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REPORT: No Shanghai surprise as Verstappen continues winning ways

Matt Clayton
Monday, 22 April 2024

Max Verstappen cruised to victory in familiar style as F1 returned to China for the first time since 2019, while Lando Norris shocked himself with second for McLaren to deny Sergio Perez and another 1-2 result for Red Bull Racing.

Max Verstappen made it four wins from five races in 2024 as Formula 1® returned to Shanghai for the first time in five years for the Chinese Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing’s reigning world champion finishing one point off the perfect weekend after winning both the season’s first Sprint race and the Grand Prix proper.

From his fifth straight pole to start the season, Verstappen led teammate Sergio Perez off the line before Fernando Alonso, who had qualified an outstanding third for Aston Martin, passed the second Red Bull driver and held up the chasing pack, Verstappen’s advantage ballooning to five seconds in as many laps.


The race turned on lap 21 when Valtteri Bottas (Sauber) retired with engine failure, a virtual safety car eventually becoming a full safety car and leading to strategic variance behind Verstappen.

Lando Norris (McLaren) and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) were the biggest beneficiaries, making their sole pit stops of the race with the field neutralised and slotting in between Verstappen and Perez, the Red Bull pair pitting under safety car conditions when Kevin Magnussen (Haas) crashed into Yuki Tsunoda, seeing the RB driver eliminated from the race.

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Perez was able to pass Leclerc with 17 laps left but couldn’t lay a glove on Norris, who maintained a comfortable second place until the chequered flag to earn Driver of the Day honours from the sport’s fans.

Alonso, who elected to run soft tyres after the safety car and needed a late stop for mediums to get to the finish, came from outside of the points to seventh and set the fastest lap of the race on lap 45 of 56, denying Verstappen a maximum haul of points for the weekend as the Dutchman extended his series lead over Perez to 25 points.

In the first Sprint of the season on Saturday – held in the morning ahead of qualifying for the Grand Prix proper in another tweak to the format in 2024 – Verstappen came through from fourth on the grid to pass long-time leader Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and canter to a 13-second win.

Behind Verstappen and Hamilton, a no-holds-barred battle for the final place on the podium went the way of Perez, while Alonso, who was third for much of the 19 laps, retired with a puncture after contact with Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and was issued a 10-second post-race penalty for causing the collision.

Aussie watch

Both Daniel Ricciardo and Oscar Piastri had their races negatively influenced by Lance Stroll in China, Ricciardo significantly more so after the Aston Martin driver torpedoed Ricciardo’s RB entry as the field prepared to take the lap 26 restart after the Bottas-caused safety car period ended.

At the Turn 14 hairpin ahead of the restart, Stroll’s teammate Alonso locked up and the field behind him braked heavily one-by-one, Ricciardo tapping the back of Piastri’s McLaren and then getting clouted by Stroll’s Aston Martin’s, Ricciardo’s car being lifted into the air and suffering significant floor damage when it landed.

Soon a second safety car period ended, one caused by the Magnussen/Tsunoda crash, Ricciardo fell to the back of the field with the damage, and retired from the race on lap 33.

Piastri, the back of his McLaren “pretty destroyed” by the contact with Ricciardo, soldiered on to finish eighth for the third time in five races this season to maintain sixth in the drivers’ standings.

In Saturday’s Sprint, Piastri finished seventh from eighth on the grid, and Ricciardo came 11th from 14th, the 34-year-old outqualifying teammate Tsunoda for the Sprint and Grand Prix in a weekend of promise that didn’t produce points.

Unsung hero

Haas had four points finishes all of last season; the team now has four in five races in 2024 after Nico Hulkenberg came home in 10th place, the German capitalising on Stroll again not being able to finish inside the top 10 in a top-five car.

Hulkenberg, as he often does, set up his race with a charge into the top 10 in qualifying on Saturday, when he made Q3 for the second time this season. While he could do little to repel Alonso on fresher tyres late in the race, the veteran held off Esteban Ocon as the Frenchman chased Alpine’s first points for the year, finishing two seconds ahead to consolidate 13th place in the drivers’ championship.

Number to know

25: Verstappen became the first driver to take pole for the first five races of a season since Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) in 1999, 25 years ago.


“It felt amazing. All weekend we were incredibly quick. It was just enjoyable to drive. The car was basically on rails and I could do whatever I wanted to with it.”
Max Verstappen

Chinese Grand Prix: top 10

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 1hr 40mins 52.554secs
2. Lando Norris (McLaren) +13.773secs
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) +19.160secs
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +23.623secs
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +33.983secs
6. George Russell (Mercedes) +38.724secs
7. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +43.414secs
8. Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +56.198secs
9. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +57.986secs
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) +60.476secs

Standings (top 5)

Drivers' championship

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 110 points
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) 85
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 76
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 69
5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 58

Constructors' championship

1. Red Bull Racing (195 points)
2. Ferrari (151)
3. McLaren (96)
4. Mercedes (52)
5. Aston Martin (40)

Next race

Round 6: Miami, Miami International Autodrome (May 3-5)