Hamilton's Chinese take-away


It's unclear what - if any - sort of event Chase and the gang might put on before today's race to celebrate the 1,000th round of the Formula One World Championship, after all we still break out in a cold sweat when we recall Michael Buffer at the Circuit of the Americas.

However, for a series that only came into existence in 1950, other than the three that will grace today's grid, Formula One can only produce 17 of its past champions.

Note: We do not refer to them as 'former' world champions, because they never lose their titles, therefore F1 world champions are never former champions, they remain champions.

Hard to believe but if those seventeen past champions were to attend today, the oldest is Jackie Stewart, who is just 8 days younger than the legendary 'former' Mott the Hoople frontman, Ian Hunter, who is 80 in June.

While Kimi Raikkonen might yearn for the danger era of the late 60s and early 70s, Stewart is one of the few survivors of what surely has to be one of the sport's darkest periods. Indeed, hard as it is to believe, it was in June 1993, that James Hunt became the first F1 world champion to die from entirely natural causes.

And while some of us hanker for those golden days, let's not forget that even in crashes like that witnessed in FP3 yesterday, the Alexander Albons of the day would have required more than a precautionary trip to the circuit's medical centre... that's assuming such a facility existed.

And let's not forget the attitude of the teams, the days when Enzo Ferrari, for example, on hearing of the death of his two-time champion Alberto Ascari while testing at Monza, simply replied... "and the car", or Colin Chapman, for example, warned about the dangerous handling of a car that "wouldn't run straight" without its wings, still sent his star driver out in it, with fatal consequences.

Though many of us look back at the 'good old days' through rose-tinted spectacles, at a time we celebrate the previous 999 races, let us never forget the men upon whose backs this sport was built.

Finally, had they chosen to ignore those 11 times the Indianapolis 500 formed part of the world championship, the 1,000th Grand Prix would have been at Monza, now that's a place that knows how to celebrate.

Back to today, and the pendulum continues to swing back and forth, and, as Toto Wolff points out, not merely between teams but between drivers.

While in pre-season testing it appeared to be - note appeared to be - advantage Ferrari, in Melbourne it was clearly advantage Mercedes. In Bahrain, Ferrari had the upper hand, until it really mattered, while this weekend the Silver Arrows once again have the edge.

Similarly, in Australia Bottas 2.0 ruled, while in the desert it was young Mr Leclerc. This weekend, on the evidence thus far, Bottas 2.0 is back in charge.

Indeed the only certainty about all this is that Red Bull and Max continue to complain, this time about the antics of others in the final stages of Q3. All of which begs the question, why did they leave it so bloody late to go out. Haas got it wrong and held its hand up, so why can't Red Bull?

As we know from experience, the Chinese Grand Prix has a reputation for throwing curve balls, witness Daniel Ricciardo's opportunistic win here twelve months ago. That said, the pendulum - boring as it is in all reality - does appear to be in Mercedes favour, and the German team is not known for shooting itself in the foot, unlike its Italian rival.

We say boring by the way, because the pendulum effect, much like during the last tyre war, can lose its shine when we know in advance that circuit A will suit team Y, and circuit B will favour team Z. Wolff says the pendulum effect produces "unpredictability" but that isn't entirely correct.

Also, with an eye on Verstappen's thinly veiled threat following Q3 yesterday, let's not forget that Romain Grosjean is also in the mix.

Indeed, that pendulum could well become an offensive weapon today as a number of drivers seek to put their teammates in their place today, the 'Noah's Ark' formation of the first five rows giving them an ideal opportunity.

Though we're blue in the face from saying it, once again, the race cannot be won on the first lap or the first couple of corners, however it can be lost... or thrown away.

Following that long, long run to T1, that first sequence of corners is a recipe for disaster, an open invitation for those of a red mist disposition.

Despite the fact that the Bahrain event featured three DRS zones, today's race should also be something of a DRS-fest.

Note: We don't say overtaking-fest because like you who recall many of those races of the 60s and 70s, DRS is not overtaking as we know it.

That said, DRS is a fact of life in terms of F1 2019, and there should be quite a bit of it. Of particular interest will be the Ferraris as they seek to make up for the advantage Mercedes clearly has in the corners. Though the Ferrari has the straights sewn up, the grid order, and timesheets, clearly demonstrate that those 16 corners (including bends and kinks) are the key.

