A brilliant Team strategic call and a series of precise and potent passing moves handed Daniel a stunning victory at the Chinese Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen. Max, meanwhile, took fifth place after a collision with Sebastian Vettel scuppered the Dutchman’s chances of victory.
Max made a superb start to the race, getting past Lewis Hamilton off the line and then passing Kimi Räikkönen after the Finn had dropped back to third when a block by team-mate Sebastian Vettel off the line allowed Valtteri Bottas to take P2 behind the championship-leading Ferrari driver. Daniel, meanwhile, held his sixth-place starting position and settled in for a long battle.
A steady first stint saw Max and Daniel consolidate their positions, with Max behind Bottas and Daniel behind Hamilton. The Team then tried to put the pressure on Mercedes by undercutting its drivers in a tight but perfectly executed double stop.
On lap 17 Max got the call and arrowed toward pit lane. With more than six seconds between him and Daniel, there was time to get the Dutchman stopped and back on his way on medium tyres just as Daniel arrived at the pit box for his own switch to mediums.
The strategy allowed both drivers to close on the Mercedes drivers, but the time gained wasn’t quite enough and after Bottas and Hamilton made their stops the Bulls still found themselves behind Mercedes. That situation wouldn’t last long. Bottas managed to get past Vettel to steal the lead on lap 26 but further back the incident that swung the race in favour of the Red Bulls was taking shape.
OUR RACE IN NUMBERS:
- 6 – Daniel started claimed his sixth career win from sixth on the grid. All of Daniel’s wins have come from outside the top three grid spots.
- 1:35.785 – Daniel’s race fastest lap, posted on lap 55. That’s his second fastest lap of the season, in just three races.
- 2 – This is the team’s second win in China. The first came in 2009 and was a 1-2 with Sebastian Vettel first and Mark Webber second. It was the team’s first win in F1 and its first 1-2.
Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly was having a tricky race in P19. On lap 28 the Frenchman found himself behind team-mate Hartley and heading into the hairpin Gasly launched a late move to pass the New Zealander, who shut the door.
The resulting collision scattered debris across the track and the Safety Car was inevitably deployed. The Team responded instantly, again calling both drivers in for a second double stop, this time for soft tyres. Armed with fresher, quicker tyres than their rivals ahead Max and Daniel then went on a stampede from fourth and sixth respectively.
Daniel was the first to press the advantage – attacking and passing Kimi Raikkonen to claim fifth place behind Max. Max then set up to attack Hamilton but when he attempted to pass the Mercedes driver around the outside in Turn 4 Hamilton held an aggressive line and Max was forced off track, a mishap that allowed Daniel through to fourth place. Daniel closed hard on the champion and with no quarter asked or given, muscled past Hamilton down the inside into the hairpin.
With race engineer Simon Rennie urging him on, Daniel chased down second-placed Vettel and again made short work of passing the Ferrari driver on the back straight. He was now 1.5s behind race leader Bottas. Max meanwhile had recovered and having finally dismissed Hamilton was pressing to find a way past Vettel. He made the attempt at the hairpin but as Vettel closed the door the pair collided with Max dropping back to P5, where he would stay until the chequered flag.
Ahead Daniel was on the tail of Bottas and he made his decisive move on lap 44 as the pair went in to Turn 4. Daniel dived right to go down the inside and Bottas tried to cover. The Honey Badger slotted through the narrow gap, however, and managed to hold on at the corner exit to block any chance of Bottas fighting back.
The following 13 laps were rattled off in textbook fashion, with Daniel carving out a gap that, at the flag, stood at almost nine seconds. Job done, sixth career victory sealed.
Behind him Bottas took second ahead of Raikkonen. Max crossed the line in P4 but the incident with Vettel saw him handed a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision and thus Hamilton was classified in fourth. Max therefore finished fifth ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Vettel, the second Renault of Carlos Sainz and tenth-placed Kevin Magnussen of Haas.