2017 Chinese Grand Prix Star Performers

2017 Chinese Grand Prix

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Who starred and who struggled in the Chinese Grand Prix? Here’s F1 Fanatic’s verdict on the field.


Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton was on top form
This championship fight seems to be bringing out the best in Hamilton. While he dominated the weekend from a statistical point of view – pole, fastest lap, led every lap – Mercedes’ performance advantage over Ferrari ranged from slight in qualifying to almost non-existent in the race.

The Safety Car timing did take the pressure off but he handled the switch to soft tyres better in conditions which caught out many drivers – including his team mate.

Sebastian Vettel

The closest Vettel came to a mistake all weekend was a slight error on his final Q3 lap, without which he was sure he still wouldn’t have been on pole. He pipped Valtteri Bottas to the front row by a tiny margin.

Pitting under the Virtual Safety Car was an obvious means of attacking Hamilton but luck was not on his side. He reclaimed second place with some bold passes, including a gem of a move on Daniel Ricciardo.

Carlos Sainz Jnr

Sainz passes Alonso for an eventual seventh
Starting the race on slicks was a bold move which paid off handsomely. But it must’ve seemed like a mistake when the field left him behind at the start and he understeered off at turn one.

However within a few corners it was clear the track was drying quickly and Sainz took full advantage of his smart move. This wasn’t a perfect weekend – he was outqualified by his team mate and had a quick spin during the race – but his Toro Rosso was never going to finish higher than seventh.

Max Verstappen

Scuppered by a technical problem in qualifying, Verstappen was on a mission from the word go in the race, storming past nine cars on the first lap. An excellent pass on Kimi Raikkonen and a cautious move on his team mate put him in the hunt for a podium.

He did slip up while Vettel was bearing down on him, but showed greater resilience under pressure from Ricciardo, despite the hazard of lapped cars.

Fernando Alonso

Even in testing Alonso was making his case that he’s driving better than anyone. He continued to press that point as he endured another trying weekend in the McLaren and dragged the MCL32 far beyond where it deserved to be.

Once again, however, it was to no reward. A driveshaft failure meant he failed to finish the Chinese Grand Prix for the first time.


Kimi Raikkonen

Raikkonen couldn’t keep up with Vettel
While Valtteri Bottas finished over 40 seconds behind his team mate mainly because of a one-off spin, an inability to get his car to work in the cool conditions explained why Raikkonen finished almost as far behind the other Ferrari.

His late pit stop may not have been the optimum from a strategy point of view but this was a symptom of him having a bad race, not the cause of it. Even after he left the pits having changed tyres he continued to drop back from his team mate at over a second per lap.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Binning the Sauber once was embarrassing, doing it a second time at the same corner must’ve been mortifying. Though in Giovinazzi’s defence this wasn’t a case of him making the same mistake twice.

But Sauber is not a team which can easily afford having to repair a car twice in as many days. He may get another chance to prove himself in Bahrain.

Jolyon Palmer

Flat-spotted a tyre in Q1, then got caught out by the yellow flags for Giovinazzi and was penalised for not slowing down enough. That meant he failed to progress while Nico Hulkenberg reached Q3 in the other Renault.

Like Sainz he started on slicks, albeit from the pits after making his mind up on the formation lap. However he was never able to get his tyres up to temperature and finished behind his twice-penalised team mate.

And the rest

Bottas lost a lot of time in the pits
For Bottas the end result exaggerated the impact a single error had on his race. Two separate pit stop problems had also cost him a lot of time and places – rather more than the diplomatic Mercedes driver admitted to.

Ricciardo was passed by Verstappen early on but was stronger in the second half of the race after a wing adjustment. Both Force India drivers scored points, though Esteban Ocon was flattered somewhat by Sergio Perez’s late pit stop.

Kevin Magnussen put his first point of the year on the board while Romain Grosjean tripped up in Q1 after spinning on his first lap. He made up eight places in the race yet failed to score.

