Verstappen ‘on another planet’ with victory in China

By Reuters
April 22, 2024
Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit in Shanghai on April 21, 2024. — AFP

SHANGHAI: Triple world champion Max Verstappen won Formula One’s first Chinese Grand Prix in five years on Sunday with McLaren’s Lando Norris finishing a surprise second to deny dominant Red Bull the one-two.


The crushing victory from pole position at a Shanghai circuit that last hosted a grand prix in 2019 was Verstappen’s fourth in five races in 2024 and came after he also won the season’s first Saturday sprint.

Mexican team mate Sergio Perez, Verstappen’s closest championship rival but now 25 points behind, completed the podium after a dry race with two safety car periods that compromised his race.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished fourth and fifth respectively with Mercedes’s George Russell sixth and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso seventh with a bonus point for fastest lap.

The victory was the 58th of Verstappen’s career and Shanghai became the 26th track he has won at. “It felt amazing. All weekend I think we were incredibly quick. It was just enjoyable to drive,” said the 26-year-old who took the chequered flag 13.773 seconds clear of Norris.

“The car was basically on rails and I could do whatever I wanted to with it.” Team boss Christian Horner summed up the situ ation by describing Verstappen, who has won all the races he has finished this year, as a man driving “on another planet”.

Red Bull are now 44 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors’ standings. Norris 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.”

His only wrong moves came after the finish when Norris returned to the pit lane rather than parking up alongside Verstappen and Perez on the straight, and later when he picked up the cap for third-placed driver. 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.