Formula 1

Formula 1: Max Verstappen dominates Sprint in Shanghai despite early struggles

Feature Image credit: @F1

Max Verstappen wins the first sprint race of the season from 4th place after a troubling start that saw him down on power.

The start saw Lewis Hamilton get off the line really well from second place, pulling alongside pole sitter Lando Norris going into turn 1. The 7 time world champion then forced the McLaren driver wide to complete the move, with Norris then going off track and falling all the way down to 7th place.

Verstappen struggled in the opening laps, losing time to Alonso ahead and with Sainz gaining and threatening to overtake. He complained of a flat battery, which looked to eventually be sorted a few laps into the race.

Once back up to full power, Verstappen began to charge forward. First, he would break the DRS of Carlos Sainz, and would then begin to reel in Fernando Alonso. He would then make a rather simple move down the inside of the hairpin of turn 14, taking second place.

It would only take a couple of laps for Verstappen to then close in on Hamilton out front, helped by the fact that the Mercedes driver went wide at turn 14 on lap 8. This would allow Verstappen to get close enough to attack just one lap later, which he would do with relative ease at the same place he overtook Alonso.

Now with Verstappen soaring further into the distance, the attention turned a little further down the grid. A train began to form from Alonso in 3rd down to Leclerc in 6th, as each car in between would struggle to find that little extra pace to gain any positions. Even though Alonso did not have the protection of DRS to hold his position, and his Aston Martin has been known to be draggy so far this season, he was doing a stellar job to out-traction the cars behind him and maintain third place.

However, this would not last. Lap 16 would be a catalyst for chaos in this sprint race, which began when Sainz began to overtake Alonso around the outside of turn 6. Sainz would then go for a switchback, which would see the two Spaniards go side by side through turn 7, and touch each other at turn 8, with Sainz then briefly getting ahead. Alonso would fight the position hard, and dive down the inside of turn 9, with the resulting chaos allowing Perez to cleanly pass through into third.

Alonso would then finally concede to Sainz, as well as losing another position to Leclerc, with the two Ferraris now battling down to turn 14. Sainz would take the defensive inside line, but would then force his teammate very wide round the outside to keep the position. However, 4th place would not belong to Sainz for much longer, as Leclerc would then turn the outside line into the inside line as they swooped round turn 1, claiming 4th for himself.

Alonso would go on to retire from the race after picking up a puncture due to his contact with Sainz, a disappointing end to what had initially been a very promising race for the two time world champion. It would mean that the drivers behind him would all gain a place, which resulted in George Russell rounding out the points paying positions in 8th, having been the only driver to start on the soft compound tyres. It also means that the Shanghai-born Zhou Guanyu was agonisingly close to scoring points in his first race on home soil, as he came home in 9th.

Max Verstappen would go on to dominate the rest of the field, leading Hamilton in 2nd by 13 seconds come the end of lap 19, extending his lead at the top of the driver’s standings ahead of qualifying for the grand prix in just a few hours time.

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