Daniel Ricciardo surprised to take part in Chinese GP qualifying

Daniel Ricciardo surprised to take part in Chinese GP qualifying

The safety auto was called into action and Red Bull responded, pulling both Max Verstappen and Ricciardo into the pits from third and fifth respectively and fitting them with soft tyres.

But the race took a second dramatic twist when the safety auto was deployed following a coming-together between the Toro Rosso pair of Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly on lap 31. Verstappen was ahead of Ricciardo at the restart, but blew his opportunity with botched overtakes on Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

When the race resumed on lap 36, Bottas got a good start ahead of Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, however, the advantage was all Red Bull's with their fresh ultrasoft tyres.

Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas appeared on course for an excellent victory over Vettel before the safety vehicle period after the Finn jumped the Ferrari during their pit stops.

But as one Red Bull shone, the other clashed.

Even with the fresh rubber offering an advantage of more than one second per lap, Ferrari did not react immediately with Vettel at the front, instead waiting until Lap 20 to bring the race leader in.

Ferrari tried to use Kimi Raikkonen, who had yet to stop, as a bollard to hold up Bottas.

Ferrari, flummoxed after losing the lead, did not pull Raikkonen in, but rather left him on track in the hope that he could help Vettel get back past Bottas.

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Verstappen tried to pass Hamilton around the outside but instead nearly bumped wheels and went off the track.

FP3 saw Ricciardo stop with a suspected turbo failure, pulling off the track exiting the penultimate corner having suffered the problem on the long back straight. With 12 laps to go, Ricciardo made a fearless pass on Bottas heading into Turn 6, forcing the Mercedes driver to yield the position.

With 56 laps in the books, Ricciardo crossed the line 8.8 seconds clear to record his sixth F1 race win and open Red Bull's account for the season with a famous victory in Shanghai.

Lance Stroll gained six positions on the opening lap but was unable to seriously challenge for points as he took 14th, ahead of Williams team-mate Sergey Sirotkin, Marcus Ericsson and Romain Grosjean.

"I'd never give up hope, but for sure the window of optimism reduces over time", Ricciardo was quoted by PlanetF1 when asked if he still had confidence in Renault.

The result tightens up the drivers' championship, with Vettel's lead narrowed to nine points over Hamilton, 54 to 45, with Bottas just five back on 40 and Ricciardo - who also set the fastest lap and picked up the Driver of the Day Award - leaping up to fourth on 37. Verstappen was slapped with a 10-second time penalty.

Renault's Carlos Sainz and Haas's Kevin Magnussen completed the top 10 in a race that will live very long in the memory.