Five things we learned from the Chinese GP

Mixed conditions were always going to play a part in Shanghai, and we weren’t disappointed for racing action when the lights went out for round two in China…

Five things we learned from the Chinese GP

1: F1 2017 cars can overtake each other

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF70-H and Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB13

Photo by: Sutton Motorsport Images / sutton-images.com

After much doom mongering about the ability of the faster, wider, higher-downforce cars to pass one another, we got the answer in Shanghai – yes, they can!

And it wasn’t the artificial DRS-assisted passing we perhaps expected, it was good, old-fashioned outbraking moves that were the order of the day.

Highlighted by Max Verstappen’s charge from 16th to second in 11 laps, it was topped by Sebastian Vettel passing his old teammate Daniel Ricciardo around the outside at Turn 6, the pair banging wheels in a gritty display of bare-knuckle racing.

So what would you rather see, a high quantity of artificial passes, or a lower quantity of hard-earned manoeuvres? Now the die has been cast, and drivers can’t have too many excuses about not trying to make moves.

In fact, did the DRS actually hinder some passing opportunities? We heard Vettel allude, when behind Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, that he was being mired in the “DRS train” – where only the car that’s second in the queue has a true advantage over the one in front.

2: Red Bull still has much work to do

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB13, leads Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB13

Photo by: LAT Images

Despite Verstappen’s early-race heroics, the Red Bull duo ended the Chinese Grand Prix over 45s behind race winner Lewis Hamilton.

Once again, the RB13 seemed to have more troughs than peaks in terms of its consistency, and while Verstappen was able to grab it by the scruff of the neck in the slippery conditions, he struggled badly in the second half of the race.

Max later had to fend off teammate Daniel Ricciardo to take the final step on the podium, having outpaced him earlier, which seemed to reflect this inconsistency.

With limited track running, thanks to Friday’s miserable weather, Red Bull will be looking to rack up some serious miles in Bahrain to get a better understanding of why its operating window seems to be so narrow.

3: Sainz spins the wheel of chance – and wins

Carlos Sainz Jr., Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12, spins at the start, ahead of Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32

Photo by: LAT Images

Carlos Sainz joked that Toro Rosso team chief Franz Tost thought he was “mad” when he opted to start on supersoft slicks on a damp track, so you can only imagine what the otherwise taciturn Austrian might have said on the radio when Carlos spun behind the safety car...

But a quick recovery, and pitstops from those ahead of him, quickly put Sainz back where he belonged, and for a few delicious moments he was actually catching the Red Bulls and Ferraris ahead of him!

He couldn’t do much about beating fellow spinner Valtteri Bottas, but finished an unlapped seventh and best of the rest was a fine day’s work.

And a rich reward for his gamble.

4: Raikkonen needs to raise his game

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF70H, leads Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB13, and Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W08, out of the pits

Photo by: LAT Images

We’ve heard this one before: Kimi bemoaning a lack of “front end”. If there’s one flaw in his armoury, he’s always been very sensitive to feedback from what the front wheels are doing, especially on a front-limited track like Shanghai.

We’ve seen this at Ferrari previously – if they don’t listen to what he’s asking for, and increase his grip-level feeling, he’s going to keep struggling.

But if they do listen, like in 2007, he’s still capable of great things. You feel there could be trouble ahead if there is no resolution to this issue.

5: Wet standing starts rock!

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08, leads Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF70H, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W08, Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF70H, at the start

Photo by: LAT Images

We seem to have been saddled with safety-car starts in wet races in recent years, and although it still remains at the discretion of the race director – who can now order a standing start after a safety car period – that wasn't required in Shanghai.

With the majority of the field starting on intermediate tyres on the damp startline surface, it went off without a hitch, and hopefully this becomes the norm in future wet-race starts – and in even more testing conditions too.

Who knows, they might go back to changing gear with their hand instead of their fingers one day…

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