Behind 'Noah's Ark', the midfield will be as cut throat as ever, with Kvyat, Perez and Raikkonen under threat from the McLaren pair. Stroll will be keen to make up for a poor qualifying, while Albon and Giovinazzi also have their work cut out, the Thai driver starting from the pitlane.

Hard to believe by the way, but talking of the legendary Alberto Ascari, despite Italy's great history in the sport, he remains the country's most recent world champion, and his second title was claimed in 1953... ironically under Formula 2 regulations. Sadly, Mr Giovinazzi does not look likely to emulate Ascari in winning the title any time soon.

The fastest strategy today is a one-stopper: starting on the softs for 18 laps, then hards to the end. The second-quickest approach is also a one-stopper, but this time starting on the mediums for 19 laps before going on to the hards.

There's a two-stopper, but this is clearly slower. It would mean starting on softs for 15 laps, then another soft stint for 15 laps, and finally hards to the finish.

Unlike yesterday and much of Friday, the sun is hidden behind lots of low cloud. The big concern however is the wind which appears even stronger than that encountered in Bahrain. The air temperature is 19.6 degrees C, while the track temperature is 29.3 degrees.

As the drivers make their way to the grid, Hamilton says "it is quite warm".

Gasly, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Magnussen and Grosjean are all starting on softs, as are Giovinazzi and Albon, while the rest are on mediums.

The field heads off on the warm-up lap... and Verstappen spins just a couple of corners into the lap, the Dutchman's tyres clearly not warm enough. He maintains his position, as further behind Kubica also spins.

A portent of things to come?

They're away! A good start by Bottas but an even better start for his teammate. Vettel is all over the Finn looking for a way past, and as they head into T1 looks to go around the outside but fails, and actually loses out to Leclerc who has the inside.

Behind it's the Red Bulls and Renaults side-by-side while Perez, who has made a superb start, is ahead of both Haas' by T3.

The Mexican continues his charge and by T7 is ahead of one Renault (Hulkenberg) and all over the second (Ricciardo).

Caution is the word as they all get through the first sequence of corners, but further around the lap one of the McLarens (Norris) is in the air following a clash.

Replay shows Kvyat clash first with Sainz and then barging onto Norris, almost turning the Briton on his side after initially suffering oversteer which caused him to slide into the Spaniard and then hit the second McLaren

The VSC is deployed to clear the resultant debris.

Hamilton leads Bottas, Leclerc, Vettel, Verstappen, Gasly, Ricciardo, Perez, Hulkenberg and Grosjean.

Both McLarens pit at the end of the first lap, at which point the VSC is withdrawn.

Hulkenberg is all over Perez, with the Haas pair and Raikkonen in hot pursuit.

Hamilton is worried that he has damage to his front-left after running over some debris from the Kvyat incident.

Norris is told that he has damage to his floor. Nonetheless, he is told to keep his head down and continue.

As in Bahrain, Magnussen appears to be struggling. The Dane offering no resistance as Raikkonen makes his move.

The stewards are investigating that first lap incident.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Shanghai, here.

After 4 laps, Hamilton leads his teammate by 1.6s with Leclerc a further 2.3s behind. Vettel in hard on the heels of the Monegasque's Ferrari.

Albon makes a great move on Giovinazzi to take 15th.

Kvyat runs wide as he battles Stroll for 13th, at which point the Russian is handed a drive-through for that earlier clash.

As Norris is told he will stick with "Plan A" and extend it, under pressure from his teammate, Leclerc locks-up.

Magnussen in danger of losing out to Stroll, Kvyat, Albon and Giovinazzi as he continues to struggle.

"Verstappen 2s behind, can you go faster?" Vettel is asked. "I think I can," he replies.

At the end of lap 7, Giovinazzi and Kvyat both pit, the Italian for tyres, the Russian to serve his penalty.

Grosjean pits next time around, the Haas driver rejoining in 17th on hards.

"You need to push now," Vettel is told. "I'm trying to get closer," he responds. He's 0.89s down on Leclerc, but 7.1s down on Hamilton.

Magnussen pits next time around as Leclerc is given a hurry up, otherwise Vettel will be given the all-clear to pass him. Now on hards, Magnussen rejoins in 17th.

