Daniel Ricciardo storms to victory as championship leaders toil at Chinese GP


Daniel Ricciardo produced an incredible performance to claim victory in a dramatic Chinese GP in Shanghai on Sunday.

The Red Bull driver benefitted from a mid-race Safety Car to change tyres while those ahead did not with the additional grip allowing him to produce a series of remarkable overtakes to move from P6 to P1 in a crazy 10 or so laps which shook up the championship order.

His teammate Max Verstappen also looked to capitalise on a great strategy call from the Anglo-Austrian team but would collide with Sebastian Vettel, earning him a 10-second penalty though he would still finish fifth.

The action began right from the start as Vettel held off Raikkonen into Turn 1 with the tussle allowing Valtteri Bottas into second in the lead Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton was also caught out as Max Verstappen swept past in the opening sequence of corners before producing a great move on Raikkonen himself to take third.

Red Bull's decision to start on the Ultrasoft didn't reap too many rewards but it also didn't hamper as both drivers went long enough to pit and switch onto the Medium tyre, matching the one-stop strategy of the Mercedes' and Ferrari's.

A big change came during the pit-stop phase as Bottas was able to undercut Vettel and take the lead after the Italian team had been too cautious in their decision-making.

Raikkonen would stay out and attempt to hold up his fellow countryman but the Mercedes driver would simply drive around the Ferrari at Turn 2, with Vettel closing right up.

The turning point came as the two Toro Rosso's of Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly collided at the hairpin, leaving debris strewn on the outside.

F1 Grand Prix of China

A Safety Car would be called to clear it away with the timing just right for Red Bull to pit both cars at the same time and switch back to the Soft tyre, while Mercedes and Ferrari failed to react.

That meant once the track was clear Ricciardo and Verstappen had much more grip on their new rubber with the Australian producing his first of many excellent passes with an overtake on Raikkonen into the Turn 14 hairpin.

Ahead, Verstappen looked to pass Hamilton in a repeat of their duel from Bahrain but the Dutchman was too aggressive trying to pass the world champion at the high-speed Turn 7 and would go off track allowing his teammate by.

Ricciardo then showed his young partner how to do it with a late-braking move on the Mercedes into the hairpin from a long way back.

With the leaders in his sights, the 28-year-old had a better run onto the 1.2km back straight to complete the easiest of his overtakes on Vettel using DRS.

Finally, the mission would be complete with another masterful pass on Bottas into Turn 6, squeezing up the inside just as it appeared the chance had been covered by the Finn.

Able to pull away out front, the focus switched back to Verstappen as he eventually passed Hamilton at Turn 6. 

Then it would go wrong as the 20-year-old tried to pass Vettel, after seeing a gap open into the hairpin but the championship leader would come back across with the pair colliding and spinning.

Max would get a 10-second penalty but his pace was such that he moved back up to fourth and would only lose out one place to Hamilton, finishing fifth.

For the Ferrari driver, consequences would be much worse as, on worn tyres, he would be passed by Nico Hulkenberg's Renault into Turn 1 and then by Fernando Alonso in an aggressive but fair move at Turn 2, eventually crossing the line only eighth.

Back at the front, Ricciardo serenely went on to take his first win of the season and his first since Baku last year, this after being three minutes from starting last in qualifying.

Bottas would hold off a charging Raikkonen in the closing lap to complete the podium but the result means that for the first time in the hybrid era, Mercedes has gone three races without a win.

Hamilton may be pleased with fourth after a difficult race and to have finished ahead of his championship rival but lessons will need to be learned for Verstappen in fifth.

F1 Grand Prix of China

Hulkenberg and Alonso claimed sixth and seventh, ahead of a furious Vettel in eighth. 

Carlos Sainz just missed out on passing the Ferrari on the last lap and had to settle for ninth with Kevin Magnussen completing the top 10 points scorers for Haas.

A thrilling race and just reward for Red Bull after their tough start to 2018. The mixed result sees Hamilton close to within nine points of Vettel in the championship with Ricciardo jumping up to fourth just behind the second Mercedes of Bottas.

Full results can be seen below:

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