SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 15: Race winner Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 15, 2018 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Daniel Ricciardo scored an amazing win after he started sixth on the grid in the third race of the Formula 1 2018 season at the Chinese GP. In a chaotic race with frantic overtake moves, the Australian snatched victory, helped by a brilliant strategy move from his Red Bull Racing team.

Valtteri Bottas held off his fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen for second position. Lewis Hamilton was fourth, with the ever combative Max Verstappen fifth. Nico Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz and Kevin Magnussen rounded off the top 10 positions.

Daniel Ricciardo Steals One in Shanghai

The race started in warm conditions at the Shanghai International Circuit. The temperatures were much warmer than during the qualification session. The air temperatures were at 18 degrees C and track temperatures at 39 degrees C.

The second Ferrari front row lockout in a row saw Sebastian Vettel on pole and Kimi Raikkonen just behind him. The two Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamiton were on the second row. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo lined up on the third row.

The two Ferrari and Mercedes drivers started on the soft compound tyres. All the other drivers in the top 10 were on the ultrasoft compound tyres. Pierre Gasly was the only driver on the grid on medium compound tyres. This was going to be an interesting race with a great variety of tyre strategies possible.

The Start

Vettel made a great start to lead into Turn 1. Bottas got past Raikkonen into second place. Verstappen from fifth got past both Raikkonen and Hamilton into third place. So the order was Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Grosjean and Magnussen at the end of Lap 1. Fernando Alonso, the fast starting Lance Stroll and the two Force India drivers were just behind them.

Vettel Leads The Pack

Vettel established a comfortable 2.5 seconds lead over Bottas. All the other drivers were holding position. The Haas F1 drivers were dueling with each other and Magnussen complained to the pitwall that Grosjean was holding him up. On Lap 8, a reluctant Grosjean was asked to let the faster Magnussen through.

The First Pit Stops

After 11 laps, Ocon made the first pit stop and put on the soft compound tyres. Clearly, Force India were on a two pitstop strategy for their drivers. Ocon was followed by his teammate Perez into the pits and a few other drivers from the back of the grid. Hulkenberg and Sainz were the first drivers in the top 10 to make a pitstop.

On Lap 18, Verstappen was the first driver among the leaders to pit and surprisingly put on the white compound tyres. Red Bull was thought to be on a two pitstop strategy with an ultrsoft/utrasoft/soft stints. Hamilton pitted next to get an “undercut” over Raikkonen. Ricciardo and Bottas also pitted. This left the two Ferrari drivers, Vettel and Raikkonen, in the lead.

Finally on lap 21, Vettel pitted for the medium tyres. The undercut worked for Bottas and he got ahead of Vettel after the pitstop. Bottas and Vettel overtook race leader Raikkonen. On lap 28 finally, Raikkonen pitted and came out sixth behind Hamilton and Ricciardo. The clear loser after the first pitstops was Raikkonen.

Bottas and Vettel Duel

On Lap 30, Bottas led Vettel. Verstappen, Hamilton, Ricciardo and Raikkonen were right behind them. Hulkenberg, Sainz, Magnussen and Ocon rounded out the top 10.

On Lap 31, Gasly tagged his teammate Brendon Hartley and there was a lot of debris on the track.  The Safety Car (SC) was called out and had a major impact on how the rest of the race unfolded. Red Bull double stacked their drivers under the SC. Verstappen and Ricciardo changed on to a set of new soft tyres.

Now the order was Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Raikkonen and Ricciardo, with Verstappen and Ricciardo on fresh new tyres. Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Grosjean and Alonso rounded out the top 10.

The restart on lap 35 saw the same order at the top. But Grosjen lost places to Alonso and Sainz. Bottas had a great restart and led Vettel by 1.686 seconds. Vettel-Hamilton-Verstappen-Ricciardo-Raikkonen were now in a very close duel.

Ovetakes Galore

Verstappen tried an overtaking move on Hamilton and went off the track. Ricciardo got past him and was now behind Hamilton. On lap 40, with another great overtaking move, Ricciardo on fresher tyres overtook Hamilton.

The order now was Bottas, Vettel, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Alonso and Sainz. On lap 42, Verstappen overtook Hamilton for P4. Shortly afterwards, Ricciardo overtook Vettel.

Verstappen and Vettel Clash

Verstappen’s overtake move on Vettel went wrong and dropped them to P5 and P6. Vettel suffered damage to his car and dropped another place. Raikkonen also managed to overtake Hamilton as the Briton avoided the colliding Verstappen and Vettel in front of him. Now the order was Bottas, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Vettel, Magnussen, Alonso and Sainz.

Ricciardo Takes The Lead

On Lap 45, Ricciardo overtook Bottas for the race lead. The great Red Bull strategy under the SC had paid off with the Australian taking the lead on his fresher tyres. Verstappen also overtook Hamilton for P4.

On lap 50, the order was Ricciardo, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Vettel, Alonso, Sainz and Magnussen.

Verstappen had a 10-second penalty for the collision with Vettel. In one race, the Dutchman had two mishaps with both the four-time world champions, Vettel and Hamilton.

Raikkonen was in DRS range of Bottas in the last six laps and had second position in his grasp. On the penultimate lap, Alonso overtook Vettel for P7. The early race leader and dominant driver of the race Vettel was now P8. Bottas held off Raikkonen to take P2. Ricciardo won another chaotic race, remember Baku last year. What a drive and what a win for this Red Bull driver.

An Exciting Race Produces a Surprise Winner

Verstappen dropped to P5 after the ten-second penalty was applied. So Ricciardo, Bottas, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Vettel, Sainz and Magnussen finished in the points.

A frantic race with some great overtaking moves up and down the grid. Ricciardo at his opportunistic best won the race. Verstappen with his dare-devil moves made the race as interesting as ever.

Vettel seemed on track for a third win in a row, but ended up eighth and lost eight points to rival Hamilton. This is Formula 1 at its best. Anything can happen during a race and it did happen in this race.

Mercedes Dominance Is Under Threat

For the first time since the hybrid-era started in 2014, Mercedes has not won three races in a row. The complete dominance of the Silver Arrows in the last four years is finally under threat. The two week gap before the next race, the Azerbaijan GP, will afford them time to do some soul-searching. It is advantage Ferrari after the first three races, with Red Bull fast improving.

Chinese GP Race Results:

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired Pts
1 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 56 1:35:36.380 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 56 +8.894s 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 56 +9.637s 15
4 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 56 +16.985s 12
5 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 56 +20.436s 10
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 56 +21.052s 8
7 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 56 +30.639s 6
8 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 56 +35.286s 4
9 55 Carlos Sainz Renault 56 +35.763s 2
10 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 56 +39.594s 1
11 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 56 +44.050s 0
12 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 56 +44.725s 0
13 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 56 +49.373s 0
14 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 56 +55.490s 0
15 35 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 56 +58.241s 0
16 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 56 +62.604s 0
17 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 56 +65.296s 0
18 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 56 +66.330s 0
19 16 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 56 +82.575s 0
20 28 Brendon Hartley Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 51 DNF 0

* Provisional results

Note – Gasly and Verstappen received 10-second time penalties for causing collisions.

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