Along with Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne failed to see the chequered flag and Daniil Kvyat’s day was ended by a hydraulic fault.

Lance Stroll ended his race with a lack of situational awareness on the first lap but did make it into Q3 the day before (despite going progressively slower in each phase of qualifying). The other Williams also failed to score as Felipe Massa struggled enormously with tyre warm-up problems. Marcus Ericsson was the last runner home.

Who was the best driver in China?

Which driver impressed you the most during the Chinese Grand Prix weekend? Cast your vote here:

2017 Chinese Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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27 comments on “2017 Chinese Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    10th April 2017, 18:44

    Sad not to see K-Mag in the top bracket here. A tenth off Q3 and caught and passed both FIs on the way to 8th. More Gro than Gut for sure.

    1. Completely agree – not to mention KMag as a Star is unfair!

    2. Agree. Both him and Grosjean IMO should be there instead of Alonso, which we don’t have a term of comparison, to say he did a great race because he said so, doesn’t make much sense to me. I feel atm the McLaren performance wise is not that bad…

      Saynz deserves praise for the race he did not really for the gamble, if it wasn’t that SC I don’t think he would have finished so high.

      1. @Jaoa You think the writer put Alonso ahead because he said so? If you feel to strongly that Mclaren performance wise is not that bad, what is that based on…facts? Are you aware that the fastest lap from the Haas by KMag was 2 seconds faster than the fastest lap by Mclaren, set around similar lap of the race? The fastest lap from Grosjean set later was 2 seconds faster also. Mclaren had a deficit on the straight of well over 14km/hr.And if you want to compare, the other Mclaren’s fastest lap was 4 seconds slower than KMag in terms of fastest lap. So you feel that a driver several places ahead in a car lapping 2 seconds slower, ahead of both Romain and KMag, should be rated behind them? Hm…I wonder what that is based on.

        1. If you compare the qualifying laps, which will give you a better representation of the pace of the two cars, the difference is not that big. Comparing fastest laps on the race does not give a real representation, especially because drivers might be in different strategies. The laps from the two Haas cars came after Alonso retired, and after pit-stops, at a point where the track was pretty much dry, you can see why there is that 2s deficit (better track conditions, new tyres), up until the retirement their lap-times were pretty much even.

          My comment is based on the fact that Stoffel hasn’t given us a real term of comparison yet. No driver can make a car go faster, they just can take the most out of it, the more they do the better they are, Alonso is no exception.

          McLaren are selling their car as a tree, and Alonso selling himself, I have just chosen not to buy it

    3. +1 I would of tagged the likeable Dane on the end of star performers, apart from a poor start he didnt do much wrong.

    4. @fullcoursecaution He didn’t have a great qualifying though. Haas looks almost as quick as Williams and certainly faster than Renault and Force India, but he wasn outqualified by both

    5. K mag was competent not a star.

  2. Completely agree, with one addition: I’d have mentioned Bottas seperately under Strugglers as well. Now it’s a quick mention, but like he said himself “it’s an amateur mistake”. Even so, at that point in the race he was less than 30 seconds behind Lewis, so he lost even more ground during the race, which is why I would’ve mentioned him here as well.

    Oh, I now see my second thing I don’t fully agree with: Hamilton. During the weekend he was great, but ultimately the race was easy for him. Never any real pressure, the closest was when Verstappen drove in second place with 1.7 seconds only between them, but as soon as Lewis was told, the gap opened up. Managing his pace was Lewis’ race. He’s a master in the rain just like Verstappen, so nobody expected any mistakes from him anyway. It just wasn’t outstanding.

    1. He did a grand slam, even if he was managing his pace he did the fastest lap of the race, and that qualy lap? Outstanding performance from Ham this weekend. The top 3 finishers were for me the top 3 drivers of the weekend (not exactly on that order, but still)

    2. Just because someone made something look easy doesn’t mean it wasn’t outstanding. Bottas made a silly mistake, but that doesn’t fully account for the gap to Hamilton.

