Kurt Verlin
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2019 Chinese GP: Hamilton Wins 1000th F1 Grand Prix

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2019 Chinese GP Start
Photo: FORMULA 1 | YouTube
2019 Chinese GP Top 10 Results

The 2019 Chinese GP was the 1000th official Formula One Grand Prix, and though there was much buzz in the media around this fact, the race itself — and, in particular, its presentation — offered little of the spectacle that would have seemed fitting for the occasion.

Mercedes secured its third one-two result of the season, making it a perfect run for the team so far. Because of Ferrari’s pre-season form it continues to come as a surprise, but perhaps it shouldn’t: This is, after all, the team that set new records for F1 dominance in 2014, 2015, and 2016, and that has continued to win — handily, it must be said — in the years since.

Nonetheless, Ferrari’s failure to claim victory in Bahrain had to do with reliability and driver error, so fans looked eagerly on to the next race in anticipation of a battle for the top podium step. Yet in Shanghai, the Scuderia simply lacked the pace.

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Once again there was a clear division between Mercedes, then Ferrari, then Red Bull, then the rest of the teams bar Williams, coming in last. The sport is no stranger to domination, but never before has F1 result been predictable over such a sustained period of times.

Perhaps I am being too negative, as there was plenty to watch on Sunday. Teammate drama is already flaring at Ferrari, who had Charles Leclerc move over for Sebastian Vettel (who was admittedly faster but not so much so that you’d expect team orders). The team then proceeded to botch Leclerc’s strategy, ensuring he could finish the 2019 Chinese GP no higher than fifth in the second quickest car.

Pierre Gasly continued to be alarmingly slow compared to his brilliant teammate. While the gap between teammates at all the other top teams in qualifying was under a tenth, Gasly was about eight tenths off of Max Verstappen. He did score the fastest lap of the race, but that was because he was so isolated from any other competitor that Red Bull were able to put him on fresh, soft-compound tires at the very end of the race, specifically for the purpose of chasing the fastest lap (and even then he only managed to go about a tenth quicker than Vettel had much earlier in the race, on medium-compound tires).

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Alexander Albon meanwhile drove an electrifying race to score a point for Toro Rosso after starting from the pit lane, having recovered from a massive crash in qualifying. If he continues to impress and Gasly continues to do the opposite, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them swaps seats before the season is over.

Daniil Kvyat was the unfortunate victim of a McLaren sandwich at the start of the race for which he was, it seemed to me, unjustly or at least harshly penalized, perhaps because of his “torpedo” reputation. I would have keenly liked to see the battle for seventh place between Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, but the former once again suffered engine problems and had to retire. Meanwhile Kimi Räikkönen, ever the reliable points-scorer, finished in the top 10 once again, the only midfield driver to do so at every race so far this season.

With the 2019 Chinese GP and the 1000th F1 race behind us, the next event will take place in Baku, Azerbaijan, which has been a sort of mixed bag since its introduction to the calendar. Ferrari is supposedly favored at this circuit because of the extremely long straight, but we’ve heard that kind of talk before. Let’s just see.

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2019 Chinese GP Championship Standings