Daniel Ricciardo has won the Chinese Grand Prix ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen after a mid-race safety car allowed Red Bull to alter its strategy. Ricciardo takes his first victory since the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and the sixth of his Formula 1 career.
The Australian's weekend looked bleak on Saturday morning after an engine failure in free practice three meant he was in a race against time to make it out for qualifying. However, after lining up oin sixth for the race, the 28-year-old had a late surge to take the win in Shanghai.
Pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel led the race comfortably during the first stint, ahead of Mercedes' Bottas. The Finn managed to get past his compatriot Raikkonen at the first corner, and slotted into second place behind Vettel who held a gap of around 3.5 seconds at its peak. Vettel's race, however, would eventually turn to disappointment as he was hit late on by Max Verstappen.
Red Bull started the Grand Prix on the ultra soft tyres, with Verstappen getting into third place after the first lap. The energy drink team were the first to blink when it came to the pit stop phase of the race, double-stacking the cars on lap 18.
The two Bulls fitted the medium tyre with the aim to go to the end of the race, and they were soon followed by the Mercedes pair. Lewis Hamilton came in on lap 19 to cover the Red Bulls, while Bottas followed in on lap 20.
Bottas pulled an impressive undercut and managed to get ahead of Vettel after the German pitted on the very next lap. Bottas held the net lead ahead of Vettel, as Ferrari opted to keep Kimi Raikkonen out on the soft tyres for longer.
Bottas wasn't long closing Raikkonen down, running on fresh medium tyres. Vettel stuck with him all the way, and followed Bottas through when the Mercedes driver made a move on Raikkonen into Turn 4 on lap 27.
Raikkonen then pitted for his medium tyres, but dropped down into sixth place. However, his race was soon to be salvaged after a safety car was deployed when the Toro Rosso duo of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley came together at the Turn 14 hairpin.
The safety car was deployed right after leaders Bottas and Vettel passed the pit lane entrance, but Red Bull pounced and brought Verstappen and Ricciardo in together for a fresh set of the yellow-walled soft compound. Hamilton and Raikkonen stayed out on their medium tyres.
After the safety car returned to the pits on lap 35, it was clear that the Red Bulls were the fastest cars on track. Ricciardo pulled a move on Raikkonen to take P5, while up ahead, Verstappen was attacking Hamilton for third place.
However, the Dutchman ran wide at Turn 5 after attempting to get around the outside of Hamilton. The incident allowed Ricciardo through into P4, and on the very next lap, the eventual race winner pulled off another trademark divebomb move on the four-time champion at Turn 14.
Two laps later, Verstappen had caught back up to the rear of Hamilton, and made no mistake in the second time of asking, passing the Briton for fourth place. Vettel, who was struggling on his medium tyres, had no answer for Ricciardo who flew past on the back straight.
Ricciardo then firmly set his sights on Bottas for the lead of the race, but there was yet more drama to come. As Verstappen closed in on Vettel, the pair made contact at the hairpin, causing both to spin out. The contact ruined Vettel's race, who limped home in eighth place.
Verstappen was deemed at fault for the incident and received a 10 second time penalty. The Red Bull driver crossed the line in fourth place, and was demoted to fifth behind Hamilton. Raikkonen managed to take advantage of the Vettel/Verstappen incident, and got past Hamilton when the Brit ran wide to avoid the turned-around cars.
On lap 45, Ricciardo was all over the tail of Bottas, and on much fresher tyres, dove up the inside at Turn 4. The gap was tight, but the grinning Australian made the move stick and hung on to claim his first win of the 2018 season.
The race result marks the first time in the hybrid era where Mercedes has gone three races without a victory. Vettel's gap in the championship now rests at 11 points to Hamilton.
Circuit de Catalunya - Winter testing
Circuit de Catalunya - Winter testing