2019 Chinese Grand Prix Review

F1 marked its 1000th Grand Prix at the Chinese Grand Prix. (Credit: Formula One Management)

Team by team review from an eventful Chinese Grand Prix weekend as Formula One marked its 1000th race.

Whilst fans and teams celebrated the achievement, the racing action however threw up questions for several teams, so who left China with plenty of homework and who can look forward to Baku with confidence?

 

Mercedes

Mercedes China
Mercedes became the first team since Williams in 1992 to record three consecutive one-two finishes in the opening three rounds of a new season. (Credit: Mercedes)

Race Result: Lewis Hamilton – 1st, Valtteri Bottas – 2nd

After mixed fortunes in Friday Practice, it’s worrying to see how easy Mercedes turned their weekend around to leave China 57 points ahead of Ferrari when the gap was just a single point this time last season. 

Hamilton in particular impressed after struggling with both the cars and tyres on Friday, yet he did what he does best and got the car onto the front row in qualifying despite not doing a quali simulation in FP3 after Alexander Albon’s crash ended the session early.

He then produced a dominant race performance to snatch control of the drivers’ championship from Bottas, who also produced a magnificent drive after wheelspin cost him at the start.  

In simple terms, if Mercedes can continue to improve every race then Ferrari are gonna to have to produce some spectacular performances to not only win races but get back into the title fight. 

 

Ferrari

Race Result: Sebastian Vettel – 3rd, Charles Leclerc – 5th

Alarm bells surely must be ringing at Maranello because their pre-season form has clearly evaporated, just like this weekend did after topping FP1. 

Sebastian Vettel in particular is a concern because he finished qualifying three tenths adrift of the Mercedes, having been 0.27s behind on Friday and needed team orders to effectively help him get onto the podium for the first time this season.

For a four-time champion to lose time like that over the weekend and require the scarification of his teammate through team orders and strategy is worrying, especially after he was tipped as the title favourite after pre-season. 

Leclerc meanwhile struggled all weekend despite topping Q1 after needing a second run, and was unlucky to play second fiddle to Vettel during the race rather than being allowed to race the German, having initially led him during the opening laps. 

Baku therefore is probably going to be key because another Mercedes 1-2 will make Ferrari’s season even tougher, with Red Bull closely behind them. 

 

Red Bull

Race Result: Max Verstappen – 4th, Pierre Gasly – 6th

Red Bull have had a good solid weekend as usual with Max Verstappen producing a great drive to fourth against the under-pressure Ferrari duo to split them. 

Pierre Gasly meanwhile has made a huge improvement from the opening two rounds and throughout practice to find himself qualifying in sixth, where he finished whilst also taking a point for the fastest lap. 

Nevertheless, it is still huge progress and there is no reason why Gasly can’t continue to improve and get in amongst the leading pack in coming races. 

 

Renault

Embed from Getty Images

Race Result: Nico Hulkenberg – Retired, Daniel Ricciardo – 7th

Renault should be happy with this weekend because it has been Daniel Ricciardo’s strongest weekend yet with the team, with a comfortable seventh underlining the car’s potential.

Nico Hulkenberg however serves as a reminder of the work that Renault still has to do after yet another MGU-K failure hit a Renault powered car, meaning that this was a weekend of progress in car development but not in the reliability stakes. 

Baku therefore should be interesting with its long straight which will surely test the Renault power to its limits. 

 

Alfa Romeo

Race Result: Kimi Raikkonen – 9th, Antonio Giovinazzi – 15th

It’s a case of progress with one driver and not with the other at Alfa Romeo because Kimi Raikkonen has once again dragged his cars into the points whereas Antonio Giovinazzi is still to show his potential.

Technical issues however was a major theme throughout practice and qualifying and Team Principal, Fredric Vasseur conceded that; “We have some work ahead and will push to come back stronger in Baku.”

I am therefore expecting a better performance next time because Baku might suit them more than this track did over a single lap. 

