Ricciardo Wins China GP As Verstappen Flounders

Daniel Ricciardo Formula One China Grand Prix

Whisper it, but we have a championship battle on our hands this year. Or at least that's what this season is shaping to become, following Daniel Ricciardo's and Red Bull's surprise win in Shanghai yesterday at the China Grand Prix. 

In a race of two halfs - the first a procession, the second a mix of wild overtaking and controversy - Ricciardo won his first race since the Azerbaijani Grand Prix last June, and provided a perfect impression in front of watching suitors, Mercedes and Ferrari.

During the early part of this season, there has been talk that the Australian has already signed a pre-contract with Ferrari, to replace Kimi Raikkonen for the 2019 Grand Prix. Following yesterday's win, Mercedes will no doubt be considering replacing Valtteri Bottas with the Red Bull driver next year.

Surging from P6 to P1 in the most breathtaking of ways during the last twenty laps, Ricciardo has cemented the opinion that he is the most aggressive - and skilled - overtaker in the paddock at the minute.

His manoeuvre on Lewis Hamilton to kickstart his surge to the front was a move for the ages. Coming up to the hairpin off the long straight, he had no right to even think about taking Hamilton as they swung round the bend. Coming from nowhere, Ricciardo braked late and hard to shock Hamilton and force the world champion to lift of the wheel and allow the Aussie to move in, surrendering P5. 

Martin Brundle and Crofty, commentating on the race, couldn't believe what they had just witnessed. A few laps later, he had done it again. This time he shocked race leader Bottas, tearing a hole to overtake as tightly as he could as he could, again to the astonishment of those watching.

In contrast, his team mate Max Verstappen endured a torrid afternoon. If anything, the Dutchman is enemy number one within the paddock at the minute. After an awful start to the season in which he caused incident in the race opener in Australia before crashing out in Bahrain, the 20 year old squandered a golden opportunity to win this race yesterday.

When the Safety Car withdrew with just over 20 laps to go following a clash between the two Toro Rosso drivers, Verstappen was on fresh tires and in P5, one ahead of Ricciardo. He instantly tried to make a move on Hamilton in the most difficult and unlikely places on the circuit, which resulted in him overrunning into the dirt and surrendering not just his tussle with Hamilton, but P5 to Ricciardo, and therefore effectively the race.

A few laps later, he wildly attempted to usurp Sebastian Vettel on the hairpin, only to T-bone the Ferrari and cause both cars to spin. By the time they had corrected themselves, both were out of contention for a podium, with damage to Vettel's car ensuring that he would go on to finish in P8.

"Is there anything I need to say about that?" Vettel asked his race engineers when the Dutchman collided with him.

Simple but incredibly accurate words. Verstappen needs to grow up fast in this sport, or he will risk squandering his precocious, once-in-a-generation talent.