Ricciardo wins Chinese GP after series of overtakes

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Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took a sensational victory in the Chinese Grand Prix as a chaotic final 20 laps threw the championship wide open. Ricciardo drove beautifully to pass five cars after Red Bull chose to pit for fresh tyres in a safety-car period.

Team-mate Max Verstappen stopped at the same time – but threw away his chances with two errors caused by over-optimistic driving. Lewis Hamilton finished a frustrated fifth, but was promoted back ahead of Verstappen, who was penalised for causing a collision with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

The result means Vettel’s lead over Hamilton in the championship has been cut to nine points. Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who finished second, is only five behind the Briton, and Ricciardo a further three behind the Finn.

Bottas appeared on course for an excellent victory over Vettel before the safety-car period, having jumped Ferrari during their pit stops. There will be a post-mortem at Ferrari as to how they let that happen, given Vettel was leading by more than three seconds before Bottas’ stop on lap 19 of 56. Vettel stopped a lap later.

But the safety car threw in a curve ball and Red Bull grabbed their chance. It was introduced so marshals could clear debris from the hairpin after a collision between Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Brendon Harley.

At the time, Bottas was leading from Vettel, Verstappen, Hamilton, Ricciardo and the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, whose race had been sacrificed to try in vain to help Vettel earlier in his fight with Bottas.

Mercedes and Ferrari chose to leave their cars on medium-compound tyres that by then were about 10 laps old, but Red Bull decided to switch to fresh softs and that gave them a decisive pace advantage.

Verstappen was at this stage favourite to win, as the lead Red Bull driver, but he tried a move around the outside of Hamilton at the fast Turn Seven from too far back on lap 39 and ran off the road, letting Ricciardo past.

The Australian, who had already passed Raikkonen, then picked off Hamilton, Vettel and Bottas to clinch a stunning win. 

The moves on Hamilton and Bottas were made in his trademark style – making a hugely committed dive down the inside from a long way back, but always in total control on the edge of adhesion. Ricciardo does it repeatedly, but it is something no other driver is consistently able to match. 

“Sometimes you just have to lick the stamp and send it,” Ricciardo said. “I don’t seem to win boring races. They are all pretty fun but that was unexpected.” (BBC Sport)

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