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2024 Chinese Grand Prix report and highlights: Max Verstappen cruises to victory over Lewis Hamilton in dramatic Shanghai Sprint

2024 Chinese Grand Prix report and highlights: Max Verstappen cruises to victory over Lewis Hamilton in dramatic Shanghai Sprint

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen returned to the top of the standings during Saturday's Sprint race at Shanghai International Circuit as he turned a low P4 position into a solid victory.

Verstappen worked his way steadily up the order during the 19-lap encounter, taking advantage of pole-sitter Lando Norris's off-track drive during the first lap and then completing moves on Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes.

With Hamilton in second, a thrilling battle for third eventually went to Sergio Perez after Alonso suffered a puncture, as the feuding Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, and McLaren drivers Norris, Oscar Piastri and George Russell – were on the daring soft. -Tire Strategy – Points completed.

Due to a revised format in play for the 2024 season, Friday afternoon's Sprint qualifying session set the grid for the 100km race, where points will be offered to the top eight finishers – from a maximum of eight for P1 to one point for P8.

It was Norris who started from pole after a stunning lap at the end of a pulsating and rain-soaked SQ3 stage, followed by a trio of world champions with 12 world titles between them: Hamilton (seven), Alonso (two) and Verstappen (three).

As the cars lined up on the grid and the wheel covers came off amid much better conditions, it was revealed that the vast majority of the field had chosen the medium compound tyre, with Russell the only driver opting for a more aggressive approach on the soft tyres.

As the lights went out, Hamilton rolled off the line to take the battle to Norris through Turns 1 and 2, with the McLaren driver sliding wide while rounding the second right-hander and falling heavily onto the road. to request.

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At the end of the first lap, Hamilton led Alonso, Verstappen, Sainz, Perez and Leclerc, with Norris falling to seventh behind teammate Piastri, while team champion Zhou Guanyu was ninth outside the points after a stuttering start for his team. His teammate Valtteri Bottas.

“Why is my battery dead?” Verstappen cursed over the radio at this stage, falling almost two seconds behind the Mercedes and Aston Martin cars of Hamilton and Alonso, who were only a few tenths apart as the DRS came into play and the battle for the lead began.

Meanwhile, Hamilton's team-mate Russell made good use of his soft tires to power his way up to 10th with a clean move on Kevin Magnussen's Haas into the final corner, although it remains to be seen whether the red flag rubber will hold. For race distance.

At this point, the stewards noted two incidents, with a Turn 6 moment involving Cho and Bottas being considered for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, and Lance Stroll and Nico Hulkenberg being considered for forcing another driver off the track – both of which were quickly stopped. It was rejected.

Just over a third of the way into the sprint, Hamilton had built up a small margin in Alonso's favor, with about 1.5 seconds separating the pair, with Verstappen working through his battery tools to put some pressure on the Aston Martin man.

At the end of lap 7, Verstappen got into Alonso's stream down the back straight, closed and completed a straight pass into the hairpin for P2, with his sights now set on leader Hamilton, who worryingly said over the radio that “this thing won't turn in low-speed corners.” .

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One lap later, those problems were highlighted when Hamilton spun wide at the hairpin and opened the door for Verstappen, who cut the gap to just half a second as they crossed the start/finish line and chased his former title rival through the first sector.

Hamilton was informed of the gap by his engineer when he reached the central sector, triggering a frustrating “Leave me to it” radio message, but there was nothing the Briton could do to halt the progress of the Dutchman, who successfully overtook another into the hairpin.

Verstappen powered into the distance as he and the RB20 cruised through the clean air, going 1.6 seconds faster than anyone else in the field the first time he asked, with attention shifting to the battles at the back as the final few laps passed.

While Hamilton remained comfortably in second place, Alonso began to fall into the clutches of Sainz, Perez, Leclerc and Norris, with a dramatic twist to the final third place, as the distant Piastri held on to the final points position over the soft-starting Russell.

On Lap 14, the cancellation took it to another level as Leclerc attempted a pass to Perez around the outside of the final hairpin, something he repeated one lap later, but closed strongly at the apex and left the positions unchanged.

However, Sainz then attacked Alonso heading into Turn 6 next time out, with a strong exit from the Ferrari resulting in the pair moving side-by-side through Turn 7, where the two Spaniards made contact – allowing Perez to close in and sneak past them. Both are on turn eight.

Alonso dropped back after suffering a puncture from that contact, losing several positions in the final sector, with both Ferraris approaching the final turn – prompting an angry radio message from Monaco – before Sainz and his team pulled away at Turn 2. His colleague snuck through.

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From there, the pole positions remained unchanged, with Verstappen beating Hamilton and Perez, while Leclerc, Sainz, Norris, Piastri and Russell completed the top eight and took the available points.

Cho had to settle for ninth at the end of his first home race, followed by Magnussen, RB's Daniel Ricciardo, Bottas' Kick Sauber, Alpine leaders Esteban Ocon and Stroll, who was the only Aston Martin to finish after that. Alonso pitted and retired.

Pierre Gasly finished 15th in the Alps, while Yuki Tsunoda (left back), Williams drivers Alex Albon and Logan Sargent and the Haas Hulkenberg team finished in the bottom two positions after the German's aforementioned accident with Stroll.

Main quote

“I think it will be much better than I thought it would be in the race,” Verstappen said afterwards. “Of course I wanted to win but I didn't think it would be like this.

“It seemed like after five or six laps, everyone had damaged their tires a little bit and we really started to take off basically. Of course we had a grade but a little bit lower than the others.

What then?

Following the Sprint Race, the drivers will then participate during qualifying for the Grand Prix later on Saturday, with the session scheduled to begin at 1500 local time. Go to Racing Center To find out how you can follow the procedure.