By Adam Tate
The Chinese Grand Prix was a thrilling, unpredictable race that also happened to throw a generous quantity of stats our way. Here are some of the best nuggets and details to ruminate on while we wait two weeks for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the end of the month.
Up first is Ferrari’s Saturday success in 2018. Sebastian Vettel notched up his 52nd pole position. Kimi Raikkonen backed him up with a close second on the grid which gave the Scuderia their first back to back front row lockouts since 2006, when Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa locked out row one for the U.S. and French Grands Prix. It was also Ferrari’s first pole at Shanghai International since the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix back in 2004. It is quite amazing to think about when you realize how many front row lockouts Mercedes, Red Bull, and even McLaren have had in that time period.
China has been firm Mercedes territory for the last several seasons so it is notable that they were beaten here in qualifying by Ferrari and the race by Red Bull, in fact it is the first time in the turbo hybrid era that Mercedes has gone three races without a victory. For comparisons sake, Ferrari during their similar run of dominance in the early 2000’s opened up the 2003 season without winning the opening three races, but still went on to win the championship by a narrow margin. Currently Mercedes leads the Constructors standings by a single point over Ferrari, mostly due to Vettel’s poor finish this weekend. If anything the comparison to the very close 2003 season between Ferrari, McLaren and Williams should give fans hope for this year’s battle between Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.
The most exciting stat of the weekend is the sixth career victory for Daniel Ricciardo, it ties him with legends John Surtees, Jochen Rindt, Tony Brookes, Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques Lafitte, Ricardo Patrese and Ralf Schumacher. Amazingly, all of the Australian’s victories have come from the fourth row of the grid or lower which is more than any other current driver and most in the history of the sport. Give Ricciardo the kind of car advantage that Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have enjoyed and he may well be able to replicate their astounding numbers.
Hamilton, who had a tough and rather out of character weekend can take some solace in the fact that he has overtaken Kimi Raikkonen and set a new F1 record for most consecutive races in the points as Sunday marked the 28th Grand Prix in a row he has come home in the top 10. One can take that as a glowing endorsement of Mercedes reliability or an ominous warning that the Briton is due an inevitable bit of bad luck and a mechanical DNF soon.
Raikkonen, who seems hungrier and closer to the front than any time since 2013 reached a rather sad milestone in a race where he lead many laps. It has now been 100 races since his last victory at the 2013 Australian Grand Prix. Since that time he has reached the podium a record 23 times without a win. After starting every race this season from second place, surely his bad luck will break soon. It would be an incredibly popular win among the fans. As a consolation he did claim his 93rd podium with his third place finish. This puts him in sixth on the all time list, Fernando Alonso sits just ahead of him with 97, which Kimi should pass soon en route to the 100 plus club this season, occupied currently by Vettel, Hamilton, Alain Prost, and Michael Schumacher on top with 155 podium finishes.
Valtteri Bottas, the man who has the unlucky distinction of finishing second in the last two races, reached his 100th Grand Prix start in China. It was his 10th second place finish, which means he has finished in second place for a full 10% of the races he has started. It was his 24th podium overall.
Perhaps most interestingly; in order to win the race Ricciardo had to pass his team mate Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and then Valtteri Bottas. In doing so he passed the winners of the last 15 Grands Prix, dating back to Ricciardo’s last win in Azerbaijan in 2017. In fact, in order to find the last Grand Prix winner that wasn’t Ricciardo, Vettel, Bottas, Hamilton or Verstappen we have to go back 27 races, all the way to the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix won by Nico Rosberg. Including Rosberg one has to go all the way back, an absurd 96 races to the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix won by Fernando Alonso, who is just four races short of reaching the same 100 races without a win milestone that Raikkonen hit on Sunday. That only six drivers have won all the races in the last five years is about as strong a condemnation on the lack competition in Formula One as any.