Max Verstappen eclipses Lewis Hamilton to win Chinese Grand Prix

By Sports Desk April 19, 2024

Max Verstappen denied Lewis Hamilton the first sprint win of his career after passing his rival to win in China on Saturday.

Hamilton started second, and rolled back the years at the Shanghai International Circuit by beating pole-sitter Lando Norris off the line, and taking control of the 19-lap charge to the chequered flag.

But Verstappen, who started fourth, ended Hamilton’s dream of re-entering the winner’s enclosure for the first time in 867 days when he blasted past the Mercedes driver on the ninth lap.

Verstappen crossed the line 13 seconds clear of Hamilton with Sergio Perez taking third.

Hamilton joined Norris to form an all-British front-row in something of a topsy-turvy grid following yesterday’s rain-hit qualifying session.

The seven-time world champion was quicker away from his marks than Norris, and as they entered the first corner, he was fractionally ahead of his compatriot.

Hamilton hugged the inside line of the long, right-handed first bend, with Norris desperately trying to remain at least on level terms.

But off the racing line, Norris struggled for grip, and he slid off the track, dropping back down the field to seventh.

Hamilton, who has endured the worst-ever start to a season in his misfiring Mercedes machine, was back in the lead of an F1 race, with Fernando Alonso tucked in behind and Verstappen being forced to fend off Carlos Sainz.

“Why is my battery flat,” yelled Verstappen as he struggled to make any impression on Alonso ahead.

For a moment, it looked as though Hamilton could be in a position to take the victory – his first of any sort in F1 since the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on December 5, 2021, only for Verstappen to sensationally unlock the speed in his all-conquering Red Bull machine.

On the seventh lap, Verstappen passed Alonso at the penultimate corner and then set about closing the 1.8-second gap to Hamilton.

The Mercedes driver was immediately on the radio. “This thing won’t turn in the low-speed corners,” he bemoaned, with Verstappen taking a second out of his lead in just one lap.

At the start of lap nine, Verstappen was crawling all over the back of Hamilton’s mirrors in scenes reminiscent of their championship battle for the ages back in 2021.

Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington came on the intercom to tell Hamilton that Verstappen was behind.

“Leave me to it, man,” snapped Hamilton. “I can see him.”

Verstappen moved into Hamilton’s tow on the 210mph drag to the last-but one corner before jinking to the right of the Mercedes and launching his Red Bull up the inside.

Hamilton was unable to afford any sort of resistance and Verstappen made the move stick. He then demonstrated the speed of his Red Bull by establishing a two-second lead in just one lap.

Further back, and Alonso, 43 this summer, was commendably keeping a gaggle of faster cars behind.

But his resistance ended on a fascinating 16th lap which saw him go wheel-to-wheel with the Ferrari of Sainz.

Alonso and Sainz even banged wheels through the seventh corner with Perez able to sneak ahead of the duelling duo. Charles Leclerc followed through, too, as Alonso lost three places in one lap before diving into the pits with a front-right puncture. He later retired the car.

Sainz then appeared to force team-mate Leclerc off the road as they battled for fourth position in the closing stages.

“What the f***,” yelled Leclerc who managed to pass his team-mate a few corners later to finished fourth. Sainz crossed the line in fifth with Norris sixth.

Speaking after the race, Hamilton said he was pleased with the result.

“This is the best result I have had in a long time so I am super happy,” he said.

“This is a huge step and a huge improvement. The rain helped yesterday. The race was tough and if I started further back I would have struggled to make progress.”

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  • Hamilton labels Verstappen collision as a "racing incident" as pair avoid punishment Hamilton labels Verstappen collision as a "racing incident" as pair avoid punishment

    Lewis Hamilton labelled his clash with Max Verstappen at the Hungarian Grand Prix as a "racing incident" after finishing third on Sunday. 

    Hamilton and Verstappen made contact coming into turn one at the Hungaroring with seven laps of the race remaining. 

    The Dutchman attempted to go on the inside of his former rival to secure the final podium place, but in doing so locked up his front tyres. 

    Verstappen and Hamilton made contact, with the three-time world champion briefly sent into the air and off the track as he was overtaken by Ferrari's Charles Leclerc. 

    The stewards swiftly placed the incident under investigation and conducted their analysis of it after the race, with the pair both escaping punishment for the collision. 

    "For me it was a racing incident," Hamilton told Sky Sports. 

    "Ultimately he was much quicker and he sent it. I moved a little to defend, but I left enough space on the inside and he locked up and obviously then couldn't turn.

