Bottas pipped teammate Lewis Hamilton to pole in qualifying as Mercedes locked out the front row. But there was little to separate them from the two Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, and with their race pace believed to be faster than Mercedes, a cracking race is in store.
However, do not discount the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, who starts fifth but was caught out in qualifying and will have a point to prove with the pace to challenge the cars in front. Follow the live updates below.
Lap 48: Eight laps to go and Leclerc is still 11.5s behind. He needs a cliff here to catch the Red Bull. Strangely, Hamilton asks if Bottas is under pressure, and with 4.4s between second and third-placed Vettel, maybe he wants to slow the pace a little?
Lap 46: How’s Leclerc getting on? Well he’s taken two seconds out of the gap in two laps, so while it’s good, it’s not quite enough to guarantee he’ll get past him. This could very much prove to be a final-lap shootout, but will Verstappen’s tyres start to fall away to help the Ferrari man’s cause?
As he passes the line the gap is 12.4s with 10 laps remaining.
Lap 45: Bit of a retirement update, as Kvyat has been wheeled into the Toro Rosso garage after a bit of a nightmare day. Meanwhile, Hulkenberg’s retirement is unknown after the German reported an incident.
Lap 43: It’s a slow getaway for Leclerc as it bogs down, but he comes out on the brand news mediums in fifth. The gap is 14.9s with 13 laps remaining, so he’s going to need more than a second a lap on the Red Bull to catch fourth place. That’s…a lot.
Lap 42: Leclerc is still out on those wrecked tyres, and Vettel passes him with ease into the final hairpin to re-take third. Now Leclerc pits, and the battle with Verstappen now begins.
2. Bottas +6.9
3. Leclerc +9.4
4. Vettel +11.1
5. Verstappen +23.9
Lap 39: This is good stuff from Leclerc on old tyres, as he’s doing Vettel a massive favour in holding up the Merc. It won’t last long, and with Bottas on his gearbox as they come onto the back straight, he breezes by with the DRS boost and is back into second. Leclerc tries to fight back to his credit, but that’s the Mercedes one-two restored.
Lap 38: Bottas looks out of danger as the gap to Vettel immediately grows to 4.8s and with only 4.2s between him and Hamilton, we could have a race on our hands here. Bottas is all over Leclerc, but the Ferrari man keeps him at bay at the final hairpin as the Mercedes tries to get around the outside – to no avail.
Lap 37: It’s a little slow for Hamilton and Bottas just eases off as he comes into the box, but it works out as planned as Bottas gets back out in front of Vettel. Not by much, as Vettel is just two seconds behind the Mercedes, and throw Leclerc into the mix in second and this is spicing up nicely.
Lap 36: Here comes the four-time world champion, he hits his marks and Ferrari pull off one hell of a stop with a 2.2s service. It means he returns to the track miles clear of Verstappen and that’s job done for the Ferrari boys. They’ll still have one more stop for Leclerc, maybe in around five laps’ time. Will Mercedes respond? Yes they will and it’s Hamilton first – followed immediately by Bottas! This is interesting.
Lap 35: Damn. There won’t be an on-track battle between Verstappen and Leclerc because Red Bull have pitted their driver for a second time. That’s a long way for Verstappen to go, though his tyres should do it, but we should at least get the eventual duel later in the race. Vettel meanwhile is told to pit next lap by.
Lap 33: How’s the gap between Leclerc and Verstappen doing? It’s down to 3.5s and the worse news for Verstappen is he’s in traffic. At this rate, they’ll be nose-and-tail in three laps’ time. Out in front meanwhile, Hamilton asks who has fastest lap and is informed it’s currently Bottas. That’s like a red rag to a bull.
Lap 31: A hat-tip here to the Toro Rosso rookie Alexander Albon who’s running up in 11th after a lovely move on Magnussen, and he’s comprehensively outperforming his erratic teammate in Kvyat this weekend. The Thai-British driver is just one place off the points.
Lap 30: Right, after that little breather there, we’ve got a fresh battle emerging with Leclerc giving the hurry up to get after Verstappen. He asks is he needs to look after his tyres and is told no, which suggests he’s going to be pitted again for softs. That looks to be confirmed as he’s told they’ve switch to Plan B, with a stop expected in about 10 laps time.
Lap 29: After those nervous moments, Hamilton has settled back into his pace and built a gap to Bottas. It may give Mercedes food for thought if they want to stop again, as will they risk Bottas first knowing what it could lead to? Meanwhile, Kimi is on the move as he gets Grosjean at the final hairpin to take ninth, holding the Haas off throughout turns one and two.
Lap 27: So as we clear halfway of this 56-lap race, here’s how we stand:
2. Bottas +2.4
3. Vettel +10.3
4. Verstappen +14.2
5. Leclerc +23.0
Our friends at Pirelli have pointed this out just as Kimi Raikkonen dives into the pits:
He’s back out in 11th behind Magnussen and the two immediately go to battle, with the Alfa Romeo getting the better to lift himself back into the top 10.
Lap 25: So after that round of stops, the action must have settled down right? Wrong. By pitting Bottas first, Mercedes have protected the second-placed man from the Ferraris but they’ve put him onto the back of Hamilton! Two consecutive flying laps has cut the gap out in front to 1.4s and Bottas is getting more out of the medium tyres here. We have a battle for the lead on our hands.
Lap 24: The gap from Verstappen in fourth to Leclerc in fifth is nine seconds, showing the amount of time in the undercut in just six laps. However, Nico Rosberg – with Sky Sports F1 this weekend – believes it will bring him into play late in the race with the fresher tyres, albeit only for fourth place.
What time does it start?
The Chinese Grand Prix begins at 7:10am BST on Sunday 14 April.
Where can I watch it?
The race will be shown live on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event. Highlights will be shown on Channel 4 from 3pm.
1 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1min 31.547secs
2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:31.570
3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:31.848
4 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:31.865
5 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:32.089
6 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Red Bull 1:32.930
7 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:32.958
8 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:32.962
9 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 No time set
10 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 No time set
11 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:33.236
12 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:33.299
13 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:33.419
14 Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 1:33.523
15 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:33.967
16 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:34.292
17 George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:35.253
18 Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1:35.281
19 Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing No time set
20 Alexander Albon (Tha) Scuderia Toro Rosso No time set