By Nicola Kenton
- Sebastian Vettel is the championship leader having won the first two races of the season
- Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes still looking for first win of the season
- Red Bull hoping to improve on double DNF in Bahrain
SHANGHAI, CHINA – Lewis Hamilton has won five times on the Shanghai circuit including three out of the last four races, he will be hoping to add another win as he searches for his first victory of the season.
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Hamilton searching for first victory of the season
The beginning of the 2018 Formula One season has not gone to plan for Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Australia saw the Brit miss out on the win, as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel emerged in front of him from the pits following a virtual safety car. Hamilton was flummoxed as to what had gone wrong and felt robbed of victory in the opening race of the season; Mercedes said that a miscalculation had caused the mistake.
However, it didn’t get better in much better in Bahrain. The Brit had to take a five-place grid penalty for a gear box change, he could only qualify in fourth and dropped down to ninth once the penalty was applied. In the race, Hamilton produced a stunning three-car overtake and his raw pace emerged but it wasn’t enough. Vettel won the race, although hanging on by the smallest of tyre treads at the end, to finish ahead of the Mercedes duo with Bottas claiming second while Hamilton battled to third.
It’s not all bad news though, Shanghai has been a successful place for the Brit. Hamilton has won at the circuit five times including three times in the past four years. It has also been a track where Mercedes have dominated – last year Hamilton completed the Grand Slam of: pole position, race win and fastest lap. Based on what has happened in the first two races, Mercedes may not get everything their own way but Hamilton does perform well in China and this could be the kick-start that his campaign needs.
Red Bull looking for redemption
The Bahrain Grand Prix saw both Red Bulls retire early on in the race. Max Verstappen crashed in qualifying and started near the back of the field on race day but the Dutchman quickly made up places. That was until he encountered Hamilton and decided to lunge down the inside, touching tyres with the Brit and causing himself a puncture which ultimately ended his race.
It wasn’t much better for Daniel Ricciardo who also had to retire due to electrical issues. The Milton Keynes-based team showed pace in Melbourne but could only finish fourth and sixth, respectively. The team, who were hoping to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari in the championships, will need to make sure that Verstappen is kept in check and that any reliability issues are eradicated if they want to supply a title charge.
Questions asked about pit-stop calamities
Some of the main talking points from the opening races of the season have been about pit-stops. At the Australian Grand Prix, Haas were performing brilliantly and on for a double points finish before disaster struck in the pit-lane. Both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen‘s pit-stops saw a tyre not properly attached which meant that they had to retire from the race, in case the tyre came loose.
At the Bahrain Grand Prix, disaster struck again but this time it was for Kimi Räikkönen and Ferrari. The Finn had come in for his second stop of the race and the engineers had difficulty removing the left rear tyre, the signal flashed up for Räikkönen to leave his pit box but the crew had not finished. Consequently, one of the mechanics was in the path of the tyre as the Ferrari driver left his box and it resulted in a broken leg for the mechanic.
The fastest pit-stop is awarded at every Grand Prix but this season, there have been mistakes with the traffic-light system which tells the driver when to depart. Should the rules be changed or should there be a manual system that overrides the electronic when it is faulty? These are just some of the questions that have been asked.
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Toro Rosso and Haas best of the rest in Bahrain
Bahrain was a dramatic race for many reasons: both Red Bull cars retiring, Räikkönen’s pit-stop, Vettel’s tyres lasting until the end of the race and Lewis Hamilton starting from ninth and finishing on the podium. However, after the race had finished and the cars had crossed the line it was not Ferrari who were wildly celebrating, instead the Toro Rosso mechanics were jumping around the pit-lane.
The team, who have switched to Honda engines this season, managed a fourth place finish. Pierre Gasly guided the team to one place off of the podium in only his seventh F1 race. It was the best result for the team since Carlos Sainz grabbed fourth at the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix. The next car to cross the line was the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. The Dane made up for his retirement in Melbourne to prove that Haas are able to be amongst the best of the midfield teams and that the pace shown in Australia was no fluke.
The midfield battle, come the end of the season, can be just as exciting as that of the leaders. If Toro Ross and Haas continue this form, there is no reason why they cannot finish above the established midfield teams of Williams and Force India.
The Chinese Grand Prix takes place this weekend with qualifying beginning at 07.00 BST on Saturday 14th and the race starting at 07.10 BST on Sunday 15th.
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