"Let Sebastian by," Leclerc is told. Moments later, the German passes his Ferrari teammate, though Leclerc isn't happy about it. "I was getting away," he protests.

Raikkonen leaves Hulkenberg for dead to take 9th.

Hulkenberg pits at the end of lap 11, the German also switching to hards as he rejoins in 16th, just behind Grosjean. That early stop seemingly paying off for the Frenchman.

Verstappen complains that his car is "understeering a lot", due to the changing wind direction.

Leclerc, now 1.4s down on Vettel, is not happy and makes it clear to the team. Ahead, Vettel has a lock-up which costs him 0.8s. "We do our job, stay focussed," he is told, "we do our job."

Another lock-up for Vettel as Leclerc continues to complain that he is quicker than the other Ferrari. However, Verstappen is only 2.2s behind the feuding Ferraris. "I'm losing quite a lot of time," he warns, "I don't know whether you want to know at the moment."

"Good job dude," Grosjean is told. "Keep pushing, keep pushing." The Haas driver is currently 14th and all over Kvyat.

Hulkenberg pits again at the end of lap 16, clearly not a scheduled stop. Indeed, the German is pushed back into his garage.

Verstappen is the first of the big guns to pit, the Red Bull driver rejoining on hards in 8th.

Norris clearly has an issue, his car throwing up a show of sparks all around the track.

As Norris pits, so too does Vettel. Switching to hards he rejoins in 5th ahead of Verstappen. Ricciardo also pits.

Having lost time leaving the pits behind Norris, Vettel now has Verstappen all over his rear.

The Dutchman out-brakes the German in T14, but overdoes it and Vettel gets through on the inside. Shades of 2018 but without the silliness.

Both on fresh rubber, Vettel and Verstappen trade fastest sectors.

"Keep pushing, keep pushing," Leclerc is told, "we're thinking about the end of the race."

Both Racing Points pit at the end of lap 20 as Verstappen posts a new fastest lap (36.998). Perez rejoins in 9th, while Stroll is now 16th.

Bottas pits at the end of lap 21, rejoining in 3rd on hards.

Next time around Hamilton stops, as does Leclerc. The world champion rejoins still leading, while the Ferrari driver has dropped to fifth, behind Verstappen.

Struggling for grip, and still to stop, Raikkonen offers no resistance to Gasly who passes the Finn for 6th.

Bottas posts a new fastest lap (36.690) as he closes to within 1.7s of his teammate. Vettel is 5.6s behind the Finn and 3.2s ahead of Verstappen who has a 10s advantage over Leclerc, the Monegasque really having lost out.

The stewards have noted the Vettel / Verstappen incident. As have we.

Another fastest lap for Bottas who stops the clock at 36.558.

Magnussen looking a lot happier on the hards, the Dane now 0.479s down on 11th placed Kvyat. Teammate Grosjean is currently 10th, 2.8s down on Perez.

As Raikkonen finally pits, at the end of lap 25, Verstappen is advised that the wind has eased off.

Back on track, Raikkonen makes short work of Magnussen and sets off after the other Haas.

After 26 laps, all bar Kubica have pitted, as Kvyat makes his second stop of the afternoon, this time not for a drive-through. Teammate Albon is currently up to 12th, a strong performance from the Thai driver.

Next time around Kubica finally pits.

No investigation necessary in terms of the Vettel / Verstappen incident.

Raikkonen sweeps past Grosjean to take 9th. Despite having DRS, Grosjean is unable to find a way back past the Finn.

"We need to think about tyres," says Leclerc. "We need to push," is the response.

"We're thinking about Plan B," Leclerc is told, which suggests a late stop for softs. With a 12s deficit to his teammate, and 22s to the leader, the youngster doesn't have a lot to lose.

Albon passes Magnussen for 11th, as Stroll also lines up the Dane.

Giovinazzi and Kvyat both pit at the end of lap 31, the Russian taking on a new nose and rejoining in 18th (of 19).

Currently 7th, Ricciardo, who is 26s down on Gasly, is under increasing pressure from Perez.

On lap 33, Hamilton enquires as to who has the fastest lap, he is informed that it is his teammate.

"Wind up again," asks Verstappen. "It's more variable," he is told.

Magnussen makes his second stop at the end of lap 34, as Verstappen also stops. Switching to mediums the Red Bull driver rejoining in 5th.

