Shanghai provided a futuristic backdrop for round three of the F1 World Championship, but the race proved a far more electrifying affair.
Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo taking his first win in 2018, care of a perfectly timed pit stop under the safety car, and an overtaking masterclass.
At the start, polesitter Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel squeezed Kimi Räikkönen on the run to Turn 1 – which allowed Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas through into second.
Up front, Vettel set a string of fastest laps, pulling out a 3.5 second gap on Bottas by Lap 17, when both Red Bulls double stacked for the mediums.
On Lap 18, Hamilton also pitted for the mediums, Bottas doing the same on the next lap. Vettel pitted from the lead on Lap 20, but a slow 2.8 second stop and Bottas’ in-lap saw the Finn ahead on exit and up to second.
Bottas soon found himself in a Ferrari sandwich, with pressure at the rear from Vettel, but he passed Räikkönen on Lap 27 to take the lead.
But on Lap 30, both Toro Rossos collided at the hairpin – bringing out the safety car two laps later while the debris was cleared. And the two Red Bulls pounced, again double stacking for a set of the softs.
At the safety car restart on Lap 36, the order was Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Räikkönen and then Ricciardo, who went on the attack – with the Australian passing Räikkönen for fifth on the next lap.
On Lap 39, Verstappen ran off the track at Turn 8 - after almost touching Hamilton in trying to get past, promoting Ricciardo to fourth. One lap later, Ricciardo passed Hamilton for third in an incredible move into Turn 14.
On Lap 42, Ricciardo passed Vettel for second place - and then Bottas for the lead three laps later. In the meantime, Verstappen tapped Vettel, after a botched pass at the hairpin forcing them to spin – the Dutchman handed a 10-second time penalty for another clumsy move.
But while Verstappen’s stock fell, Ricciardo’s rose – the fastest lap capping off a brilliant drive, his pass on Hamilton one of his best-ever.
"Sometimes you’ve just got to lick the stamp and send it," he said.