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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Alonso makes outstanding first impression // Spaniard makes it clear to Mattiacci who is boss

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Alonso drags his Ferrari into a podium position
Mattiacci's first experience in charge of Ferrari saw Alonso back to his bestCredit: Foto Studio Colombo

Let’s be honest, it wasn’t a classic as Lewis Hamilton showed all of his best qualities and teammate Nico Rosberg got stuck in the pack and could never recover. But down the grid, cars being out of position due to a wet qualifying meant that some had to fight through the field to recover some points, while others just didn’t have the pace to maintain their position through the race.

As impressive as Lewis Hamilton was once again, there were other drivers who deserve credit for their efforts in China.

Stellar drive secures ‘non-Mercedes win’

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari: Started 5th, finished 3rd

It’s not exactly a steady time at Ferrari and Marco Mattiacci’s first experience in charge of the team saw Fernando Alonso back to his best, just five seconds behind Nico Rosberg and more importantly 53 seconds clear of his world champion teammate Kimi Räikkönen. Not to call out the Finn but Räikkönen is absolutely nowhere compared to Alonso this season and Kimi’s haphazard drive to eighth only served to emphasise how good Fernando Alonso’s drive was. In the wet on Saturday, Alonso couldn’t match the pace of the Mercedes and Red Bulls, qualifying fifth, half a second behind the second row.

Alonso then got a good start to jump up to third past the slow-starting Rosberg and Ricciardo, and fending off the ambitious Felipe Massa. Alonso and Ferrari had the brains to pit early and use the undercut to pass Sebastian Vettel and clear the Red Bulls, leaving him in a great second place. As good as Alonso’s race pace was, his Ferrari simply didn’t have the speed to hold off Nico Rosberg later in the race, and he decided he was better holding out for third against the Red Bulls then picking a fight that he could never win.

Alonso showed enough guile to hold off the Aussie and secure a first podium

The disadvantage of Alonso’s early first stop rang true at the end of the race however as Daniel Ricciardo chased the Spaniard down with fresher tyres but Fernando Alonso showed enough guile to hold off the Aussie and secure a first podium of the season for the Scuderia and move himself up to third in the drivers’ standings.

Though Mattiacci was a bystander on the pitwall in China, it was impressive to see Ferrari beat Red Bull through strategy rather than sheer pace.

Ricciardo piles on the pressure

Daniel Ricciardo, Infiniti Red Bull Racing: Started 2nd, finished 4th

He may still be without a first F1 podium but there is no doubt who is leading the line at Red Bull at the moment - it’s the young hotshot Daniel Ricciardo. It was he who took the challenge to Hamilton in qualifying, producing a massive lap to slash the Brit’s advantage to six tenths, when in reality Hamilton’s advantage could easily have been north of a second. However, beating Vettel to second on the grid may have proved his downfall as he got a terrible start from the dirty side of the track and was on a recovery drive from there.

Had Felipe Massa not had to back off into turn one, Ricciardo may have been down in fifth, but Ricciardo didn’t let it get him down and from there was on a mission to upstage his teammate once again. Ricciardo was the one who had got the primes up to temperature and working for him, leaving the Red Bull pitwall with an impossible decision of whether or not to order Vettel out of Ricciardo’s way.

Whether Vettel let him through or was frightened off the road, it was Ricciardo’s speed that moved him ahead of Vettel and up to fourth. The Aussie then continued to show this pace as he simply drove away from his esteemed teammate, finishing over twenty seconds ahead.

Bottas salvages Williams’ weekend

Valtteri Bottas, Williams Martini Racing: Started 7th, finished 7th

Bottas on the grid in China
It was a clear sign of the talent that Bottas possesses that he can compete with HülkenbergCredit: Glenn Dunbar/Williams F1

It may not have got the headlines that Bottas’ previous performances have, however the Finn was on it all weekend, and brought home six points for Williams, which in truth is probably all the car deserved. Bottas was edged out by teammate Felipe Massa by a tenth in qualifying.

It’s a shame that Massa was stuck in the pits for a minute as it left us unable to compare their drives.

Massa’s woes left Bottas in a race-long battle with Nico Hülkenberg for sixth. Though Bottas finished a second behind the German, it was a clear sign of the talent that Bottas possesses that he can compete with Hülkenberg, a driver who many believe should be in a top team.

Kvyat the new heir apparent

Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso: Started 13th, finished 10th

There’s another driver on the grid that will be worrying Sebastian Vettel, not to mention Jean-Éric Vergne. Daniil Kvyat was in a battle all race for tail end points with Kimi Räikkönen, Sergio Pérez and Jenson Button.

To battle with World Champions so early in his F1 career shows how confident this young Russian, who is not yet 20, is. He struggled in qualifying, unable to find grip on the wet track, and found himself four places behind Vergne on the grid. But while the Frenchman had a terrible start as he dropped five places, Kvyat showed his cool in combat and ascended up the order.

Kvyat showed his cool in combat and ascended up the order

In the end he couldn’t quite live with the pace of the Ferrari and the Force India and had to settle for tenth, however you would have to argue that a lot of that has to be down to the genuine pace of the car rather than the talent of the driver.

It is unfair to make snap judgements about the battle between Vergne and Kvyat after only four races of their partnership, especially when Vergne has suffered two retirements from those four races. However, it is clear to see that, much like a young Sebastian Vettel, Daniil is extremely good at getting the job done and three points finishes from four for Toro Rosso, especially when their rivals are benefiting from Mercedes power, shows just how good this kid could be.