Verstappen charges from 16th to P3 in China, early laps like a video game

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Max Verstappen produced one of the outstanding displays of Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th on the grid to finish third, scoring Red Bull’s 100th podium finish in Formula 1.

Verstappen qualified 19th on Saturday due to an engine issue on his Red Bull RB13, but started 16th following a handful of grid penalties for the cars around him.

With moves reminiscent of his charge through the pack in Brazil last year, Verstappen scythed through the field on the opening lap, rising from 16th to seventh.

Verstappen ran as high as second after passes on Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo on slick tires, but could not stop Sebastian Vettel from taking the position back later in the race, leaving him to settle for third.

“Yeah it was very challenging. I think lap one I passed nine cars, so yeah not too bad,” Verstappen said.

When asked if the first lap felt like a video game, Verstappen said: “More or less. It felt a bit like that. I was very happy about that.

“Then afterwards I think it was a very good race. I didn’t have a lot of track time with the car balance from yesterday because of qualifying yesterday, I was basically nursing the car to the finish.

“Of course [I’m] very happy to be on the podium. I didn’t expect that at all, starting 16th.”

While it did not quite match the lofty heights of his charge to the podium in Brazil last year, Verstappen said the race would definitely rank in the top five of his career.

“I always find it difficult to compare but it’s definitely one of the best. Of course I’m very happy with it,” Verstappen said.

“Looking back to last year, obviously a victory is very special, one of my best for the moment, and Brazil was also very nice.

“But this is definitely in my top five.’

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.