Max Verstappen shows he can sing in the rain; long live overtaking its now better than ever; Niki Lauda should know better than bet against Mercedes
1) Max makes his mark
Max Verstappen has been rightly criticised, moving across Kimi Raikkonen on the Kemmel straight at the Belgian Grand Prix last year being a low point, but in China the 19-year-old was simply breathtaking. The flaws that come with youth are matched by an audacity that is a joy to behold. The Dutch driver passed nine cars on the opening lap and was in fourth place by lap six. After the safety car restart he skinned Raikkonen around the outside and shortly afterwards his Red Bull team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo, up the inside of turn six, while Valtteri Bottas was a further victim. His place on the podium was down to more than just attacking; Verstappen defended with a maturity and skill that belies his years when being chased down by a determined Ricciardo. The pair went at it hard and it was Verstappen who came out on top to take third place. The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, called it a remarkable drive acknowledging Verstappen has proved he has the talent in the wet that marks out the great drivers. If Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are two of the best drivers of the current generation, Verstappen looks to be at the head of the new breed. If Red Bull can bring his car up to speed with Ferrari and Mercedes, Hamilton and Vettel are going to have to look beyond their mutual appreciation society and face a very real threat.
2) Overtaking looking good
Fears the aerodynamic focus would make passing all but impossible look to have been exaggerated. It is too early to say for sure but on this evidence not only can it be done but it is better than ever. Shanghai was replete with fantastic overtaking, not only from Verstappen. Vettel, among others, hurtled up the inside and outside, late-braking and brushing wheels. The drivers have already said how much they enjoy driving the new cars and are now saying how much fun they are to race enthusiasm that has long been missing from F1. What was really crucial was that they were passes that meant something. Last year China had the most overtaking moves of the season with 128. This year there were 32 but it was quality over quantity writ large. Where previously they were DRS-based passes, this year they were largely drivers forcing the move through a corner, with skill and bravery. Ironically the largely disliked drag reduction system looks like it might finally be working under the new rules. As Horner noted: Its as it should be. The DRS is doing the job it was initially intended for: to give you the run but the driver still has to get the job done. All the overtakes we saw, and there may have been less, but they were all earned. Vettel on Ricciardo, Verstappen on Ricciardo, Verstappen on Bottas, they were all aggressive, take your opportunity overtakes. Thats the way it should be. Lets hope for more of the same in Bahrain.