    "He came at a different trajectory and clipped my wheels. If he was under control he would have gone by."

    “It’s nerve-wracking when you see the pace at which they close the gap on corners," Hamilton added of Red Bull's pace.

    "You just laugh to yourself because it’s not something I can do, particularly on the last sector they were very very strong, same as the McLarens.

    “I saw him coming from a long way back and he was able to brake a lot later than me, but he sent it up the inside, I stayed still and he clipped the wheel and went over, so I think it was a racing incident."

    Hamilton's third-place finish saw him claim a 200th podium, the first driver in the history of the competition to reach that milestone. 

    The seven-time world champion, who claimed 49 of those podium finishes with McLaren, was pleased to see his former team produce their first one-two since the Italian Grand Prix in 2021. 

    “Big thanks to this amazing crowd and a huge congratulations to the McLarens with the one-two, that’s my old original family so it’s great to see," Hamilton said. 

    “For us, the team have done a great job at pushing this car ultimately, we didn’t have the pace of the McLarens or of the Red Bulls but we were just able to hold on at the beginning of the race, it was very tough to hold on and make those tyres last."

  • Verstappen fumes at 's***' Red Bull strategy after finishing fifth at Hungarian Grand Prix Verstappen fumes at 's***' Red Bull strategy after finishing fifth at Hungarian Grand Prix

    Max Verstappen raged at Red Bull's strategy after finishing fifth at the Hungarian Grand Prix, declaring the team are no longer able to rely on a pace advantage.

    Verstappen recorded his joint second-worst finish of the year at the Hungaroring as Oscar Piastri led Lando Norris in a McLaren one-two.

    The three-time world champion's race was defined by a collision with old rival Lewis Hamilton, coming into contact with the Mercedes on lap 63 when he overshot a corner on an attempted overtake.

    Verstappen vented his frustrations over team radio, telling race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase: "You gave me this s*** strategy. I'm trying to rescue what's left."

    Speaking to Sky Sports after the race, the Dutchman refused to apologise for those comments as he said: "I don't think we need to apologise. 

    "I just think we need to do a better job. I don't know why people think you cannot be vocal on a radio. This is a sport. If some people don't like that, then stay home."

    Verstappen, who also dropped below Charles Leclerc late on, continued: "I'm not happy.

    "On a day when we're lacking pace compared to McLaren, you hope we do the right things with strategy, which was not the case.

    "You can't rely on a little pace advantage. Maybe last year when the car was quite a lot faster than everyone else, but in the position we are in now, we can't do that.

    "Naturally that frustrates me because I want things to be done better. I'm realistic.

    "Today we couldn't have beaten the McLarens, but a P3 was on the cards if we were on it a bit more."

  • Norris puts team first as McLaren secure Hungarian Grand Prix one-two Norris puts team first as McLaren secure Hungarian Grand Prix one-two

    Lando Norris said he will always put the team first after handing fellow McLaren driver Oscar Piastri his maiden Formula One victory at Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix.

    Norris started on pole at the Hungaroring but dropped two places at the first corner as team-mate Piastri and world champion Max Verstappen surpassed him.

    Verstappen later fell away and ultimately finished fifth, while Norris inched ahead of Piastri after making an earlier pitstop.

    Norris – who claimed his first win at the Miami Grand Prix in May – was repeatedly asked to hand the lead back to Piastri but refused to do so until two laps before the finish.

    It looked like Norris might refuse the order as engineer Will Joseph told him he would need Piastri's support to push for the world championship, but he told reporters after the race he would always prioritise the team. 

    "It's tough. It would be tough for anyone when you're leading the race to give it up," Norris told Sky Sports. "I was obviously put in the position. 

    "They made me box first and gave me the chance to lead the race and pull away quite comfortably and to do what I was doing.

    "I think it was fair to give the position back. I don't want to come across as the guy who is not fair. Oscar has done a lot for me in the past and helped me in many races.

    "He drove a better race than I did. He got a good start, a better start and mine sucked. He deserved it and it was the right thing to do."

    McLaren team principal Andrea Stella, meanwhile, was proud of the drivers' efforts, telling Sky Sports: "We are on this trajectory together. 

    "None of us – the team, Lando or Oscar – can go alone. That's the message that we discussed on Sunday morning.

    "With racing drivers you need to refresh this message. That's why we have this meeting every Sunday.

    "We are extremely pleased by how our drivers are supporting the trajectory of McLaren which is incredible. For me, that's the news today."

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