      1. He wasn’t pressured at any stage of the race, and could control his pace in what is still the quickest single lap car, with race pace that seems to be equal if not better than the Ferrari. I’m not sure that any of his performances can be considered outstanding. He god the car to where it should have been, that is all.

  3. Guybrush Threepwood
    10th April 2017, 21:01

    Ricciardo was quicker than Max overall, just couldn’t get past him in the dry. But max does deserve some credit for his first lap.

    1. kind of like the reverse of malaysia last year. probably an interesting season in store but it is a shame the car is not a bit quicker.

      1. Nothing like Malaysia at all… in Mal Ver qualified in front of Ric > Ver3, Ric 4.
        During that race Ver build up a gap of 22 sec, due to VSC that gap became 4 sec gap the other way round.
        VSC came at an awefullly lucky moment for Ric.

        In China Ver was 16th on the grid, Ric 5th, no SC to help out, just pure racing skills put him in front of Ric

    2. Arnoud van Houwelingen
      11th April 2017, 9:39

      That is not true .. Max was way quicker then Daniel until the last stint on SS. The reason Daniel was faster in the latest stint was due to a wing adjustement which gave him more downforce on the front tires. Max didn’t have this adjustement and was struggling massively with understeer in the last 15 laps!

  4. Season Star Performers:
    +2: Vettel, Alonso
    +1: Perez, Verstappen, Hamilton, Sainz,
    0: Giovinazzi, Bottas, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Massa, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Vandoorne, Kvyat, Ericsson, Wehrlein
    -1: Stroll, Magnussen, Palmer
    -2: Raikkonen

    1. That I like. Will be interesting to follow it during the whole year.

  5. None of the drivers were really bad. Some just did not get the rub of the green like Stroll. Bottas and Kimi wete not great but not really bad. McLaren are not too bad in the races Alonso said in testing 30 km slower on every straight but inly 14 km on such a long straight and thats to the fastest, what eas speed gap to Ferrari in the straight? Alonso was good though but maybe not as good as he makes out he is selling himself at the moment. He over does things like Mansell used to do (9g through Becketts).

    1. The McLaren is indeed 30km/hr slower. But the Samurai can invoke his superpowers and make the top speed even more than what the engine is capable of :)

      1. Sometimes the mclaren has been 20kph slower sometimes. Only bottas made the Honda look ridiculous. Its actually not as slow as early 15 and perhaps 16, nevertheless they look 2015 fragile or worse.

  6. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    11th April 2017, 11:08

    As a big fan and long-time cheerleader of his, it pains me to say that I have been somewhat disappointed by Vandoorne in his first two races. Yes, he is a rookie of sorts, and yes, there have been mitigating factors that explain his poor qualifying performances, but we ought to have very high expectations of Stoffel. He has a tonne of racing experience from a long career in the junior categories, and has plenty of F1 test mileage under his belt: he is probably the best prepared and best accredited young driver to make his debut on the grid since Nico Hulkenberg. I think the similarly well-prepared Esteban Ocon has been much more impressive in the opening rounds.

    Wins on debut in FR3.5 and GP2, a podium on debut in Japanese Super Formula and a point on debut when parachuted into the Bahrain Grand Prix rather suggests that Vandoorne has no qualms when it comes to acclimatizing to new machinery. The MCL32 is clearly the exception: he looks tentative on-track and has seldom been within half-a-second of Alonso in any session in the first two races. Yes, Alonso is a mightily imposing reference (indeed the gap to Vandoorne rather infers the excellent job Fernando is doing), and yes, the MCL32 is no great platform for Stoffel’s talents (albeit arguably neither was the STR10 for Verstappen), but Fernando is having no problems showcasing his talent. It sounds harsh, but we should be expecting ’07-Hamilton-style performances from Stoffel because that is what the junior categories suggest he is capable of, and that is what he has been groomed for.

