Daniel Ricciardo sprinted home on fresher tyres and overtook Kimi Räikkönen, Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas to grab victory at the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix by 8.8secs. There was disaster for Ricciardo’s team-mate Verstappen as well as Vettel after the pair collided when the Red Bull driver attempted an opportunistic move at the hairpin with 14 laps to go. Meanwhile, it was a race to forget for Pierre Gasly just one week after finishing fourth in Bahrain.
We bring you what the drivers and key team personnel had to say after a wild weekend in Shanghai.
Daniel Ricciardo: “That was fun, a lot of fun and I just about believe it now. From where we were yesterday you would not have believed we would be here today. For me this is a massive reward for the mechanics and engineers, they really earned this victory. Not only for the pit stops and strategy today but for getting me out in Qualifying yesterday which enabled me to get in the fight for victory, they should be very, very proud. The problem in free practice wasn’t their fault but they did all the hard work and made today happen.
“At the start of the race I thought we could fight for a podium but I didn’t really expect a win; then after the safety car and when I could see the way the race was going I knew we had a chance. Once I had a sniff of victory I wasn’t going to let it go.
“The team made a very quick decision to stop both cars under the safety car and it was a winning decision. I have lots of emotions. On the in lap I was just smiling and I didn’t have many words, then on the podium I was nearly in tears and in the press conference I was just thinking about the whole race and also about last week; how disappointed this sport can make you feel but also how high it can make you feel. It’s like some sort of drug I guess and now we can all celebrate tonight.”
Max Verstappen: “Not the result I wanted today, we missed a great opportunity for a double podium. I tried to pass Lewis on the outside but there were too many marbles and I went a bit wide, it was a shame as I was in a good position but ended up losing a position to Daniel. It was still an open race with the possibility to finish first and second but unfortunately I made some mistakes.
“Seb was struggling a bit on the tyres so I knew I had an opportunity, I tried to take him on the inside but locked the rears and ended up hitting him. I am disappointed with myself that this is the outcome of the race. The team executed everything perfectly today, we had a great strategy and the car was behaving well so it is a real shame. It isn’t going my way at the minute so I’ll go away and analyse this and hopefully come back stronger. A massive well done to the team on such a strong weekend and of course to Daniel on the race win.”
Christian Horner (Team Principal): “To achieve our first victory of the year here in China was the result of a fantastic team effort. A strong strategy and a great performance by the pit crew, who have done an amazing job all weekend particularly with the engine change on Daniel’s car; and Daniel drove an amazing race and fully deserved victory. His passes were exemplary and the strategy really came alive for us under the safety car. We made a late call to get both cars in and again the second double stop was clinically executed and they did an unbelievable job.
“For Max the first part of the race was going very well for him, unfortunately he lost time on the outside of Lewis, dropped behind Daniel, and then, when attempting a pass on Sebastian, he made contact resulting in a 10 second penalty. He still managed to bring the car home in fifth; it is a result I am sure he will be frustrated with, but performance today bodes well for the coming season. Speaking of a team effort, any win begins with all of the guys and girls back at the factory and the dedication and hard work there, and that allows us to enjoy moments like this.”
Valtteri Bottas: “I think the overall feeling is definitely disappointment because we are here to win and we didn’t, even though we were leading quite a big part of the race. Especially how everything went in the beginning. Then, at the pit stop, the team did a perfect job and I also felt that I maximised the in-lap.
“[Ricciardo] was really closing in quickly and there was a big pace difference. I think they had a really strong car and on top of that they had fresh tyres at that point. Seeing how the pace disappeared afterwards, it was only a matter of time.
“It really felt like I could get everything out of the car but unfortunately the result wasn’t what we wanted. I’m looking forward to Baku. It’s another great opportunity. Now it’s two races in a row that I have been so close to winning. I’m so hungry for the win.”
Lewis Hamilton: “We lacked pace from Saturday onwards. Everything was good on Friday and then the car kind of turned upside down. It was unstable and didn’t turn into the corners. There was a lot of performance that we were losing. I definitely feel like I was on the top of my game this weekend. I came prepared exactly the same as always. I just struggled with the car and was uncomfortable on Saturday and Sunday. We have to try and figure it out.
