Chinese GP Sprint: Max Verstappen beats Lewis Hamilton to win as Fernando Alonso retires from dramatic contest | F1 News

Max Verstappen chased down and passed Lewis Hamilton to claim victory in the opening Sprint of the 2024 Formula 1 season at the Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton passed pole-sitter Lando Norris to take the lead at the first corner but was powerless to resist the pace of Verstappen, who came from fourth on the grid to ease into the lead before the halfway stage of the 19-lap contest, and then comfortably pulled clear.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez took third after coming out on top of a dramatic four-car battle, which saw Fernando Alonso retire after making contact with the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz.

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Intense battle ensures for third place between Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc in the Sprint at the Chinese Grand Prix.

While Sainz was able to finish, the Spaniard dropped down to fifth after being overtaken by team-mate Charles Leclerc in the closing stages.

Having run off track when trying to hold off Hamilton on the opening lap, Norris was left to settle for sixth ahead of McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell, the only driver to use soft rather than medium tyres, drove a strong race to come from 11th on the grid to take the final point in eighth.

Chinese GP Sprint: Top 8

1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull

2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull

4) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

5) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

6) Lando Norris, McLaren

7) Oscar Piastri, McLaren

8) George Russell, Mercedes

The victory extends Verstappen’s world championship lead to 15 points over Perez as the Dutchman seeks a fourth consecutive drivers’ title. Red Bull’s advantage over Ferrari at the top of the constructors’ standings grows to 26 points.

While Verstappen’s searing pace establishes him as the clear favourite for Sunday’s full-distance race, the fact that teams are able to change their car setups under 2024’s new Sprint format leaves room for the likes of Perez and the Ferraris to reduce their pace deficit ahead of qualifying, live on Sky Sports F1 at 8am on Saturday.

How Verstappen denied Hamilton unlikely win

After a wet Sprint Qualifying session on Friday mixed up the grid, the question was whether the top three of Norris, Hamilton and Alonso could deny Verstappen, who had appeared to have the fastest car in dry conditions.

The pre-race consensus was that only Norris’ McLaren might have the pace to put up serious resistance, but the Brit’s hopes of a maiden F1 victory were over almost immediately.

Having spun his wheels when pulling away on the formation lap, Norris once more made an imperfect start when the contest began for real, as Hamilton got alongside him on the inside line approaching Turn 1.

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Lewis Hamilton failed to shake off Max Verstappen from taking the lead during the Sprint race at the Chinese Grand Prix.

From that point, Hamilton was always going to come out on top at the long first corner, but Norris made a poor decision in refusing to accept that reality and attempted to hang on around the outside before running out of grip and space as he ran wide and dropped to seventh.

From that point it seemed inevitable Verstappen would be able to overhaul Hamilton and Alonso, but early complaints over his battery and a failure to close in on the Aston Martin created hope of an upset.

However, Verstappen would eventually become more comfortable with his setup and suddenly closed up to Alonso before easing past on the back straight on lap seven.

Hamilton had a two-second lead over the Red Bull at that point, but lost most of his advantage when running wide at the end of lap eight, leaving him as a sitting duck for Verstappen to pass on the following lap at Turn 14.

Hamilton’s decision not to put up much of a fight was quickly vindicated, as Verstappen pulled away at more than a second per lap to eventually win by more than 13 seconds.

Chaos in battle for third

While Alonso was unable to provide Hamilton with a buffer to Verstappen, the Aston Martin driver did do his former team-mate a favour by holding up the Ferraris and Perez for much of the remainder.

A DRS train formed behind Alonso, whose resistance was finally ended by Carlos Sainz on lap 17, but not without a fight.

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Ferrari teammates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz discuss their on track battle at the Sprint of the Chinese GP.

Sainz cut back inside of Alonso at the Turn 6 hairpin and seemed to have got the pass done before the latter made a somewhat reckless dive back up the inside a few corners later.

Contact between the pair would give Alonso race-ending damage, but Sainz was forced wide and off track on the outside of Turn 10, which allowed Perez to swoop into third.

Sainz was then under pressure from Leclerc and was guilty of some overzealous defence of his own, bumping and pushing his Ferrari team-mate off track at the final hairpin.

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Lando Norris said he had ‘no chance’ of victory in the Sprint and the McLaren’s race pace was ‘shocking’ after going backward after his Sprint pole.

Leclerc would complete the pass moments later but complained that his team-mate had “crossed the line” with his defence, with Sainz offering a post-race apology.

The stewards decided to investigate the Sainz-Alonso incident after the race, but not the clash between the Ferrari team-mates.

Sky Sports F1’s live Chinese GP schedule

China schedule

Saturday April 20
7am: Chinese GP Qualifying build-up*
8am: Chinese GP Qualifying*
10am: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook*

Sunday April 21
7am: Grand Prix Sunday: Chinese GP build-up*
10am: Chequered Flag: Chinese GP reaction*
11am: Ted’s Notebook*

*also live on Sky Sports Main Event

You can watch every session of the Chinese Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 and steam every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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