Max Verstappen 'on another planet' to rest of F1 with Chinese GP win

Red Bull driver takes honours in Shanghai with Lando Norris second and Sergio Perez third

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Max Verstappen continued his relentless domination of Formula One after once again destroying the field to win the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday.

A day after his sprint victory at the Shanghai International Circuit, the three-time world champion controlled the race, finishing 13.7 seconds ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris with Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez third, a further six seconds back.

Verstappen was denied a 100 per cent points-scoring weekend when Fernando Alonso picked up the bonus for the fastest lap after a late switch to fresh tyres.

It was another all-conquering display from Verstappen, who won his fourth grand prix this season and the 58th of his career.

He increased his lead over Perez at the top of the drivers' championship to 25 points with Red Bull pulling 44 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors' standings.

“He’s [Verstappen] been on fantastic form all weekend but the team as well have been outstanding this weekend, to win the sprint, to get the front row, the pole position and the front row lockout for the race, and a one, three in the race,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said.

“Max is on another planet at the moment, his form is absolutely fantastic … he’s totally at one with the machine and he has this unbelievable feel and empathy with the car and the grip and the conditions, and the confidence in himself.

“He has the ability to understand the tyres, when they need to be pushed, when they need to be saved and he’s got this incredible racing brain, it’s almost unhuman what he’s capable of.”

Only a rare brake failure and retirement in Melbourne denied Verstappen the chance of a clean sweep of all five rounds in 2024 as he marches towards a fourth consecutive world title.

“It felt amazing. The whole weekend we were incredibly quick. Just enjoyable to drive on every compound,” said Verstappen, who took his first victory in China.

“We survived the restarts well and the car was basically on rails and I could do whatever I wanted with it.

“Those kind of weekends are amazing to feel and to achieve what we did this weekend is fantastic.”

The Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were fourth and fifth in a race where strategy was largely decided by a safety car on lap 23, which enabled most cars to switch to hard tyres till the end.

George Russell came sixth for Mercedes with Alonso finishing seventh.

The Spanish veteran, 42, made a spectacular late charge through the field from 12th after his final stop on lap 43 of the 56-lap race.

McLaren's Oscar Piastri was eighth, chased home by Lewis Hamilton who clawed his way up to ninth from 18th on the grid.

F1 is back in Shanghai following a five-year absence, and it was a venue that Briton once ruled, winning a record six times here. But the sport has a new king now in Verstappen while Hamilton is enduring his worst-ever season.

“I'm grateful to just get to the points. I didn't expect a lot more this weekend,” said Hamilton, who lies ninth in the drivers' championship with 19 points, 91 shy of Verstappen.

“I think we, hopefully, have some step forwards coming in the next race until then we will be back in the factory next week to put us in a good position for Miami and hope we have a better weekend.”

Norris, meanwhile, ensured China was the season's first race without one team finishing first and second – Ferrari having taken the one-two in Australia and Red Bull the rest – with his 15th career podium and eighth second place.

“I just wasn't expecting today at all,” said the Briton, who started fourth on the grid and was voted Driver of the Day.

“I got everything ready to go home early and not be on the podium, so it's a pleasant surprise.

“I made a bet to how far behind the Ferrari we would finish today. I thought 35 seconds and I was very wrong by that. So happy to be wrong with myself, and my own bets.”

China's first and only driver Zhou Guanyu, in his first home race, had the honour of parking behind the Red Bulls and crouched in tears before saluting the crowd. The Sauber driver finished 14th.

Updated: April 21, 2024, 12:23 PM