Albon crashes in final China practice, comes out physically unscathed

Virginia Santiago
April 15, 2019

Mercedes Formula 1 driver Valtteri Bottas blamed the painted start/finish line for causing the wheelspin that cost him a shot of victory in the Chinese Grand Prix.

Bottas, who leads the world championship by a point ahead of title-holder Hamilton after two races, scorched to a best time of one minute 31.547 seconds.

On lap 11, four-time world champion Vettel leapfrogged back in front of Monaco's Leclerc into third following radio orders from Ferrari telling the youngster to let him pass.

The decision led to Leclerc losing fourth place to Max Verstappen's Red Bull. With Verstappen just two seconds back, Red Bull triggered the pit-stop period.

F1's magic number may not have been of import to Hamilton but they stack up well for him in China.

But Leclerc nearly won in Bahrain, and Binotto said the priority is always for Ferrari to win.

"I think it was really unlucky the way it happened", said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto.

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He had also gone quickest in Q1, but teammate Hamilton was marginally faster in Q2.

Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors' picks. Looking on the bright side, we had a good FP2 and our race pace looks strong so I'm optimistic about tomorrow's race.

Hamilton had been out of sorts for much of the weekend, complaining about the set-up of the auto, but in a brilliant start he claimed the lead from team-mate Bottas, who had been on pole.

Trapped in Hamilton's dirty air without a big pace advantage, Bottas was unable to challenge his team-mate and he finished the race in second.

Sebastian Vettel was third-fastest for Mercedes' arch-rivals Ferrari for the race in Shanghai, the 1 000th grand prix in Formula One.

"I need to start on pole and then stay in front, but that will not be easy", Leclerc added.

But it quickly became apparent that Leclerc was quicker than Vettel.

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"Sorry guys", he said over the team radio.

However, the switch did nothing to improve their position relative to the leaders. Ferrari eventually pitted Leclerc on lap 42 and he rejoined now 14 seconds behind Verstappen - too much of a gap to make up in the remaining 16 laps. He emerged just in front of Verstappen who attacked up the inside into the hairpin and nearly made it stick, Vettel squeezed him wide on the exit and kept the place but it was bravura stuff from the Dutchman.

That was just 0.023 of a second ahead of Hamilton.

Vettel admitted that he was still trying to "unlock" his Ferrari and conceded that he was not "entirely happy yet" with it. Mercedes duly made a decision to safely match the two-stop strategy and pitted both drivers on lap 37. But it triggered a set of circumstances that led to Verstappen beating Leclerc to fourth place. Leclerc defended well for a full lap until Bottas on fresher rubber swept by on the back straight and Ferrari pitted Leclerc again on lap 42.

It was a disappointing display from Ferrari, having dominated during practice this week.

Vettel, Bottas and then Toro Rosso's Alexander Albon, who missed qualifying after a nasty crash in final practice, all exchanged fastest laps.

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