Why a dominant F1 victory doesn't always mean a race is bad
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By Robert Hansford profile image Robert Hansford
5 min read

Why a dominant F1 victory doesn't always mean a race is bad

Max Verstappen might have cruised to victory in China, but the race was still entertaining

Be honest, did you enjoy last weekend's Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix? For those of you saying no right now, I'd hazard a guess that you either didn't see it or you're essentially lying to yourself because you're disappointed the victor was a usual suspect.

As has often been the case for the last few years, Max Verstappen dominated the race to win the grand prix by 13.773 seconds, but to look at that result in isolation would do the event a disservice.

Apart from an outright battle for victory, the Chinese Grand Prix had everything you could want from a race. There was plenty of wheel-to-wheel racing, accidents, safety cars and a lack of predictability when it came to the finish order if you looked beyond first position.

Lando Norris obviously stole the limelight up front, managing to remain ahead of the Ferraris and also leapfrog the Red Bull of Sergio Perez to manoeuvre himself into second. But even when he got into that position, you weren't exactly sure if he was going to be able to hold off Perez, who's Red Bull seemed far superior earlier in the race.

And yet, in the final stint, Perez was effectively nowhere, meaning Norris managed to comfortably finish second.

But the excitement wasn't just limited to Norris and Perez. Everywhere you looked down the grid, there was something going on. Even at the very back, with Haas' Kevin Magnussen going toe-to-toe with Lance Stroll for several laps, despite the fact they were fighting for just 15th.

And then there was Lewis Hamilton. While his team-mate George Russell was having a solid race in the top six, Hamilton was stuck at the rear of the field - having started 18th - struggling to make any real progress until the latter stages of the race. Even then, that progress only really came about with some help of two safety cars and a few retirements ahead of him.

Stroll also kept himself firmly in the action, crashing into the rear of Daniel Ricciardo at the final hairpin as drivers readied themselves for the end of the first safety car period.

That error earned him a 10-second penalty, but it once again added to the drama.

The above is essentially a brief highlights spiel of Sunday's race, but you can instantly get an inclination of just how much was actually going on.

But why was it so action packed in comparison to other races this season?

Well, that's the big question.

You could argue that it's because the Chinese Grand Prix hasn't been on the calendar since prior to covid, but while that might have contributed to the action, with teams having less data than normal, it doesn't answer the whole question.

That's because China usually serves up a great race.

The layout of the Shanghai circuit is a twisty one, with plenty of different types of corners, and ones that are wholly unique.

Take the first corner for example. It's a carousel-esque right-hander, and it's one that also allows drivers to take a variety of different lines. And that's something that appears at several corners around the track.

It means drivers can experiment, be bold and brave and attempt overtakes that they wouldn't normally on a more traditional circuit like Barcelona for example.

And then there's the surface. It's always been quite abrasive, meaning tyre wear can be a particular factor. And we witnessed that on Sunday, with the first stoppers pitting three to four laps earlier than expected.

That then brings into play the strategy. Usually, you can guess what the pitstop strategy is going to be before the race even gets underway, but in China that wasn't really possible.

George Russell's Mercedes at the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix

While most drivers had planned a two-stop strategy beforehand, when the race actually got underway, everything went out of the window.

Red Bull stuck to a two-stop strategy, in the knowledge that their tyres simply couldn't go any longer. But Ferrari and McLaren were surprised how well their tyres were holding up, allowing Norris and Charles Leclerc to extend their first stints so they could switch to a one-stop.

And the entire result could have been different had the full safety car not come out when it did for Valtteri Bottas' stricken Sauber as at that point, both Norris and Leclerc had stopped, while both Verstappen and Perez still had a second one to make.

But they weren't the only strategies in play. Given the timing of the safety car, Fernando Alonso opted to go aggressive and switched to a three-stop strategy. That strategy didn't completely pay off, but it did enable him to finish seventh after a late surge back up the order on fresher tyres.

Fernando Alonso at the 2024 F1 Chinese Grand Prix

As you can read, there was a lot going on in the race last weekend, and that's why it doesn't really matter that Verstappen dominated. In the end, he won by 13s, but if you think about it, that's still not by a huge margin, especially when you consider that in the pre-2010 era it was not unusual for drivers to win races by a lap or two at times.

Of course, it would be great if there was a battle for victory. If we didn't want to see that, there would be no point watching motorsport. But the lack of that doesn't mean a race is bad if there's still plenty of action going on throughout the rest of the field.

And that's what people need to accept. The fastest car should win. But fans should also be able to witness great racing with lots of action.

That's what the Chinese Grand Prix served up, and that's why it's great to finally have it back on the calendar.

By Robert Hansford profile image Robert Hansford
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