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Other SportsChinese Grand Prix 2024: 'Huge step' for Hamilton but Verstappen takes sprint...

Chinese Grand Prix 2024: ‘Huge step’ for Hamilton but Verstappen takes sprint honours

Lewis Hamilton said he had taken a “huge step” despite missing out on top spot in Saturday’s sprint race at the Chinese Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen fighting past his old rival to take the honours.

Hamilton started the first sprint race of the season second on the grid, behind only Lando Norris, and he passed the McLaren driver on the first corner to take control.

However, after a testing start, the Red Bulls’ pace was there for all to see, Verstappen fighting his way from fourth to seize the lead before the halfway stage of the 19-lap race then cruising home.

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Hamilton was able to split the Red Bulls, though, clinging on for second ahead of Sergio Perez, which he described as his most positive performance in a difficult season to date.

“That’s the best result I’ve had in a long time so I am super happy and grateful, this is a huge step and improvement,” he told Sky Sports.

“The race was tough and if I was further back I would have struggled to progress, I found a lot about this car through this short stint so I am excited about tomorrow.”

Verstappen stands as the clear favourite for Sunday’s race, though, after overcoming early complaints over his battery to win by 13.043 seconds.

“The first few laps were quite hectic. They were pushing quite hard up front and I had Carlos [Sainz] behind with new tyres and it was very difficult to keep him behind,” Verstappen said.

“Then as the race went on we became stronger and I felt more comfortable with the balance of the car and could look after my tyres. Very pleased with that.”

There was plenty of drama behind the top two, meanwhile, with Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin sustaining race-ending damage when he collided with Sainz on turn nine, with Perez taking advantage to pass both drivers.

Sainz was later involved in another incident involving Charles Leclerc, with the Spaniard bumping and pushing his Ferrari team-mate off the track at the final hairpin in a failed attempt to hold onto fourth.

Leclerc did overhaul Sainz before the Spaniard offered a post-race apology.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Sainz said: “I was doing everything I could to defend and I had a bit of a moment with Charles, so I apologise if I did something over the limit. I was doing everything to keep it under control.”

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
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