only two laps left with the first nine runners looking like they would hold their positions to the finish. Gasly on P6 took a risk and pitted for fresh softs—clearly an attempt to beat Vettel’s fastest lap. It would also pump some blood in the rather relaxed final two laps. Not a bad idea at all—way to go, Gasly!
- Hamilton took the lead in the final lap as the chequered flag was waved. He was followed by Bottas, securing three consecutive 1-2 wins for Mercedes in the first three races this season. Vettel got the final podium position.
Gasly stole the fastest lap point from the podium runners
Mercedes reigned again in China. Worth mentioning here is Gasly who finished 6th and stole the extra point for fastest lap from the frontrunners. Albon, who had to start from the pit lane, showed one of the most impressive performances in the race as he claimed the final point position. Too impressive, in fact, that he got the well-deserved Driver of the Day vote. Ricciardo (Renault), Pérez (Racing Point), Kimi Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo), and Albon (Toro Rosso) provided the midfield excitement and saw the chequered flag waved on them as the Chinese GP closed.
Final result of the Chinese GP, Top 5
Would these be the same names in the next 18 rounds? These results confirm the strength of the Big 3 though we also see some consistent names in the midfield that could potentially upset the status quo.
Team and Number
Red Bull, #33
Championship standings before and after the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix
Hamilton and Bottas have together established a hard-to-budge lead over the other teams.
Team and Number
Points before the 2019 F1 Chinese GP
Points after the 2019 F1 Chinese GP
Red Bull, #33
Consistent names in the point positions
The midfield is where the other battle takes place in an F1 race. For the first three races in this season, we have consistently seen the 2007 F1 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo) finish in the point-paying positions. We’ve also seen in the last two rounds the impressive performances of Pierre Gasly (Red Bull), Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso), and Sergio Pérez (Racing Point). Would any of them spark the battle in the top field in the next rounds ahead? Let’s see what happens next in Baku!
By Patrick Lumontod