Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hamilton Heralds Strong 2017 Offensive With China Win

Photo Credit: Daimler AG/Mercedes AMG

Formula 1 teams arrive to the Shanghai International Circuit having already made a first impression for the infant 2017 tour. Differences in the first pit stop cycle in the Australian Grand Prix rocked the series in its season opener. Bolstered by fast pit work and opportune timing, Sebastian Vettel was able to edge the lead away from Lewis Hamilton and piloted his Ferrari to a popular win. Showing to be no slouch in overall pace, Scuderia Ferrari stood out in Australia as potentially countering Mercedes AMG in a way not seen since the German team’s dominance stretching to the 2014 Formula 1 season. The second race in China would go a long way to declare whether Ferrari enjoyed what would be one or maybe several flukes or could be a legitimate, season-long challenger for the championship.

Hosting the Chinese Grand Prix for a 14th time, the Shanghai International Circuit has a history for providing a lively competitive affair with several occasions of overpassing. For the 2017 edition of the 56-lap race on the 5.451-kilometer track, a passing rain shower added the challenge of a damp track as all but two drivers started the race on intermediate tires (Carlos Sainz Jr for Toro Rosso and Jolyon Palmer’s Renault were the only exceptions choosing supersoft slick tires). Collecting his second pole of 2017, Lewis Hamilton grows one step closer to setting a new Formula 1 record in the grand prix events upcoming this season. The Mercedes AMG’s total 63rd pole positions is only two behind Ayrton Senna and five short of Michael Schumacher’s current record of 68 poles. Similar to his start at the Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton timed his acceleration perfectly. While Lewis Hamilton’s launch served as a major race-impacting move, much of the talk after the start of the Chinese Grand Prix was Sebastian Vettel’s positioning at his grid spot. Though the Ferrari was located noticeably further to the left of his designated starting position, the FIA stewards chose not to levy any form of penalties against Vettel (However, the sanctioning body did caution this may not be the case if similar incidents occurred in the future). This was the second time in this young 2017 Formula 1 season where a start was marred with an irregularity.

Photo Credit: Daimler AG/Mercedes AMG

Evidently, Sebastian Vettel’s positioning provided no tangible advantage as the pole-sitting Mercedes AMG race car darted away for an early lead on the Shanghai International Circuit. Clockwork for the leaders, the opening stage of the Chinese Grand Prix would contain some turmoil for others. Sainz Jr on slick tires spun on lap 1 but was able to resume the grand prix and would ultimately post a strong effort. Unfortunately for Canada’s Lance Stroll, an impact between his Williams-Mercedes and Sergio Perez’s Force India ended poorly for the rookie on the first lap. Alter starting 10th after making his first career Q3 appearance in Formula 1 qualifying, Stroll’s race ended with the turn 10 collision. “I was in front, knew the corner was mine and had to turn in eventually. It was just unfortunate as that was my race over. I got hit and then the car was broken, most likely with a puncture and damaged suspension.”, said Lance Stroll has two retirements to show for his first two Formula 1 starts. For Williams Martini Racing, a strong qualifying effort by both cars was foiled on race day fully as Felipe Massa struggled with grip in the remaining team car crossing the finish line in 14th place.

A virtual safety car came out for Stroll’s gravel trap parked Williams would be replaced by an actual safety car period. On the final corner of lap three for Antonio Giovinazzi, his Sauber-Ferrari kept some standing water on the track and flew dramatically into the inside track barrier. As the yellow flag was deployed and the wrecked Sauber was retrieved, remaining competitors of the grand prix were led down pit road for three laps going through that section. The Italian driver was unhurt from the hard impact that was his second major single-car collision for the weekend in China. Giovinazzi has also crashed in the same area of the Shanghai International Circuit in qualifying on Saturday.

While almost every starter chose intermediate tread tires for the start of the Chinese Grand Prix, the time spent on that type of rubber was brief. Despite track dampness at the start, the remaining Formula 1 field had all converted to Pirelli slick tires by lap four.

When the race went back to green, the drying Shanghai track was controlled at the front by a strong Mercedes AMG race car. As Lewis Hamilton led the Chinese Grand Prix, some of the most impressive driving arrived from competitors who started in the back of the Formula 1 field. Lined up in 16th place on the grid after reported power unit issues in qualifying, Max Verstappen for Red Bull Racing soared quickly through the field. Verstappen climbed to 7th place after 11 laps with his progress continuing during the ensuing laps that would result in a climatic fight.

In the late laps, Max Verstappen held third place with a hard charge coming from his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. After a nightmarish start to the season in his home country’s grand prix, Ricciardo obviously wanted a podium finish as a form of redemption. Daniel Ricciardo appeared to his left nothing on the table when it came to challenge the young Verstappen.

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Handsomely controlling the Chinese Grand Prix from the start, Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes AMG team retaliated against the challenge of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Crossing the finish line 6.250 seconds ahead of the German establishing himself as the Brit’s 2017 title rival, Hamilton felt the pressure in what he described as “some really tricky conditions” on the track.

In the drivers’ points standings, the result means Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are tied based on the fact they swapped finishing positions from the Australian Grand Prix. The win combined with Valtteri Bottas’ sixth place finish  does hand Mercedes AMG a slim single point lead in the constructors’ title after two races over Ferrari. The fourth consecutive victory for Mercedes AMG, the victory was the time both the team and Lewis Hamilton collected top honours at Shanghai. The retired 2016  world champion Nico Rosberg won last season for the team while also capturing a momentous 2012 win that served as the Silver Arrow’s first full-fledged constructor victory since 1955. Three of Hamilton’s triumphs in the Chinese Grand Prix came with Mercedes AMG with the other two took place with McLaren.  

Aside from some minor controversy relating to the grid positioning, Sebastian Vettel’s 2nd place run in China will be remembered with some positivity for fans looking forward to a solid fighter against the Mercedes AMG juggernaut of recent years. The fastest race lap of Vettel’s Ferrari was just 0.045 seconds short of Lewis Hamilton’s best effort. Ferrari’s second car driven by Kimi Raikkonen finished 5th ahead of Bottas’ Mercedes AMG.

The duo between the Red Bull-TAG Heuer machines ended after 56 laps with Max Verstappen prevailing. Within DRS range in the final laps, Daniel Ricciardo just couldn’t find a way around his teammate. The second race of the 2017 Formula 1 season saw the podium represented by three distinct teams. That feat was accomplished only four times during the entire 2016 21-race season with many eager to see greater parity through the upcoming 2017 grand prix events.

In 7th place, Carlos Sainz Jr recovered from his less-than opportune race start to post collect points in both Formula 1 events in 2017. For the first time this season, Haas F1 Team registered a point-scoring result. A newcomer to the American-based Formula 1 organization Kevin Magnussen took the 8th spot at the end of the Grand Prix of China. Magnussen has taken to the Formula 1 grid with all four power units (Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Ferrari and Renault) over four seasons and has gained top-10 finishes with three of them. Off to a good start in 2017, Force India repeated an optimistic feat in China for the team. In order, driver Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon scored the final two point-paying positions indicating a consistent effort from Force India.

From China, the 2017 Formula 1 departs for Bahrain setting up the season’s first back-to-back race weekend stage. The Bahrain Grand Prix is set for Sunday April 16th.

2017 Formula 1
Chinese Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
3 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG Heuer
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG Heuer
5 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
6 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
7 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Reanult
8 20 Kevin Magnussen Hass F1 Team Ferrari
9 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
10 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes-Benz
11 8 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault
13 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault
14 19 Felipe Massa Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
15 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
16 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
17 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault
18 36 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber Ferrari
19 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda
20 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes-Benz

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