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Verstappen wins Shanghai Sprint


Ahead of today's Sprint the air temperature is 20 degrees C, while the track temperature is 26 degrees. Unlike yesterday it is bright and sunny, though quite windy.

As a reminder, Norris starts from pole, ahead of Hamilton, Alonso, Verstappen, Sainz, Perez, Leclerc, Piastri, Bottas and Zhou.

Russell starts eleventh, ahead of Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Stroll, Gasly, Ocon, Albon, Tsunoda and Sargeant.

The somewhat off grid is the result of a strange Shootout that, other than rain, featured, as did free practice, a trackside grass fire.

Returning for the first time since 2019 even without the help of the Weather Gods we were expecting some surprises... and so it proved to be.

Practice saw fairly even use of all three dry compounds. The most used was the soft, followed by the hard and the medium (126 laps, 27.8%).

The first two parts of the shootout were run in the dry and, as per the regulations, only the medium could be used, while in the third, which was officially declared wet, thus allowing a free choice of tyre, all ten drivers opted for the Inters.

Initial analysis by Pirelli suggests that all three compounds could play their part over the rest of the weekend. The medium is clearly destined to be used in both the Sprint and Sunday's Grand Prix, with the soft possibly a valid option for today's race.

Even when dry drivers complained of a lack of grip - don't they always - not helped by the use of bitumen to give the asphalt a fresh look. Then, what rubber was laid down in practice was subsequently washed away.

Norris will be under intense pressure from those behind, though with qualifying just a couple of hours away nobody will want to take any unnecessary risks.

That said, with points on offer, and a number of drivers out of position, what better opportunity for the likes of the Stake and Haas pairs to shine.

Heading into the weekend, Andrea Stella had claimed that the circuit did not suit the McLaren and warned that this would be about damage limitation, it remains to be seen if he was being overly cautious.

The pitlane opens and the drivers make their way to the grid, Verstappen, clearly an eager beaver, the first out.

Al are starting on mediums bar Russell who is on softs, Norris, Hamilton, Sainz, Russell, Gasly, and Ocon all on fresh rubber.

They head off on the formation lap, Norris slow to get off the line and allowing Hamilton to pass him.

The grid forms as Hamilton is warned of a headwind into Turn 6.

They're away. Hamilton and Norris are side by side as they head towards Turn 1, they remain level into Turn 2, but the Mercedes driver isn't giving an inch and the McLaren runs wide in Turn 3, losing several places. Further back Zhou runs wide in Turn 6.

At the end of Lap 1, Hamilton leads Alonso, Verstappen, Sainz, Perez, Leclerc, Norris, Piastri, Zhou and Magnussen. Russell has dropped to 12th.

"Hulkenberg pushed me off," complains Stroll. The incident at Turn 9 having been noted.

Verstappen is struggling with engine settings and is under pressure from Sainz.

"Why is my battery flat?" demands the Dutchman.

Russell passes Magnussen for tenth as Verstappen posts a new fastest lap (40.331).

Both Stakes drivers have been noted for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.

Hamilton maintains a 1.5s lead over Alonso who is 1.5 clear of Verstappen, with Sainz a further 1.5s seconds behind.

Down in eleventh, Magnussen leads a train of six cars.

Like his teammate, Perez is receiving a litany of instructions relating to his engine settings.

Verstappen closes on Alonso, as Sainz falls into the clutches of Perez.

Verstappen makes short work of Alonso on the run to Turn 14, the Spaniard offering no resistance.

"This thing won't turn in the low speed corners," says Hamilton.

Bottas appears to have front wing damage following his earlier battle with his teammate.

At the end of Lap 8, Hamilton runs wide at the hairpin, allowing Verstappen to close.

"Leave me to it man, I can see him," responds Hamilton when told of the gap. Moments later the Dutchman nails the seven-time world champion at the hairpin.

Alonso is now under pressure as he heads a train that includes Sainz, Perez, Leclerc and Norris.

After just one lap, Verstappen is 2s clear of Hamilton, the Dutchman setting a blistering pace.

Gasly passes Hulkenberg for 16th, with Tsunoda also passing the struggling German.

"Cars are starting to enter the graining phase," Magnussen is advised.

A lock-up form Sainz allows Perez to close, as Russell ups the pressure on Piastri.

As Sainz and Co maintain the pressure on Alonso, Verstappen is almost 6s clear of Hamilton.

At the other end of the field, Hulkenberg and Albon are battling for 18th.

Perez makes a move on Sainz in the hairpin, but fails to make it stick.

"I don't have any traction," claims Perez as Norris drops out of DRS range of the train ahead.

Leclerc makes a move on Perez at the hairpin but locks up, all of which slightly eases the pressure on Alonso.

Sainz goes around the outside of Alonso in Turn 7, however the battle continues and as they fight for position, still side by side, they inevitably touch. The Ferrari is ahead, but in the melees Perez and Leclerc have closed in.

As Alonso fights back and forces Sainz wide, Perez nips through on the inside, to claim third ahead of Alonso and Sainz who now has Leclerc all over his rear.

Sainz appears to catch Alonso napping and passes the Aston Martin, as does Leclerc, seemingly amidst all the argy bargy the Aston Martin driver has picked up a puncture.

As the Spaniard heads to the pits and the dust settles, Perez is third, while Leclerc nails his Ferrari teammate at the hairpin.

The stewards have noted the incident involving the battling Spaniards, while Leclerc is less than happy with his teammate's actions, the replay showing Sainz forcing his Ferrari teammate wide as they battled for position in the hairpin.

Alonso has retired his Aston Martin following the clash with Sainz, all of which has allowed Norris to close on the second Ferrari.

Verstappen takes the flag, ahead of Hamilton, Perez, Leclerc, Sainz, Norris, Piastri and Russell.

Zhou is ninth, ahead of Magnussen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Ocon, Stroll, Gasly, Tsunoda, Albon, Sargeant and Hulkenberg.

"It was really difficult to get through Carlos and Fernando," says Perez, "we all had high degradation following each other and I was defending from Charles through Turn 14 but somehow I got through."

"That's the best result I've had in a long time, so I'm super happy and grateful," adds Hamilton. "We couldn't fight the Red Bulls," he admits.

"The race was tough but I found out a lot about the car through this short stint so I'm excited for the race tomorrow. We are still not as quick over a single lap - I don't anticipate we'll be fighting for the front row."

"The first few laps were hectic," laughs Verstappen. "The wind is changing a lot which makes it difficult to drive. [Battery issues] were only the first few laps, once we sorted it out we were okay."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Shanghai here.


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1. Posted by kenji, 21/04/2024 0:31

"A very entertaining race, apart from a few laps in the middle which were down to a DRS train, but that happens in most races anyway. Loved the dicing, that's really what we all want to see and for all the anti sprinters, you missed some excitement. That is, if you didn't watch......"

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