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After the massively restricted Friday running thanks to visibility issues for the medical helicopter, the Chinese weekend went ahead without much of a hitch behind the scenes. The teams and drivers effectively ran with only an hour of practice under their belts. And talking of drivers, Antonio Giovinazzi was standing in for Pascal Wehrlein for a second straight weekend.
Grosjean formed a large part of the entertainment in Q1, spinning with such force he gave himself a puncture. Verstappen reported engine problems, managing to go slower than Grosjean's spin lap by a considerable margin.
Giovinazzi made 15th but crashed at the end of the session, ruining the last few hot laps. Vandoorne, Grosjean, Palmer, Verstappen and Ocon dropped out. Grosjean and Palmer were then put under investigation for not slowing for the yellow flags.
Sainz, Magnussen, Alonso and Ericsson were the 4 runners falling in Q2, along with Giovinazzi who obviously couldn't continue after Q1.
Hamilton led Vettel, Bottas and Raikkonen after the initial runs in Q3, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg putting Renault power on row 3 ahead of Massa, Kvyat, Perez and Stroll – the latter 2 failing to set a time.
The top 5 stayed the same, Massa and Perez both jumping the car immediately in front of them on their second laps. Stroll was half a second off Kvyat in 9th, while Hamilton set a lap record, sitting 0.186 seconds ahead of Vettel and, gallingly for the Finn, 0.187 ahead of Bottas.
Both Grosjean and Palmer were penalised for not sufficiently slowing under the yellow flags in Q1, leading to a row 10 lockout for the pair until the inevitable gearbox penalty for Giovinazzi put the Italian last.
Rain falling on Sunday potentially posed a problem for the drivers and teams who hadn't done any pre-season wet running – Ferrari and Vettel not included on that list.
The only driver starting on dry tyres was Sainz on his Q2 Supers, otherwise most of the field on intermediates. Palmer pitted for slicks too after the formation lap, but Sainz dropped back massively off the line, only ahead of Palmer after the first corner. Conversely, Verstappen was in 9th by the back straight. Vettel was “noted” by Race Control for parking out of position on the grid.
Stroll got rammed from behind partway round the first lap, retiring the Williams. Perez appeared to be the driver who hit him, and duly caught the stewards' attention. No penalty was given, however.
Hulkenberg pitted to switch to dry tyres. Vettel, Kvyat, Ocon, Alonso, Grosjean and Vandoorne all pitted under the resulting VSC for slicks. Meanwhile Hulkenberg reported that the speed limits were hurting his tyre temperatures, the soft tyres not liking the conditions.
Giovinazzi ploughed his car into the pit wall, bringing out the Safety Car proper this time. The traffic was diverted through the pit lane while the clean-up operation began. Another flurry of stops ensued, while replays seemed to show a puddle catching Giovinazzi off guard.
Ricciardo took supers at the end of lap 5, the race order a bit of a mess while Vettel was let off for his grid position.
Lap 8 saw open racing again, but not before Bottas spun from 5th down to 12th. Perez overtook Massa after running wide at turn 1, then cleared Kyat as well for 8th. Ahead, Verstappen took 3rd from Raikkonen, dropping the Finn back towards Vettel as the 2007 World Champion reported a loss of torque from his engine. Subsequently taking the fastest lap suggested it was at worst an intermittent problem.
Verstappen stole 2nd from Ricciardo on lap 11, turning his attention to Hamilton who had been told that he could run the full distance, while Mercedes reckoned Red Bull couldn't.
Hulkenberg got a 5 second penalty for overtaking Grosjean under the VSC. He was also under investigation for overtaking Ericsson under the Safety Car, for which he then got a 10 second penalty. Magnussen then went under investigation for going “unnecessarily slowly” behind the Safety Car, an investigation which resulted in no penalty.
Vandoorne was told by McLaren to back off and pit on lap 18 to retire with a fuel problem.
Vettel dived past Raikkonen while Kvyat parked the Toro Rosso in a service road. The championship leader overtook Ricciardo a few laps later, their tyres scraping and losing their markings in the process.
Verstappen locked up, ran onto the wet astroturf, and lost 2nd to Vettel along with a lot of time. The teenager pitted a lap later for fresh tyres. He then made a textbook move on a relatively compliant Bottas, who according to Alonso was fighting a damaged car.
Talking of the Spaniard, he fleetingly took 6th from Kvyat but ran wide and lost the place again, before his car cried enough less than a lap later.
Hamilton pitted on lap 36, rejoining on fresh soft tyres comfortably in the lead. Behind him Grosjean also pitted for Haas.
Raikkonen pitted for new tyres, losing out to the three remaining Red Bull liveried cars. Ocon was in a few laps later, dropping out of the points to 11th behind Massa, the Brazilian getting lucky with the strategies around him as the Williams was dragged back to the points despite its apparent dislike for wet conditions. Ocon managed to re-take 10th from Massa after almost a lap of trying. Further up the grid Bottas had finally got past Sainz.
Massa dropped back to 14th again with a late stop, which Perez also took since he had more than a pit stop of lead over his teammate.
Hamilton won from Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Bottas, Sainz, Magnussen, Perez and Ocon. Grosjean then led from Palmer, Hulkenberg, Massa and Ericsson. Alonso, Kvyat, Vandoorne, Giovinazzi and Stroll all retired.
This left Hamilton and Vettel jointly leading the championship, with Verstappen promoted to 3rd ahead of Bottas and Raikkonen.