July 16, 2024
Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen fought past Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso to win the Chinese Grand Prix sprint race.

Pole-sitter Lando Norris slid wide at the first corner trying to fend off Hamilton’s Mercedes.

Verstappen took a few laps to find his feet in the Red Bull but soon homed in on his rivals ahead.

Alonso hung on until late on when Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz overtook him before Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took advantage to pass both for third.

Sainz then fought with team-mate Charles Leclerc, the two Ferraris touching wheels at the hairpin before an unhappy Leclerc prevailed to take fourth ahead of the Spaniard and a disappointed Norris.

Alonso, after pitting to change a tyre punctured in his clash with Sainz, was told within a lap to retire the car because of damage.

Verstappen said: “The first few laps were quite hectic. They were pushing quite hard up front and I had Carlos behind with new tyres and it was very difficult to keep him behind.

“Then as the race went on we became stronger and I felt more comfortable with the balance of the car and could look after my tyres. Very pleased with that.”

The win gave him another eight points towards a fourth championship that already appears inevitable.

Max Verstappen’s win had an easy certainty about it as he clinically went about his business of dispatching his rivals from fourth on the grid, achieved in a hectic wet qualifying session on Friday.

He pulled out a 13-second advantage in just 10 laps, leaving little hope for the grand prix on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton’s second place was by far his best result of a season that has started in a difficult fashion for a Mercedes team struggling with their new car.

Hamilton: “That’s the best result I’ve had in a long time so I am super-happy and grateful, this is a huge step and improvement.

“The race was tough and if I was further back I would have struggled to progress, I found a lot about this car through this short stint so I am excited about tomorrow.”

It was behind the two men who fought out a bitter title fight in 2021 where all the action took place.

Heading into the second half of the race, Alonso was leading a train of cars involving Sainz, Perez, Leclerc and Norris.

The veteran Spaniard, who last week signed a new two-year contract with Aston Martin that will keep him in F1 until at least 2026, looked to have the measure of Sainz.

But as Alonso’s tyres began to fade into the closing laps, Sainz attacked, attempting to go around the Aston Martin through the fast Turns Seven and Eight with three laps to go.

As the two Spaniards fought wheel to wheel, the cars appeared to touch, which may have been where Alonso sustained the damage that forced his retirement and Perez managed to sneak ahead of both to take third place.

Behind him, Sainz then immediately came under attack from Leclerc, who drew alongside down the long back straight and tried to pass around the outside of the hairpin at the end of it.

Sainz ran wide and the two cars touched wheels as an unhappy Leclerc was forced off the track, but the man who is staying at Ferrari at the end of this season passed the one who is leaving at Turn One at the start of then next lap to take fourth.

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