After the Formula One season opener in Melbourne, Australia on March 26, many suspected 2017 would be full of one-stop races with few on-track passes. But during the Chinese Grand Prix, those fears were dispelled.
Although Lewis Hamilton maintained a gap to the cars behind on his way to winning Sunday’s race at Shanghai International Circuit, the 56-lap event was far from boring. It had everything fans could want in a Grand Prix, including changing weather conditions, a safety car, a virtual safety car and plenty of overtakes, the majority of which were completed without the assistance of DRS.
Unsurprisingly, many of these moves were made by Max Verstappen, as the 19-year-old started from P19. With a damp track at the start of the race, Verstappen worked his way up to P7 in just one lap, eventually finishing P3. The Dutchman wasn’t the only driver on the offensive in China, though.
Following his win in Australia, Sebastian Vettel had another strong performance, claiming second place. On his way to P2, the German was caught in a battle with his former teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who gave him no quarter.
Vettel ultimately got by him around the outside of Turn 6 on Lap 22, though Ricciardo didn’t give up without a fight. The two were side-by-side exiting the corner, providing fans the closest and most literal wheel-to-wheel action of the day.
Interestingly, Turn 6 also was the site of the second most interesting battle; on Lap 34, Carlos Sainz Jr. passed fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso into the tight right-hander. Even though Sainz’s STR12 was much faster than Alonso’s MCL32, the fight was extremely dramatic.
Although 2017-spec F1 cars might make following other cars more challenging, the Chinese Grand Prix proved they won’t necessarily make races more boring. On the contrary, drivers now have to try new lines when behind other cars, allowing for exciting battles even outside DRS zones.
Considering many people complain F1 races are too parade-like, cars that force drivers to adapt their driving styles from lap to lap might be exactly what the sport needs right now.
Thumbnail photo via Red Bull Content Pool