"Box now," Vettel is told, "Verstappen pitted." Elsewhere, Magnussen, on those fresh mediums, goes quickest in S2.

Vettel duly pits and rejoins in 3rd on a new set of mediums, the German stationary for just 2.2s. He rejoins 8.2s ahead of Verstappen.

"Box, box, box, box," Hamilton and Bottas are both told, as Grosjean also stops.

Superb pit work by the Mercedes crew sees both cars stop without missing a beat, Hamilton maintaining his lead, while Bottas rejoins 3.9s down on second-placed Leclerc.

On fresh rubber, Vettel goes quickest in the first two sectors, finally crossing the line at 34.836. Elsewhere, Sainz pits.

Hamilton and Bottas trade fastest sectors, as the Briton posts 36.049 and the Finn 34.872.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Shanghai, here.

Bottas passes a struggling Leclerc, but the youngster re-takes the position. It is only a matter of time, and tyres, but Leclerc refuses to yield.

Of course, this is helping Vettel who is 4.5s down on Bottas.

Finally the Finn is through, passing the Ferrari on the back straight, but Leclerc still hangs on to his rear.

As Leclerc now drops back, into the clutches of his teammate, Verstappen is also closing in. Ferrari really needs to think about pitting the youngster soon.

Albon passes Stroll for tenth, a great job having started from the pitlane.

Hulkenberg remains the only retirement.

As Vettel passes Leclerc for 3rd, the Monegasque subsequently pits. He rejoins in 5th on mediums, 13.9s down on Verstappen, following a somewhat hesitant stop.

In 7th, Ricciardo is soon going to have company in the form of Perez and Raikkonen.

Kvyat pits again at the end of lap 43, but this time it looks terminal.

With ten laps remaining, Vettel is 3.8s down on Bottas... and closing.

Raikkonen is all over Perez as the pair hunt down Ricciardo.

Stroll makes his second stop of the afternoon as Leclerc goes quickest in S2, going on to post a PB (34.860).

"Let's find a rhythm, lets chase these guys to the end," 12th-placed Magnussen is told. The Dane is 7.2s down on his teammate who is 8.6s down on Albon, currently last of the points winners.

Perez, struggling on his hards, is under intense pressure from Raikkonen.

After 48 laps, Hamilton leads Bottas by 7.2s, with Vettel 4.5s down on the Finn and 11.2s clear of Verstappen who is 11s ahead of Leclerc. Gasly is 26s down on the second Ferrari, but 23s ahead of Ricciardo.

Hamilton enquires after Bottas and whether he is under pressure, "it's under control at the moment," he is told.

Hamilton subsequently asks about the fastest lap, which is currently held by Vettel.

"I have a problem with the gears," reports Leclerc. "We're checking the data," he is told.

As Russell pits, Albon is under pressure from Grosjean who is 1.1s down on the Toro Rosso.

Another pit stop for Norris, the McLaren finally put out of its misery following that first lap assault from Kvyat.

A late stop for Gasly, who pits from 6th and rejoins still in that position, albeit on fresh softs.

Grosjean, courtesy of DRS, closes on Albon, who also has DRS courtesy of the Williams ahead.

"Fastest lap is 34.8," Gasly is told.

Gasly can only manage a PB in the first sector, maintaining the pace in S2. At the line it's 34.742, and a new fastest lap.

Meanwhile, four-time world champion Alain Prost waves the chequered flag as Hamilton takes victory. Vettel claims his first podium of the season, while Albon holds off Grosjean for tenth.

So, another 1-2 for Mercedes, while it remains to be seen how Leclerc reacts to Ferraris tactics.

Not the celebration one might have hope for, but a meticulous performance from Mercedes, and strong performances from Ricciardo, Perez, Raikkonen and Albon.

However, as the Thai driver is rightly lauded, one has to wonder if his teammate, Kvyat, is looking at the Toro Rosso exit door yet again.

Another disappointing day for Haas, while McLaren will be ruing Kvyat's stupidity and wondering what might have been.

In terms of it being the 1,000 race, a historic win for Hamilton and Mercedes, but in all honesty it is what we have grown used to, and, with no disrespect, just three races into the season it is already looking as though it's all over bar the shouting.

On to 1,001... which, back in the day, "cleaned a big, big carpet, for less than half a crown"

Check out our Sunday gallery from Shanghai, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 14/04/2019
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