Key Caution, Aid In Ricciardo Stealing Chinese Grand Prix Victory

What a fluky day it was on Sunday in China. Nothing against Daniel Ricciardo, but this was one of his finest drives in his Formula One career. But, in order to do so, it took some major luck.

No one, and I mean no one, had Ricciardo taking his No. 3 Red Bull Renault to victory in this weekend’s Heineken Chinese Grand Prix. I mean, if you did, you may need your head examined. That’s not a shot to Ricciardo either. It’s just the truth. 

Ricciardo, barely completed a lap in Bahrain before a mechanical problem. Then, in two of the three practice sessions this weekend in China, more problems. His car literally caught on fire in one of them. He was two minutes away from not even qualifying.

Plus, he was rolling off sixth in the race, behind both Ferrari’s, both Mercedes drivers and his teammate Max Verstappen.

Ferrari’s have shown a resurgence with Sebastian Vettel taking the first two wins of the 2018 Formula 1 season. Plus, for the second straight race, it was an all Ferrari front row lockout.

Then, Mercedes locked out Row 2. They have won four straight Chinese Grand Prix’s and seven of the last eight.

Ricciardo, with so many problems with his car, had to pass all four of those cars to go along with his teammate.

He did just that and more.

Ricciardo, won his sixth career F1 race on Sunday, all coming from a starting spot outside of the front row. It was the first win for Red Bull in China since 2009. He lucked out in it too.

First, pole sitter Vettel hit pit road on a one stop strategy on Lap 21. But, a slower than normal stop put Valtteri Bottas ahead when Vettel exited pit lane. Then, the only caution of the day flew nine laps later when Toro Rosso teammates Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley collided on course in the hairpen on Lap 30.

At the time, Ricciardo was pitting for the second time of the race. See, he was on a two-stop strategy. That VSC bunched up the field and Ricciardo had fresher tires. On top of that, Kimi Raikkonen was shown as the leader when Vettel pitted, but his strategy cost him. Bottas passed him shortly after, so Raikkonen hit pit road when he lost the lead. He’d come out of the pits sixth.

So, under the VSC, Ricciardo had fresher tires than everyone else and was ahead of Raikkonen. Then, Vettel and Verstappen made contact with one another causing both to spin. Two more positions gained for Ricciardo.

Neither Mercedes had anything for him, so Ricciardo easily took the lead and never looked back en route to a victory by 8.894-seconds.

For the second straight race, Bottas brought his No. 77 Mercedes home runner-up. Raikkonen lucked out and finished third in his No. 7 Ferrari. Basically a flip flop of their practice order.

Raikkonen, was second in all three practice sessions while Bottas was third. They even started the race that way. But, Raikkonen had to settle for his second podium in three races.

Hamilton, finished fourth in his No. 44 Mercedes while Verstappen was issued a 10 second penalty for the contact with Vettel and finished fifth in his No. 33 Red Bull Renault. Vettel, would finish eighth while Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso finished sixth and seventh respectively.

Heineken Chinese Grand Prix Results

  1.  3 Ricciardo
  2. 77 Bottas
  3.  7 Raikkonen
  4. 44 Hamilton
  5. 33 Verstappen
  6. 27 Hulkenberg
  7. 14 Alonso
  8.  5 Vettel
  9. 55 Sainz
  10. 20 Magnussen
  11. 31 Ocon
  12. 11 Perez
  13.  2 Vandoorne
  14. 18 Stroll
  15. 35 Sirotkin R
  16.  9 Ericsson
  17.  8 Grosjean
  18. 10 Gasly R
  19. 19 Leclerc R
  20. 28 Hartley R

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