“I don’t know if anyone expected [Red Bull] to be as quick as they were. I mean, after the Safety Car, I stayed out and initially thought this was good. I was right behind Sebastian and maybe I had a chance. I looked in my mirrors and the Red Bulls were right behind me on brand new tyres. I’m like, ‘how the hell did that happen?’ I knew that they would come by, I was already struggling.
“We have some improving to do but it is not impossible. What this team has shown over the years is that we are great at staying united, continuing to battle along and keep working. Everyone here and back at the factory is just going to keep pushing hard as possible. I’m also pushing very hard trying to encourage them, so they know which kind of areas with the car we are struggling most and can really look into it.”
Toto Wolff (Team Principal): “You can see when we hit the sweet spot like we did in Melbourne we are very fast. The pace of the car is very good, but we didn’t hit it yesterday (Saturday) and today we were just too slow. In Formula One there is never a quick fix. You can see how fast the picture can change.
“In testing and in Melbourne you could have predicted that we would run away with the Championship because the car was so dominant. And here we go, three races in, and we’re not. In my opinion, this is a great group of people. We will stick our heads together, stay calm, get the head down, and come up with solutions. I have huge confidence in our people. They’ve proved that in the past.”
“Our calculation predicted the Medium would last to the end and putting a new Soft we thought wouldn’t give you such a performance advantage. It was much more than we expected. Now, looking back, it wasn’t the right strategy. It would have been the right strategy to go with the second Soft. Nobody in the team including myself thought it was the right thing to do. Red Bull made a bold call in pitting them both for Softs. It was interesting to do and it proved to be 100% spot on.”
Kimi Räikkönen: “It was quite a painful race and not a very enjoyable one. At the start I had a good jump, but then I had to back off and this cost me a few places. After the pit stop the car was pretty fast and the feeling was good; at that point we were behind, but I could see the other cars at the end of the straight.
“The safety car helped us, at that time we had fresh tyres. I would say it took us back in the race. In the end I had a decent speed with the Mediums against the guys that were on the same tires, but getting close to them and try to follow was really tricky.
“For sure we were faster than Valtteri, but when you get close it becomes more difficult, you lose so much grip in the process and lose so much downforce, especially in this kind of circuit. I just couldn’t get enough of a run on him. Today we take the third place, but obviously when you start from the first row it’s far from ideal. We’ll try to do better next time.”
Sebastian Vettel: “I was lucky to end my race. After a collision like the one I had, I think we could have even stopped there. Obviously, the lucky thing is that the car was still working, even if the balance was gone. We lost the lead after the pit stop and that was not ideal. We were quite sure we would have come out in front, but we didn’t.
“The timing of the Safety Car was bad for both me and Valtteri, because we had no chance to react. After that it was clear that Red Bull was faster and I think there was no point to resist much at the way Daniel approached from behind, and then the same happened with Max. I gave him some room just in case he had a bit of tire lock-up, but then obviously he had a big one and that’s why we crashed. I think he realized he was wrong.
“We were both lucky to continue but it was not necessary. However, I appreciated the fact he came to me straightway because that’s the way to solve things like this, face to face. But obviously this is not the result we were looking for.”
Maurizio Arrivabene (Team Principal): “Today’s result was definitely not the one we were aiming for, given that we were starting from the front row. Our race pace wasn’t bad, but this was a Grand Prix in which the many variables made the difference. Kimi made it to the podium and Sebastian limited the damage in a car which, after the collision, was not in the best of conditions for a fight. Now it’s important for us to maintain concentration and determination, already thinking about the next race in Baku.”
Nico Hülkenberg: “Everyone seemed to have low grip at the start with cars sliding all over the place. We were on a two-stop strategy from the beginning, so we had to make the tyre last, while maintaining strong pace.
“It paid off well, the safety car played to our hands and made things easier, but even without the safety car I think we would have come out on top. The pace was good today and we were on top of the midfield, so not a bad day overall. Eight points, we’ll take that home. It was an entertaining one, that’s for sure!”