    Given that he won every feature race in Bahrain he ever started, and given that he made his tremendous F1 debut there last year, my expectations are high for this weekend.

  7. Driver Ratings:


    Hamilton – 5/5 – Set an excellent pole lap and was untouchable during the race.

    Bottas – 3/5 – Wasn’t too far off HAM in quali but he bottled the race with that spin under the SC.


    Vettel – 4/5 – Outpaced Merc in FP3, Q1 and Q2. He matched HAM’s pace but wasn’t able to challenger for the win because he was held up by RAI, earlier.

    Raikkonen – 3/5 – Was competitive in quali but with a combination of poor decisions from the team, car problems, and lack of motivation, he had a lackluster race.

    Red Bull

    Verstappen – 5/5 – Had problems in quali but made up nine places on the first lap from P16, and made bold passes on RIC and RAI, on his way to a well-deserved P3.

    Ricciardo – 4/5 – A much-improved weekend for RIC; he was a strong contender for the podium but he was mugged by RIC and RAI.

    Toro Rosso

    Sainz – 4/5 – Wasn’t too far off Q3. He had a bad start but gambled in the pits, and that gamble payed off, as he battled with the top-three teams and finished as the best-of-the-rest.

    Kvyat – 3/5 – Great pace in quali but reliability prevented that from becoming a points-finish.


    Magnussen – 4/5 – Qualified and raced well to score his first points for Haas.

    Grosjean – 3/5 – Was unfairly penalised which left him on the backffot, but still made up places, and was unlucky not to score points.

    Force India

    Perez – 3/5 – Qualified decently but was mugged by SAI, MAG and ALO. He still managed to score anither points-finish.

    Ocon – 4/5 – Started P17 but worked his way up to another impressive points-finish.


    Hulkenberg – 3/5 – Qualified well but his race fell apart early on. Made a slick-tyre gamble which didn’t pay off and was penalised twice.

    Palmer – 2/5 – Failed to advance from Q1 and couldn’t keep his tyres up to the right tempurature in the race, which also left him on the backfoot of the race.


    Massa – 2/5 – Qualified decently but couldn’t keep his tyres at a decent tempurature during the race, so he slid down to P14.

    Stroll – 2/5 – Made it to Q3 but a lack of awareness caused him to retire on the first lap.


    Ericsson – 2/5 – Made it to Q2 but finished last in the race.

    Giovinazzi – 2/5 – Crashed in both quali and the race.


    Alonso – 4/5 – An impressive Q2 lap was followed up with him running in an even-better points position than before, but it came to nothing in the end.

    Vandoorne – Didn’t come close to ALO during the weekend and reliability got the best of him in the race.

    1. Perez was alright.

  8. Kimi was slow, he didnt overtake on fresh tyres and did not copw or resolve the understeer as ricciardo did. Nevertheless the fact kimi made no mistake whilst bottas did was slow more than those pit stops should be enough to put bottas on struggles. I think we are classing who had the speed rather than who manage to make a good race. Sainz shouldnt be here, no one noticed but kvyat retired early had that not been yhe case danil would have beaTen sainz.

  9. How people not realize that the most important thing for Sainz was not the fact of starting in sliks!!! The most impressive was to keep the same speed than the top cars when the trak was humid. Kvyat was 3 sec. slower per lap!!!

  10. My Performers:

    Hamilton – 5/5
    Verstappen – 5/5
    Vettel – 4/5
    Sainz – 4/5
    Alonso – 4/5
    Magnussen – 4/5

    The Rest:

    Ricciardo – 4/5
    Ocon – 4/5
    Grosjean – 3/5
    Raikkonen – 3/5
    Kvyat – 3/5
    Perez – 3/5
    Bottas – 3/5
    Hulkenberg – 3/5
    Ericsson – 2/5
    Massa – 2/5

    The Strugglers:

    Vandoorne – 2/5
    Palmer – 2/5
    Stroll – 2/5
    Giovinazzi – 2/5

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