 

Haas

This has been quite a difficult weekend for Haas who once again finished outside of the points. 

Qualifying proved quite difficult with both cars only just sneaking into Q3 before finishing on row five after missing the chequered flag due to traffic, with Team Principal Guenther Steiner believing that it wouldn’t of affected their positions, saying; “We would have been ninth and 10th anyway.”

Raceday however brought more woes as Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean both struggled for pace beyond lap one, ultimately finishing outside the points despite a late push to catch Albon. 

Magnussen is ultimately disappointed with the car and said after the race; “It’s frustrating that we see we’ve got a good car, that can qualify well , then we can’t convert that into race pace.”

Haas therefore clearly has work to do if are to improve next time out and avoid what Steiner describes as a case of “deja vu”

 

McLaren

Kvyat hits Norris
It was a tough weekend for McLaren which was capped off by an opening lap collision for both cars with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. (GrandPrix247)

Race Result: Lando Norris – Retired, Carlos Sainz – 14th

This weekend surely will rank as McLaren’s low point because the only way is up from here. 

All that can really be said is that the car didn’t suit this circuit sand with Baku also containing a mix of medium to slow corner circuits, I am not expecting any immediate improvement until Spain. 

Norris however will of learned a great lesson in how rough F1 can be after two fantastic opening rounds, and if he continues to grow then expect him in a top car in coming seasons. 

This however is a weekend to forget for the team and both drivers as Carlos Sainz remains without a point this season. 

 

Racing Point

Race Result: Sergio Perez – 8th, Lance Stroll – 12th

This was a solid race performance by Sergio Perez who is definitely settling into the Racing Point car well, unlike Lance Stroll who is still yet to get out of Q1 and a poor race strategy allowed Albon to clinch the final point. 

Stroll in fact is a slight worry because he hasn’t really made progress so far from his Williams’ days with mediocre results still occurring and if he continues to underperform, doubters over his ability will be correct in saying that Lawrence Stroll ought of kept Esteban Ocon. 

Either way, there is a lot of potential in the car which Perez is finding whilst Stroll needs to start improving and quickly. 

 

Toro Rosso

Race Result: Daniil Kvyat – Retired, Alexander Albon – 10th

A weekend full of promise but unfilled potential best describes Toro Rosso’s performance this weekend. 

Daniil Kvyat looked likely for Q3 after three solid practice sessions but qualified eleventh where he really ought of looked to maximise the opportunity of free tyre choice.

Alas he clearly had his ‘Torpedo’ helmet on and a double opening lap collision with both McLarens effectively ended his race, despite managing another 40 laps before retiring which will provide the team with valuable data. 

Albon meanwhile had a rough time in practice, which was capped off by a huge FP3 smash out of the final corner when he ran onto the Astroturf and hit the barrier to render his car unavailable for qualifying. 

He then secured an incredible tenth-placed finish in the race from a pitlane start, underlining his amazing talent as he becomes the only rookie yet to not score points this season.

Overall, this has been a solid weekend of lessons for Toro Rosso but only time will tell if Kvyat has really improved after spending last season as Ferrari’s test driver. 

 

Williams

2019 Chinese GP
Williams once again brought up the rear of the field with George Russell heading Robert Kubica for the third consecutive race. (Credit: Jerry Andre)

Race Result: George Russell – 16th, Robert Kubica – 17th

TEN consecutive races without points for the first time in their history as a two driver team. 

That is now an unwanted record for Williams who continue to lag behind but there are signs of progress though, in that both cars finished qualifying less than a second behind Racing Point’s Lance Stroll. 

If can continue to develop their one lap pace then they should hopefully be closer in qualifying come late June, although their race performance is still worrying after finishing over a minute behind Sauber’s Giovinazzi. 

For now though, there remains a lot of work to do to close the gap to the rest of the pack and especially for Kubica who is yet to finish a race ahead of Russell. 

 

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