Carlos Sainz Jr: “Double points for the team again this year! Well done! I made a really good start moving on one of the Red Bulls but he squeezed me out on the first lap, moving back a couple of places behind Nico. From there we managed to cover two-stops with the aid of the safety car.
On my last stint, traffic behind Alonso and Magnussen degraded my tyres too much and I had to save them in order to have a better opportunity at the end of the race. It was really close with Vettel. Had there been another lap I would have had him. Overall, I’m happy to score more points but I still need to work hard with my engineers to get full confidence with the car.”
Cyril Abiteboul (Team Principal): “Today was obviously a good day for the team which shows we are gaining in maturity. We had decent starting positions with both cars in the top ten, but that actually put us in a difficult position with our race strategy as we knew we would have to do two stops when the competitors around us were in a position to complete the race with one. But thanks to a strong first lap and many very clean overtaking moves from our drivers we made that work.
“The safety car helped slightly, but I don’t think it would have changed much. The team is building and getting stronger across the board. Our pace was encouraging, as was the win of Daniel Ricciardo, showing the Renault power unit is getting there and is a race-win capable engine.”
Fernando Alonso: “Again, on Sundays we seem to deliver better than any other day, which is good as this is when points are given out. It was a well-executed race from our side – P13 at the start and P11 after the first lap. The Safety Car didn’t play into our hands as we were on a one-stop strategy and we’d just pitted onto good, fresh tyres which were going to take us to the end, but the Safety Car gave everyone else the opportunity to pit.
“We had good battles with Haas and Ferrari, even though the latter wasn’t really a fair fight as Sebastian [Vettel] apparently had damage on his car and was struggling in the corners. We caught up with him, saw that the door was open in one corner, so we went for it.
“P7 is a great result for the team after a difficult weekend, but there’s no doubt that we have to improve. Our pace wasn’t there all weekend and we were still not fast enough in the race. It was great to see more people here in the grandstands than in previous years, thanks to the Chinese fans!”
Stoffel Vandoorne: “I didn’t have a great start today and lost a few places on the opening lap. I managed to make three solid overtakes to make a few positions back before the pit-stop. The question for us was whether to make one or two stops when racing the other cars around us, and unfortunately our one-stop strategy didn’t really pay off in the end because the others around us benefitted from pitting under the Safety Car.
“We thought there might be more opportunities at the end, but we didn’t have the pace and I felt a strong vibration in the car which made the last few laps difficult. It wasn’t the day we were hoping for, but despite this, we still showed that our race pace today was stronger than our qualifying pace. We’re working hard to improve this and our performance on Saturdays, and hopefully we can have a stronger weekend in Baku.”
Éric Boullier (McLaren Racing Director): “While today was the tough race we expected, we were still able to show our fighting spirit and bring home some more valuable points. Fernando made a good start, and was up to P11 by the end of the third lap. He managed to maintain strong pace compared to those around him despite the Safety Car period, executed a good strategy, and made a couple of stunning overtakes in the final stages of the race to cross the line in seventh.
“On the other side of the garage, Stoffel wasn’t as lucky today. He had a slow start off the line and found himself with an uphill struggle after losing a couple of places. He responded strongly though, making some solid overtakes and managing his tyres well. In the latter stages, when his competitors were on fresher rubber, he battled hard in the midfield despite suffering from a strong vibration which made the final laps tricky to manage. He gave it everything to finish in 13th but it was a tough day for him, and we hope for better fortunes in Baku.
Kevin Magnussen: “I just got unlucky with the safety car. Our strategy was paying off to begin with, but then we got the safety car at a bad time. We didn’t get the advantage out of the strategy that we would’ve had otherwise. I don’t know if we should’ve pitted. It was a tough choice.
“I just think the safety car came at a very unlucky time and it meant we couldn’t score more than the one point. That’s still okay, but we had hoped for a bit more. It’s a long season and, hopefully, we’ll keep scoring points. I’m proud of how we’re performing as a team. We need to keep that up.”
Romain Grosjean: “We made a ballsy strategy going on the ultrasofts to mediums. Unfortunately, the misfortune kept going with me because I knew from the safety car in the middle of the race – when I was on the very long stint on the medium – we were not going to pit. I knew it would be very difficult at the restart, and it was.
