Max Verstappen denies Lewis Hamilton Chinese GP sprint win

Mercedes driver puts up a good show in sprint before disappointing qualifying

Powered by automated translation

Max Verstappen denied Lewis Hamilton the first sprint win of his career after passing his rival to win at the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday.

Hamilton started second at the Shanghai International Circuit, beat pole-sitter Lando Norris off the line and took control of the 19-lap charge to the chequered flag.

However, Verstappen, who started fourth, ended Hamilton's dream of re-entering the winner's enclosure for the first time in 867 days when he sped past the Mercedes driver on the ninth lap.

Verstappen crossed the line 13 seconds clear of Hamilton with Sergio Perez taking third.

McLaren's Norris started on pole position but slid wide on the opening lap as he battled with Hamilton and ended up sixth. Team mate Oscar Piastri was seventh and Mercedes' George Russell eighth for the final point.

Verstappen struggled initially before passing Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso, who retired with a puncture and damage after a wheel-banging battle with Sainz, on lap seven and then Hamilton two laps later.

"The first few laps were quite hectic, they were pushing quite hard at the front and of course I had Carlos behind with new tyres so it was very difficult initially," said Verstappen.

"But then we became stronger and I felt a bit more comfortable with the balance of the car as well and I could look after my tyres so very pleased with that."

Seven-times world champion Hamilton said the team had made a huge step forward with their first top-three finish of the campaign.

"That's the best result I've had in a long time," said the 39-year-old Briton.

"I found out a lot about the car through this short stint, from the race, so I'm excited for tomorrow."

Qualifying for the main race was scheduled later on Saturday and Hamilton did not expect Mercedes to be battling for pole.

"We're still not as quick on a single lap as the Ferraris, Red Bulls," he said. "I think the McLarens are ahead of us for sure and possibly the Astons.

"I don't anticipate we will be fighting for the front row, but the fortunate thing is we can make some adjustments so hopefully I can improve the car in the next three hours and have a better qualifying session than we have had in the past."

On the first Chinese Grand Prix weekend since 2019, huge crowds turned out to see Shanghai native Zhou Guanyu, China's first F1 driver, make his home debut.

Tickets for Sunday's main race sold out in minutes and fans had plenty to cheer Friday when Zhou propelled his Sauber into the top 10 in a wet sprint qualifying session.

He started from 10th and in dry conditions for the race and moved up one place after the opening skirmishes.

Zhou finished just out of the points in ninth after being passed by Russell, who was 11th on the grid and the only driver to start on soft tyres.

The 24-year-old Zhou has been behind the wheel in F1 since 2022, scoring a point on his debut at Bahrain that year, but had to wait till his third season to race on his home circuit.

Later in the day, Hamilton endured far more difficulties as he qualified a lowly 18th for the Chinese Grand Prix.

A few hours after Hamilton's morale boosting effort in print, the 39-year-old was brought crashing back down to earth when he was eliminated in the opening phase of qualifying.

The seven-time world champion locked up at the penultimate corner on his fastest lap, and he finished in the Q1 knockout zone.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff looked to the heavens after Hamilton's fate was confirmed.

"Sorry guys," Hamilton said over the radio.

Triple world champion Verstappen took pole position, 0.322 seconds ahead of Red Bull team mate Perez with Aston Martin's Alonso third.

Verstappen clocked a fastest lap of 1 min 33.660sec to cap a perfect day after earlier winning the sprint race in Shanghai.

Updated: April 20, 2024, 8:29 AM