Daniel Ricciardo has charged home from sixth to score a stunning first victory of the 2018 Formula One season at the Chinese Grand Prix. Ricciardo and Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen took advantage of a safety car period to pit for fresh, soft tyres while rivals stayed on medium rubber.
From there, Ricciardo’s overtaking show began as he overtook Kimi Räikkönen, Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas to grab the win by 8.8secs. Bottas held off Räikkönen in the dying stages to finish second for Mercedes.
Vettel led away from pole, building a lead of just over three seconds over Bottas in a drama free opening stint. Bottas was the first to pit for fresh rubber on Lap 19 with Vettel pitting a lap later. The undercut strategy worked perfectly for Mercedes and Bottas swept past Vettel into Turn 1.
Bottas held an advantage over Vettel as the pair began to catch Räikkönen, who was running a much longer opening stint. Räikkönen initially held off Bottas’ attack, but was powerless when his countryman flew around the outside of Turn 1. Vettel swiftly followed before being rebuffed by Bottas at Turn 6.
Bottas extended his advantage over the German and pulled out of DRS range when Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly went from hero to zero on Lap 30. Gasly misjudged an overtake and crashed into his team-mate Brendon Hartley at the Turn 14 hairpin, putting the New Zealander into a spin and scattering debris across the track.
The collision triggered a safety car intervention, during which the Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Ricciardo, who were running third and fifth either side of Hamilton, dove into the pits and rejoined fourth and sixth.
Upon race resumption, Ricciardo easily made his way past Räikkönen, who had only just switched to mediums before the safety car was deployed. Just ahead, Verstappen went off-track attempting to pass Hamilton on the outside of Turn 7 allowing Ricciardo into fourth before moving past Hamilton into the hairpin.
Ricciardo’s incredible surge continued as he hunted down Vettel over the next few laps. Using DRS, the Australian was able to breeze past the championship leader on the back straight before setting his sights on Bottas. With just 12 laps to go, Ricciardo got inside Bottas at Turn 4 and stormed away to win the race by 8.8secs ahead of Bottas.
Meanwhile, Verstappen attempted an opportunistic move on Vettel at the hairpin with 14 laps to go. When Vettel turned in, the pair collided and spun in unison allowing Räikkönen to overtake Hamilton as the Briton took evasive action.
The pair rejoined the race with Verstappen picking up a 10-second time penalty, dropping him behind Hamilton in the official classification. Vettel fell to eighth at the flag after struggling following the collision and was passed by Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, whose aggressive pass through the Turn 1-2 complex angered Vettel.
Hülkenberg’s team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen completed the top ten.