2018 China Thoughts
THE BIG PICTURE: Lost in the hoopla was the fact the Ferrari had the better of Mercedes. Consistently. Consider this statistic -- Ocon is the only Mercedes customer car to score, with just one single solitary point.
TRACK: Long, long, long turns isn't all that much fun for the drivers. But at least there are some passing spots.
EVENT: Remember when China had to "forcefully" bus in college students to avoid the embarrassment of empty stands? Now, it appears the main grandstands are legitimately full with legit fans. There's a reason F1 considers China a growing market.
QUALIFYING: Mercedes doesn't like the cold, Vettel once again snatches pole from Kimi at the last moment, and Toro Rosso is brought back down to earth.
RACE: Some criticize Indy car racing for the unpredictable nature of the safety car and the affect on the race. But come on, admit it, even you purists, it's kind of fun every once in a while to have that unpredictability.
START: Vettel's squeeze on his teammate causes Kimi to drop back to fourth allowing Bottas into second, Verstappen jumps Hamilton and takes advantage of Kimi's issue, Hamilton does nothing, the Renault drivers bang wheels, and in the back Stroll jumps six spots.
RED BULL: If there ever was a team victory in racing, this was it. First the yeoman effort on Saturday to pull off a three-hour engine change in two hours, getting Daniel Ricciardo out in qualifying just in time ... literally, as he only had one hot lap to get out of Q1. Then, pulling off the stacked pit stops not once but twice in the race without losing their drivers any time. Finally, the quick, aggressive decision to pull their drivers in to change tires just as the safety car came out. Truly a team victory.
RENAULT: How can you give an engine to a customer which isn't even built up? Absolutely blows our minds.
RICCIARDO: Sure, the safety car ultimately gave Daniel the win thanks to being able to take on fresh tires. But, wow, those passes, each one better than the previous one, could fill a highlight reel.
VERSTAPPEN: Meanwhile, Max's over exuberance cost him the race, as he was initially in the better position than Ricciardo after the safety car. It was his win, but an ill conceived attempt on the outside of Hamilton put his teammate in the prime position. Then, Max's boneheaded attempt on Vettel cost him a podium. Is it time to start calling him Crashstappen?
FERRARI: Let's go back to the first strategic call they had to make. Under normal circumstances, we'll be talking about nothing except how Ferrari blew their pit stop call by allowing Vettel to get passed due to miscalculating their competition.
VETTEL: However, under normal circumstances, we also might be talking about how Sebastian's overaggressive starting move cost the ability of his teammate to shield Vettel from Bottas, ultimately allowing the pass in the pits in the first place.
RAIKKONEN: Kimi is now reduced to an overpaid blocker... But, just imagine if Ferrari pulled him in for fresh tires when the safety car came out.
BOTTAS: Shaking his head.
HAMILTON: Off the pace after Friday, and Lewis would be the first to tell you that. However, despite his worst weekend of the year, Lewis actually gained eight points on Vettel.
MERCEDES: In Australia, the virtual safety car worked against them. In China, the actual safety car worked against them. To add injury to insult, the safety car is a Mercedes...
HULKENBERG: Once again, completely outshone his teammate.
SAINZ: There's still time, but Carlos better wake up fast.
MCLAREN: You want proof you should never, ever believe anything someone in Formula 1 says? Remember how McLaren constantly boasted they had the best chassis on the grid, but the Honda engine was holding them back? Well, they are now the worst Renault powered car on the grid. How can that be? Oh, that's right -- never, ever believe anything someone in Formula 1 says...
ALONSO: Which leads us to Fernando. If things don't improve, where can he possibly go? We don't think Ferrari or Mercedes really wants him.
VANDOORNE: Speaking of where to go, when he can't come close to matching Alonso, Stoffel isn't exactly the next best thing.
LECLERC: Charles is also rapidly disproving he is anything close to the next best thing.
GASLY: While Pierre had a huge hiccup in proving he is the next best thing.
FORCE INDIA: The two drivers had another bit of a tussle. Keep an eye on them at Baku (we say with glee)...
HAAS: Seems to be some disharmony in the team.
WILLIAMS: Still a slow car.
ESPN: This time, they even stuck around for the post-race show. Though, we suspect it was because the race was in the middle of the night, and there was no need to break away for something else. But, we'll take it when we can.
FORMULA 2: Yeah, we're a week behind on commenting on the F2 races in Bahrain. But, there is something we have to comment on -- Artem Markelov may be the best Russian driver in open wheel racing today. In the feature race, he stalled on the grid, forcing him to start from pit lane. From there, after making one extraordinary pass after another, reminding us of Lewis Hamilton's year in GP2, Markelov finished third. Then, in the sprint race, he started sixth and won the race.
WORD OF THE WEEKEND: Passes.
STAT OF THE WEEKEND: 3 -- For three reasons (see what we did there...?). It is Daniel Ricciardo's number. Ricciardo has never won a race when he started in the top three. This is the first time in the modern hybrid era Mercedes has failed to win in three consecutive races.
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: When asked about the pass on Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo said, "Sometimes you just have to lick the stamps and send it."
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND RUNNERUP: Is Max Verstappen ready to start maturing as a driver? He seems to be when he said, "I of course need to learn from what happened. Maybe I should just, not even calm down, but maybe oversee the situation a bit more. Of course this is definitely not what I want. It's a life lesson."
SCHEDULE: Just think, last year Baku gave us the race most talked about. It's hard to imagine how this year it can top Bahrain and China. But we sure hope it does!
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