LEWIS Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas took Mercedes to an easy one-two victory in the Chinese F1 Grand Prix.
But the talk of the track was Monaco’s Charles Leclerc, who would have finished third, but for a blunder by his Ferrari strategists.
The 56-lap race on the 5.4km circuit with its super-long straight, high G-force turns and tight snail-shaped turns, was a tad processional with two Mercs chased by two Ferraris and two Red Bulls with a fair gap to the rest of the 20-car pack.
Leclerc led teammate Sebastien Vettel but was told to move over so the faster Vettel could challenge the Mercs.
However, Vettel was not faster, and Leclerc let his pit know in no uncertain manner.
What followed was a series of pit stops in response to an undercut move by Red Bull and the outcome was that Vettel stayed in third place, but poor Leclerc ended up fifth — behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.
Way behind Leclerc in a lonely sixth place was Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly.
It was Ricciardo’s first finish of the season after a shaky start with his new team.
“It’s good to get on the board, finish the race and have my first points with the team,” the Perth driver said.
“We’ll take the positives from that.
“It might have looked a simple seventh, but it wasn’t easy. It was a bit of a lonely race, I didn’t have so many battles but I was being pushed hard from the cars behind all the way to the end.
“It’s a strong result and the best we can ask for; at least for today. We want to push on from this over the next couple of races and keep working from here.”
Teammate Nico Hülkenberg, who started 8th on the grid, had another miserable time.
“It was a difficult start to the race, I lost a position and it was tough following cars ahead, then I felt a loss of power.
“We tried our best to fix it out there as it looked like a software issue, but it wasn’t possible and we had to park up.”
Team principal Cyril Abiteboul was more upbeat.
“We can be pleased that Daniel opened his points-scoring account with us this weekend.
“He drove an intelligent race to conserve the tyres on a one-stop strategy.
“Nico, unfortunately, retired with an MGU-K related problem that we will investigate further and focus on the next race.”
There were some red faces even before the race started, when Verstappen lost control and spun on the formation lap!
So did Robert Kubica in the Williams.
The Chinese race was the 1000th in F1 history.
The first was a 1-2-3 win for Alfa Romeo at Silverstone in 1950.
“I am not one for birthdays, I’m not one for anniversaries, I’m not one for particularly special days like this, so it is absolutely no different to any other race weekend for me,” he said.
“I am here to do one job and one job only and that is to win. It doesn’t matter if it is the 1000th, the 2000th or the 10,000th — it is an irrelevant figure for me.”
My, my. Anyway, it was his sixth win in China.
The race started with a bang when Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat crashed into the McLarens of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.
The firebrand young Russian was handed a stop-go penalty, then ran off the circuit again four laps later — all by himself.
He rejoined in 14th place, but eventually retired, as did Ricciardo’s Renault teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, on lap 17.
There were some furious scraps further back in the field, with great drives from Perez and Raikkonen, who started from 12th and 13th places respectively, and from Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon, who started from pit lane and just managed to stay ahead of Romain Grosjean in the Haas on the final lap to claim 10th spot and the final championship point.
Next round is at Baku, Azerbaijan, on April 28.
C. Sainz Jr.
CHECKOUT: Ricciardo needs win to cement move
CHECKOUT: Formula 1 — it’s all in the numbers!