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Verstappen wins Chinese Grand Prix to increase title grip

Max Verstappen rounded off a dominant weekend with victory in the first Chinese Grand Prix to extend his world championship lead.

Max Verstappen takes the chequered flag to win the Chinese Grand Prix
Max Verstappen takes the chequered flag to win the Chinese Grand Prix - Copyright POOL/AFP Andres Martinez Casares
Max Verstappen takes the chequered flag to win the Chinese Grand Prix - Copyright POOL/AFP Andres Martinez Casares
Daniel HICKS

Max Verstappen rounded off a dominant weekend with victory in the first Chinese Grand Prix for five years on Sunday to extend his world championship lead, a day after romping to sprint victory.

The three-time world champion was again in a league of his own as Formula One returned to the Shanghai International Circuit for the first time since 2019.

He finished 13.7 seconds ahead of Lando Norris with Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez third, a further six seconds back.

It looked odds-on that Red Bull would repeat their one-two in Japan a fortnight ago until two safety cars in quick succession mid-race.

After multiple pit stops Perez emerged behind behind McLaren’s Norris and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen was only denied a maximum 34 points for the weekend when Fernando Alonso pipped him to the fastest lap after a late tyre change.

It was another masterful display from Verstappen, who was winning his fourth grand prix out of five in 2024 and the 58th of his career as he marches towards a fourth consecutive world title.

– ‘It felt amazing’ –

“It felt amazing. The whole weekend we were incredibly quick,” said Verstappen.

“We survived the restarts well and the car was basically on rails and I could do whatever I wanted with it.”

He increased his lead over Perez at the top of the world championship to 25 points, with Red Bull now 44 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors’ fight.

“Those kind of weekends are amazing to feel and to achieve what we did this weekend is fantastic,” added Verstappen, who won for the first time in China.

Norris was delighted to finish second, his best result in 2024, having started from fourth on the grid.

“Things came alive today. I don’t know why, it was not the race I was expecting, but just got comfortable,” said the Englishman.

The consistent Perez finished on the podium for the fourth time in five rounds this season but said the safety car denied him a place.

“It really cost us quite a bit. Fighting like that, the life of the tyre goes off dramatically,” said Perez.

“But at least we got onto the podium. But it would have been good to be one and two. We were definitely lacking some pace.”

The Ferrari pair of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were only fourth and fifth after a disappointing weekend where they had hoped to be closer to Red Bull.

“I think it was the best we could have done,” said Leclerc, who started from sixth on the grid.

Sainz, the only driver other than Verstappen to win a race this season, said: “It was a tough race, we had an issue at the start going wide. Then we had to stop very early and I had to nurse the tyres home.”

George Russell came sixth for Mercedes with Alonso finishing seventh after a spectacular late charge through the field from 12th after a final tyre stop 13 laps form the end.

– ‘I drove my heart out’ –

“It was important to score some points and a bonus to get the fastest lap too,” said Alonso. “We didn’t have any more hard tyres available, so that’s why we made a switch to the soft.”

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri was eighth, chased home by Lewis Hamilton who clawed his way up to ninth from 18th on the grid and Nico Hulkenberg in 10th for Haas.

China’s first Formula One driver Zhou Guanyu was an enormous draw over the weekend as he made his home grand prix debut.

He was allowed to park his car on the grid in front the grandstands after finishing 14th in the race and exited the cockpit in floods of tears to an ovation from the capacity crowd.

“I drove my heart out today, unfortunately not enough for the points but we go again next time,” said an emotional Zhou.

“I am just so happy to see the whole crowd. No words. A mixture of emotions and a day to remember. Hopefully in the future more drivers from my country will be stepping in here.”

Seven-time world champion Hamilton won the last time a race was staged in Shanghai in 2019, one of a record six wins at the circuit, but was just “grateful to get into the points” on Sunday after starting from 18th.

“It was a tough race. Ultimately, I made a bad set-up change to the car yesterday and I paid the price for it,” said Hamilton.

AFP
Written By

With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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