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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Wednesday May 22, 2024
Wednesday May 22, 2024

Max Verstappen wins the first F1 sprint race of the season at the Chinese Grand Prix

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World champion extends lead over Hamilton with dominant performance in Shanghai sprint

Red Bull’s triple world champion Max Verstappen secured victory in the first sprint race of the Formula One season at the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday. Verstappen finished 13.043 seconds ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in the 19-lap race at the Shanghai International Circuit, further extending his lead in the championship standings over teammate Sergio Perez, who finished third.

Verstappen overtook Hamilton on the ninth lap of the race and then steadily increased his lead, showcasing his dominance in all formats of Formula One racing. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished fourth and fifth respectively.

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“The first few laps were quite hectic,” Verstappen commented. “Once I got in the lead, the car was handling pretty well.”

The 26-year-old Verstappen is now the favourite to win the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday, the fifth race of the season, after securing victory in three of the first four races this year. Verstappen has also won 21 out of 22 races in the previous season.

In the Shanghai Sprint, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Hamilton started on the front row, with Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin and Verstappen on the second row.

The sprint race, the first of six scheduled for this season, covers about one-third of the distance of a full race. The winner earns eight points, with seven points for second place, six for third, and so forth.

Verstappen’s victory in the Chinese sprint earned him eight points, bringing his total to 85 points in the driver standings, while Perez added six points to remain in second place with 70 points.

For Hamilton, finishing in second place was akin to a consolation victory, as the seven-time champion has not been a major contender in recent seasons. His last Grand Prix victory was in 2021 in Saudi Arabia.

“I forgot what it felt like to be up ahead, and it felt good for the short while that I had it, so I was grateful for the moment,” Hamilton expressed. “To be on the front row, I don’t remember having had that view for a long time.”

The sprint race on Saturday was held on a dry track, unlike the wet and slippery qualifying session on Friday. Verstappen compared Friday’s sprint qualifying to “driving on ice,” as several drivers, including himself, ran off the track in the chaotic, wet conditions.

The track conditions remain a significant factor going into the first Formula 1 race in China in five years. Changes to the circuit, including a thin “seal coating” described as liquid asphalt, have introduced uncertainties for both teams and drivers. F1 tire supplier Pirelli admitted it was not fully aware of the changes ahead of the race.

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