“I tried to hang on to P11 as long as I could but, eventually, the two Force Indias passed me. We came in for another set of ultrasofts for the last 10 laps. They were encouraging as there was very low degradation, and the car felt really good. I knew things were going to be very difficult at the safety car, though.”
Guenther Steiner (Team Principal): “A tough finish to the day. The safety car destroyed our race, obviously. I think we were on the way to be seventh with Kevin, and eighth or ninth with Romain. The Renaults got a free pit stop and, therefore, we ended up where we were. We couldn’t get the tires back up to temperature after the safety car.
“Kevin fought hard to finish 10th, and Romain just had to change tires again as we couldn’t get any temperature into them anymore. It’s a tough end to the day but, again, we showed that we can fight in the positions that we fought in from the last two races. I think in some places we can be best of the rest. We go with a positive attitude to Baku and try to do there what we haven’t done over the first three races.”
Esteban Ocon: “We were so close to scoring points today, but the events of the race didn’t really help us. It was a messy start and we lost some time, and we didn’t make any progress. The race was starting to come back to us because we pitted early and the two-stop strategy looked to be working well. We were on course to finish in the points until the Safety Car came out.
“After that it was a big push until the end of the race, but I was stuck behind Grosjean for too long and he defended very well. Ultimately, this cost me the chance of overtaking Magnussen and getting back in the points. It’s another race where things didn’t play into our hands, but the pace was competitive so we focus on the positives.”
Sergio Pérez: “It was another race ruined on the first lap. The start was chaotic and I ran into a lot of trouble. I was pushed wide by a Renault at the exit of turn four and lost a lot of places there. That pretty much ruined our whole weekend. We were suddenly on the back foot, on the weaker tyre and there was very little I could do.
“We got close to the points and the team made a strategy call that gave me an opportunity to try and pass Kevin [Magnussen] but there was not enough time. We can focus on the positives: we are getting closer to our competition. Yesterday we took a step forward; we made another improvement today and I am confident that once we get to Europe we can start picking up some stronger results.”
Robert Fernley (Deputy Team Principal): “A difficult opening lap put us on the back foot and saw both cars drop down the order. Despite a pace advantage we were stuck in traffic, which forced us to pit both cars early in an attempt to undercut the cars ahead of us. Both cars were following two-stop strategies and after the Safety Car it was a case of trying to recover to the points, which we very nearly did.
“It was one of those afternoons where a combination of factors played against us and into the hands of others. The pace of the car was solid and that’s definitely a positive to take away we prepare for Baku.”
Lance Stroll: “It was a great start again and, like in Bahrain, I made up five or six positions at the start. Then after that I believe we raced the maximum out of the car. We were not very lucky with the safety car, because the guys on two stops got a free pitstop in front of us.
“I think the Force Indias were possible to beat today, not on pure pace, but with the good start and everything. It was a bit of a shame, but I am really happy with the race. We got our strategy done and I believe we got everything out of it today.”
Sergey Sirotkin: “It was a difficult race. I had nothing to lose so I had to fight at the start. I tried to get some positions but when you’re right in the midfield it’s difficult to do something and I think I could have managed better. Afterwards I really struggled to find the pace. It was quite difficult to find the window with the tyre and it was a very tough first stint.
“At some points when I was in free air for a few laps it was stabilising a bit, but overall it was really tricky. We pitted for a new set of mediums and then new softs under the safety car. I don’t know what happened to them but they had far less grip than the mediums so we lost quite a bit with that, then we were just trying to get to the end of the race.”
Paddy Lowe (Chief Techinical Officer): “Although these aren’t great results, and certainly not in the points, compared to where we were in Bahrain it’s fantastic get two cars to the finish in 14th and 15th. We were certainly in the race today whereas in Bahrain we were not even competing, so a much more positive feeling for everyone and something we can build on in the weeks to come.
“Both cars had really good starts off the line with Lance taking the most profit out of it, through turns one and two, and getting as high as 12th with Sergey 15th. We always planned the one stop soft-medium and we stuck with that as it was working very well for us.
