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    Wednesday, June 12, 2024

    Another race, another victory for Red Bull's Max Verstappen at Chinese GP

    Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates on the podium after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

    Shanghai — Another Formula 1 race. Yet another victory for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

    The three-time defending champion won the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday starting from pole, his fourth victory in five races this season and his 23rd in the last 27 extending through last season.

    Only a brake failure last month at the Australian GP in Melbourne probably kept him from sweeping all five.

    Verstappen trailed for only a few laps following a pit stop. Lando Norris of McLaren was about 14 seconds behind Verstappen in second — the eighth time he has been No. 2 in his career as he still seeks his first victory. Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez was third.

    The Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc, in fourth, and Carlos Sainz rounded out the top five, holding off Mercedes driver George Russell and Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin in sixth and seventh, respectively.

    The rest of the points finishers following on were Oscar Piastri of McLaren, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg in tenth.

    Verstappen now has 110 points to lead the standings followed by Perez (85), Leclerc (76), Sainz (69) and Norris (58).

    “It felt amazing,” Verstappen said. “All weekend we were incredibly quick and it was just enjoyable to drive. The car was basically on rails and I could do whatever I wanted to with it. Those kind of weekends are amazing to feel.”

    Verstappen was asked if this was the most dominant victory of his career.

    “It was a good one, yeah,” he said without getting specific.

    The next GP is Miami on May 5. Will Verstappen power through that street race?

    "Completely different track," he said. “Different tires. Different tarmac. So you never know.”

    The saftey car came out twice in the middle of the race. Once after Sauber's Valtteri Bottas stalled at the edge of the track with a blown engine, and again with two nearly simeltaneous incidents.

    In one, Kevin Magnuessen clipped Yuki Tsunoda, and in the other, Lance Stroll ran into the back of Daniel Ricciardo.

    Verstappen's rule in F1 also extended to Saturday when he took the inaugural sprint race of the season.

    Verstappen, after winning in Japan two weeks ago, was critical of running a sprint in China. He hasn't changed his mind very much — despite winning.

    “The sprint format was better,” Verstappen said. "But let’s not overdo it as well. We are already doing 24 races, six of these sprint events as well. I get it. I guess it sells better and better numbers. But it’s also more stress on the mechanics”

    “We take it,” Verstappen added. "We have to deal with it. But that’s not a thing now where we need 12 because it will take its toll on people as well.”

    Norris echoed Verstappen.

    “The main point is the toll it has on mechanics and engineers,” he said. "I don’t think it’s too bad for us as drivers, honestly. I don’t think we can be the ones to complain at all. The hundreds of mechanics and engineers here that have to travel so much. It's not healthy for them.”

    This was the first F1 race in China since 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic and China's clampdown wiped out four races. Shanghai-born Zhou Guanyu finished 14th for Sauber, perhaps his last chance to race at home as teams next season will shuffle their driver lineups.

    He squatted on the tarmac after the race and covered his face, the crowd thundering “Guanyu, Guanyu, Guanyu.”

    The real competition in F1 for the rest of the season appears to be for the half-dozen places behind Verstappen and Perez. Mercedes' George Russell called it “a fight” for places No. 3 through No. 8.

    “Small differences can have a major impact,” Russell said.

    Domination is nothing new to F1. Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton ruled before Verstappen came along – Schumacher and Hamilton winning seven season titles and Vettel four.

    It’s a good bet that Verstappen and Red Bull will rule next season. That might change in 2026 when new engine and chassis regulations take effect in F1.

    Miami will present a celebrity paddock. There was also a parade of celebrities in China with former basketball star Yao Ming and double Olympic champion skier Eileen Gu posing for photos in the paddock and on the track before the start of the race.

    Red Bull driver Sergio Perez of Mexico steers his car during the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (Andres Martinez Casares/Pool Photo via AP)

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