Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo snatched victory in a thrilling Chinese Grand Prix while early race leader and pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel tangled with Max Verstappen and finished eighth.
A safety car for debris on lap 32 of 56 allowed the two Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to switch to from the favoured one-stop to a two-stop strategy.
Ricciardo restarted the race in sixth but climbed up the order, making a final overtake on the inside of Valtteri Bottas at Turn 6 to take the lead on lap 45.
Taking his sixth career victory, Ricciardo is now fourth in the drivers’ standings. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel had his lead slashed to nine points after finishing ninth.
Vettel led the race in the opening stages but was jumped by Bottas at the first round of pitstops. Neither driver pitted during the safety car.
Ricciardo demoted Vettel to third place and the former race leader was then reeled in by Max Verstappen.
Attempting to pass Vettel at Turn 14, Verstappen dived to the inside of the Ferrari. The two made contact at the apex and spun. Verstappen was issued a 10-second time penalty while Vettel slipped to seventh.
Having damaged his tyres in the incident, Vettel’s pace deteriorated in the closing stages. He lost seventh to Fernando Alonso on the penultimate lap. Verstappen finished fifth after his penalty was applied.
Behind Ricciardo, Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen finished second and third. Raikkonen made his one and only stop eight laps later than Bottas but was unable to pass the Mercedes in the closing stages despite the rubber advantage.
Lewis Hamilton ended the race fourth. Despite losing out to Verstappen on track, the reigning champion recovered fourth after the Red Bull driver’s penalty was applied.
Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth for Renault. He also pitted during the safety car intervention. Team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr, who lost time versus Hulkenberg in traffic after the first stop, closed in on Vettel during the final lap but was unable to pass, finishing ninth.
Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top 10. He finished ahead of the Force India duo of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, who battled throughout the race.
The Toro Rosso pair clashed at Turn 14. Pierre Gasly pitched his Brendon Hartley into a spin after colliding with the rear of his car. The resulting debris was what triggered the race defining safety car. Hartley was later the race’s only retirement.