“The safety car didn’t help us that much but we took the opportunity to put Sergey on the soft tyre, which appeared to be a better tyre for us and for this circuit, as indeed it appeared to be for the front runners. On pace, we were able to beat the Saubers but through strategy, we were able to beat both Toro Rosso cars, as well as the Haas of Grosjean.”
Marcus Ericsson: “I had a good start today, but lost a few positions after I went slightly off-track in one of the turns. Overall, the race had two phases. The first part was on soft tyres; I was struggling quite a bit as the balance did not feel great. After changing to the medium tyres, I caught up with the lower midfield and could keep up with their pace. Once we look at the data, we can start our preparations for the next race in Azerbaijan.”
Charles Leclerc: “It was not an ideal race today. I started on a set of soft tyres. I was quite happy with my pace, and managed to advance to the midfield. Shortly after I changed to the set of medium tyres, I spun into the gravel. I picked up some damage to the floor, and started having some trouble with the balance of the car. Unfortunately, I lost a couple of positions there. We will look at our data and make sure that we are ready to do the best job possible in Baku.”
Frédéric Vasseur (Team Principal): “The race had two different sides for us. We had both drivers on a one-stop strategy, starting on the soft, and changing to medium tyres. For Charles, the first stint was a very good one. He could match the pace of the midfield, and recover a few positions. After the pit stops, the race started to change.
“There was a safety car following an incident on track. The timing was not ideal for us, as our competitors took this chance to save time during their pit stops. Shortly after changing to the medium tyre compound, Charles spun into the gravel. He flat-spotted and picked up damage to his floor. Unfortunately, not much was possible for him after that.
“Marcus, on the other hand, had a good pace in the second stint and felt more comfortable on the medium tyres. He recovered a few positions and delivered a consistent performance. Overall, the race pace is there and we can see that we can get in the fight within the midfield. We still have some improvements to make for qualifying. That is the next step, and we look forward to the next race.”
Pierre Gasly: “It was a difficult weekend for us overall because we never found the pace since Saturday morning. We knew the race would be difficult after the performance we had in qualifying and the car was quite tricky.
“Today things didn’t really work out for us, so we have plenty to analyse between the two weekends and try to understand why we were fast in Bahrain and why we struggled in Shanghai. I apologise to Brendon for the contact we had, the team told me that they were going to switch our positions so I went on the inside of the back straight thinking he would give me space.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think he saw me and once I was on the inside there was nothing I could do. We lost a lot of time after that, I broke my front wing and the steering bent at the end of the race, so it was really difficult to drive and we couldn’t do much from there. We have some work to do to get ready for Baku, it’s a track I know and like so I’m looking forward to getting there.”
Brendon Hartley: “It was a tough day for us, at the beginning of the race I had no grip on the ultrasofts so that compromised our strategy. Starting near the back of the grid we tried alternating strategies to give us a better chance but unfortunately that didn’t work.
“I think the accident with Pierre was down to a miscommunication. The team asked us to swap positions because we were on completely different strategies, so I was going to let him by on the exit of Turn 14 like I did at the start of the race.
“The second time we had to change positions I planned to do the same, but I got hit from behind at the apex. Then towards the end of the race I had to retire because the team saw an issue with the gearbox. In the end it was a long afternoon.”
Franz Tost (Team Principal): “First of all, congratulations to Red Bull Racing for this fantastic victory. It was a fantastic decision from the strategy side and Daniel Ricciardo took the chance. He had everything under control to win the race. Unfortunately, Toro Rosso didn’t perform well.
“This weekend we struggled from the very beginning onwards. We were near the back on the starting grid, and during the race we couldn’t find the pace we needed. In addition to this, we had the collision between the two drivers because of a communication misunderstanding, which is a real shame.
“At the end of the race, we detected an issue on the gearbox of Brendon’s car and therefore we had to retire. Hopefully we can find the reason for this bad performance and be more competitive in Baku.”
Toyoharu Tanabe (Honda F1 Technical Director): “After a strong showing in Bahrain just a few days ago, we have had a much more difficult weekend in Shanghai and today’s poor result reflects that. On the PU front, everything ran smoothly, but our overall pace was not very good and then it was unfortunate that our two cars collided. Now, after three races in just four weeks, we can assess what we have learned in order to improve for the future.”