Verstappen takes dominant victory in China F1 Sprint

By on

Having only started from P4, Max Verstappen worked his way up the order to claim a dominant sprint race victory at the Shanghai International Circuit. F1Technical's senior writer Balázs Szabó reports on the first sprint of the season.

Having started from pole position, McLaren driver Lando Norris was unable to maintain his spot at the start as Lewis Hamilton had a better getaway. The Mercedes driver overtook the pole-sitter into Turn 1, who then made a mistake and ran wide at Turn 2 which saw him drop down the order to P7.

The next laps saw Hamilton build up a gap of just over a second from Fernando Alonso with Verstappen appearing to struggle for pace. The reigning champion reported issues with his battery, but Red Bull seemed to find a solution for the problem quickly.

By Lap 7, Verstappen managed to get inside DRS range to Alonso, and overtook him on the next lap down the back straight. On Lap 9, Hamilton made a mistake, running wide through the hairpin. His mistake meant that Verstappen had DRS.

On the next tour, the Dutchman closed in on Hamilton and pulled out from the slipstream on the back straight to take away the lead from the seven-time world champion. Three laps later, Verstappen was four seconds ahead of Hamilton, displaying impressive pace in the second half of the 19-lap sprint.

In the chasing pack, Alonso emerged as the cork of the bottle as he held up Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc and Norris. Despite attempting multiple overtaking manoeuvres, Sainz was unable to get by Alonso. The pair then showed a brilliant battle on Lap 16 which saw Alonso and Sainz go side by side for several corners.

With Alonso forcing Sainz off the track at Turn 9, Perez managed to sneak through to jump to P3. Alonso and Sainz touched at some point in that melee, and the two-two-time champion suffered a puncture which forced him to pit.

On Lap 17, Leclerc was eager to overtake his team-mate, but Sainz was extremely aggressive, and the pair touched at Turn 14. However, the Monégasque managed to pass his Spanish team-mate, but he was unable to make further progress despite his eye-catching late race pace.

At the front, Verstappen won the sprint by a mighty 13 seconds from Hamilton and his team-mate Perez. Leclerc came home fourth with Sainz, Norris, Oscar Piastri and Russell completing the point-scoring positions.