Motor racing - World champion Verstappen 'on another planet' with victory in China

Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit in Shanghai on Sunday, April 21, 2024. - AFP

SHANGHAI, April 21 (Reuters): Triple world champion Max Verstappen won Formula One's first Chinese Grand Prix in five years on Sunday with McLaren's Lando Norris finishing a surprise second to deny dominant Red Bull the one-two.

The crushing victory from pole position at a Shanghai circuit that last hosted a grand prix in 2019 was Verstappen's fourth in five races in 2024 and came after he also won the season's first Saturday sprint.

Mexican team mate Sergio Perez, Verstappen's closest championship rival but now 25 points behind, completed the podium after a dry race with two safety car periods that compromised his race.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished fourth and fifth respectively with Mercedes's George Russell sixth and Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso seventh with a bonus point for fastest lap.

The victory was the 58th of Verstappen's career and Shanghai became the 26th track he has won at.

"It felt amazing. All weekend I think we were incredibly quick. It was just enjoyable to drive," said the 26-year-old who took the chequered flag 13.773 seconds clear of Norris.

"The car was basically on rails and I could do whatever I wanted to with it."

Team boss Christian Horner summed up the situation by describing Verstappen, who has won all the races he has finished this year, as a man driving "on another planet".

Red Bull are now 44 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors' standings.

Norris ensured China was the season's first race without one team finishing first and second -- Ferrari having taken the one-two in Australia and Red Bull the rest -- with his 15th career podium and eighth second place.

"I just wasn't expecting today at all," said the Briton, who started fourth on the grid and was voted Driver of the Day.

"I got everything ready to go home early and not be on the podium, so it's a pleasant surprise.

"I made a bet to how far behind the Ferrari we would finish today. I thought 35 seconds and I was very wrong by that. So happy to be wrong with myself, and my own bets."

His only wrong moves came after the finish when Norris returned to the pit lane rather than parking up alongside Verstappen and Perez on the straight, and later when he picked up the cap for third-placed driver.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, April 21, 2024. - APRed Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, April 21, 2024. - AP


China's first and only driver Zhou Guanyu, in his first home race, had the honour of parking behind the Red Bulls and crouched in tears before saluting the crowd. The Sauber driver finished 14th.

McLaren's Oscar Piastri finished eighth, with Mercedes's seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton going from 18th on the grid to ninth and Nico Hulkenberg taking the final point for Haas.

The 56-lap race started with the Red Bulls on the front row but Alonso seizing second from Perez as Verstappen disappeared into the distance.

The Mexican took back the place on lap five, with Verstappen already five seconds down the road, and Norris then overtook Alonso on lap seven.

Norris took the lead on lap 13 when both Red Bulls pitted, with Verstappen rejoining in fourth place and hitting the front again on lap 19.

The first safety car was deployed, after a brief virtual period, on lap 23 when Sauber's Valtteri Bottas parked up with a failed engine and marshals struggled to shift the car which was stuck in gear.

Leclerc and Norris were able to take advantage by pitting and getting ahead of Perez.

There was then mayhem at the lap 27 re-start, with Aston Martin's Lance Stroll ploughing into the back of Daniel Ricciardo's RB, the Australian in turn shunted into compatriot Oscar Piastri's McLaren.

Haas's Kevin Magnussen and RB's Yuki Tsunoda also tangled, with the Japanese retiring and the Dane limping back to the pits with a damaged and sparking car.

Stroll and Magnussen were both given 10-second penalties for causing a collision while Williams's Logan Sargeant collected the same sanction for a safety car infringement. Ricciardo retired in the pits on lap 34.

Norris switched to a one-stop strategy after the safety car period with Perez unable to close the gap after passing Leclerc for third.

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Peter Rutherford and Clare Fallon) - Reuters

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China , Grand Prix , F1 , Verstappen , Dominant Victory


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