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5 things that made 2024 Chinese Grand Prix worth watching

A track catching fire and a boatload of incidents

The first China race in five years was worth the wait. PHOTO FROM FORMULA 1

The last time the Formula 1 circus raced at the Shanghai International Circuit for the Chinese Grand Prix was back in 2019. After that, the pandemic got in the way and planned races were canned, but it’s finally back with a very exciting Sprint weekend despite the obvious Red Bull dominance.

Here are five things that made the Chinese Grand Prix worth watching.

We would love to hear Nico Rosberg's commentary more often. SCREENSHOT FROM FORMULA 1

1. The refreshing Nico Rosberg commentary. Most of the time, people tune into Sky Sports F1, which has the iconic duo of David Croft and Martin Brundle providing insights and commentary during a race.

But this time, we had 2016 champion Nico Rosberg behind the second mic providing detailed yet understandable explanations of what was happening on the track, such as tire management, race pace, and insights on team strategies.

It was even fun to hear him cheering on his old teammate during the sprint race, which was crazy enough to mention on its own.

The battle for first was exciting until Max Verstappen inevitably ran away. SCREENSHOTS FROM FORMULA 1

2. An insane sprint race. With most of the grid joining after 2019, it was inevitable that this would be a weekend that should favor the veterans. But for some reason, everything was just downright crazy. From the track being resurfaced last year to Turn 7 bizarrely catching fire twice, it proved to be one heck of a sprint race.

First, the qualifying saw Lando Norris (McLaren) take pole position, followed by Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes-AMG) and Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin). Max Verstappen (Red Bull) ended up in fourth place, surprisingly.

Unfortunately, a mistake from Norris saw him drop all the way down to P7, which meant that Hamilton was the race leader for nine whole laps. Inevitably, Verstappen passed him on Lap 9.

In the end, the winner played the waiting game. SCREENSHOTS FROM FORMULA 1

There was also a spicy four-way battle for P3 on Lap 16 between Alonso, Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), Sergio Perez (Red Bull), and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari).

It started with the two Spaniards duking it out back and forth until contact between the two left Alonso with a puncture (and a Lap 17 retirement). Perez was the big winner, having sat back and waited.

Is Carlos Sainz taking things too far with his team for not giving him a seat next year? SCREENSHOT FROM FORMULA 1

Things also got too heated between the two Ferraris. After the battle, Sainz ended up pushing his teammate out in a bid to maintain his position. Leclerc eventually got past him and settled for a P4 finish in the sprint, with a nostalgic top three of Verstappen, Hamilton and Perez.

A ho-hum race until a Sauber's engine died. SCREENSHOTS FROM FORMULA 1

3. A tame race gone crazy. The actual race day saw a starting grid of Verstappen in P1, Perez in P2, Alonso in P3, Norris in P4, and Oscar Piastri (McLaren) in P5, with the two Ferraris filling up P7 and P8. George Russell (Mercedes) started in P8, but his teammate was at the back in P18.

What began as a fairly standard race with the two Red Bulls inevitably taking the first two spots, the entire race fell into a lull until Valtteri Bottas‘s (Sauber) engine failed on Lap 21, which stopped him at the edge of the track.

According to Croft, the 'RB' in VCARB meant a 'Really Bad' weekend. SCREENSHOTS FROM FORMULA 1

What started out as a virtual safety car and a pitstop scramble ended up becoming a full safety car until Lap 26, where a series of incidents happened one after another.

During the race restart, Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) locked up and ran into the back of Daniel Ricciardo (VCARB), which caused massive damage (and eventual retirement) for the latter. One lap later, we saw Yuki Tsunoda (VCARB) get spun out by Kevin Magnussen (Haas), which forced the latter to retire as well.

A super intense battle for a meaningless position. SCREENSHOT FROM FORMULA 1

Both Magnussen and Stroll got 10-second penalties, which led to a very intense and amusing battle for P16 on Lap 34. Logan Sargeant (Williams) also got a 10-second penalty for overtaking during a safety car, but that was pretty much just adding insult to injury for his last-place finish.

We have to admit, his messages are getting funnier to hear. SCREENSHOTS FROM FORMULA 1

4. Lewis Hamilton is not happy with his car (again). We’re all familiar with the seven-time champion’s gripes with the current Mercedes-AMG W15, but he was extra vocal about it in this race. From a poor qualifying result of P18, he managed to climb up to a P9 finish, but it wasn’t easy.

One of the notable radio messages from Hamilton was him saying: “I can’t even catch him, mate. The car is so slow.”

It’s even more hilarious when you realize that he was referring to the Alpine of Esteban Ocon, which is considered to be one of the slowest cars on the grid for this season. Some much-needed comedy, but we wonder if this is just going to end up souring his relationship with the team that he won so many championships with.

We're optimistic for Fernando Alonso's future when Honda starts supplying Aston Martin with powertrains. SCREENSHOTS FROM FORMULA 1

5. Fernando Alonso’s racecraft shone through. Pair the oldest driver on the grid with a set of fresh medium tires on Lap 44, and watch him go full qualifying pace.

He emerged P11 after that pitstop and managed to claw his way back to P7 with a series of impressive overtakes on Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg (Haas), Hamilton, and Piastri. He also managed to save himself from ending up in the wall with his great reaction time, and snagged the fastest lap away from Verstappen.

A very touching and heartfelt moment for Zhou Guanyu. PHOTOS FROM FORMULA 1

BONUS: It’s full circle for Zhou Guanyu (Sauber). While the Chinese driver’s home race saw him end in P14 with some damage after a last-lap battle with Magnussen, the crowd loved seeing him speed around, with cheers every time the driver zoomed through the home stretch.

And despite the podium being reserved for the top three finishers, there was a special spot for Zhou right in front of the main grandstand, complete with his face on it. This reduced him to tears, as the kid who had been watching in the grandstands 20 years ago was now being cheered on by his countrymen in his home race.

If you’re excited for more Sprint Race action, the next race in Miami will happen on May 5 (May 6, 4am, Philippine Standard Time). Would you wake up early to catch the race before the workweek starts?

Sam Surla

Sam is the youngest member of our editorial team. And he is our managing editor (believe it or not). He specializes in photography and videography, but he also happens to like writing about cars a lot.