Listen to this week's Inside Line F1 podcast!

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Scroll down to listen to this year's podcast.

After the quite incredible Chinese Grand Prix, the Inside Line team wonder what most Ferrari fans would – why did the team not ask Kimi Raikkonen to move over and let Sebastian Vettel pass?

Our hosts are happy that Ferrari let their drivers race, however, in keeping with the same tactics being used by Red Bull and Mercedes in keeping things competitive.

All this and more is in this week’s episode which you can listen to below, as the team enjoy the fruits of a double racing weekend.

Oh, and that we’re gearing up for one of the tightest title races in F1 history.

Subscribe to the Inside Line F1 Podcast on iTunes and audioBoom for your weekly dose of Formula 1.

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COMMENT: Max Verstappen is maturing quickly

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Max Verstappen.

It was a showreel of overtaking manoeuvres that at least a handful of Max Verstappen’s peers on the grid might have been content with over the duration of a season.

But the flying Dutchman passed a total of nine cars on the opening lap alone of the Chinese Grand Prix having started an uncustomary 16th place after an engine misfire in the first qualifying session.

It led one commentator to liken it to a teenager on a video game such was the ease with which the 19-year-old picked holes through the field.

His launch of the grid was near perfect but, in the opening split second, the space in the road looked like closing in front of him amid heavy spray from the still damp but drying Shanghai circuit.

But he picked exactly the right pockets of Tarmac, knowing instinctively where the dry patches of the road were.

By turn one, he already had the Force India of Sergio Perez, which had qualified in eighth, within his sights, while arguably the pick of his moves on that lap came on turn eight as the cars around him wobbled with grip and his Red Bull was seemingly glued to the track, wet or dry.

Verstappen has made no secret of his love of the wet, so often an indicator of natural talent behind the wheel, and once again he drove as though he had webbed feet in those early exchanges.

The wet helped him in that it created a concertina effect, closing up the field more readily than the norm and enabling him to at least be at the business end of the race when the real thinking is that the Red Bulls are probably about 45 seconds off the overall race pace of defending champions Mercedes.

The Red Bull has always been aerodynamically strong, a trademark of Adrian Newey’s cars that they boast more downforce than most.

But for all the machinery at his disposal, this was all about Verstappen and understandably he was named driver of the day by the watching public despite a masterclass from Lewis Hamilton in winning from lights to flag.

If there was to be a move of the day from the entire race, the Red Bull driver’s on his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in the same machinery was it. Stuck behind him going into turn five, he picked up his slipstream, threw a brief dummy and scythed up the inside.

Verstappen has long been known for his aggressive driving. In his opening season, it was often seen as over-aggression, his moves deemed too dangerous by his more experienced peers. Not so in China.

And there appears to be a new-found maturity from him this season, highlighted in two distinct but differing moments.

First came in the dying laps of the race when he started barking his grievance at Romain Grosjean, who himself produced a litany of fine overtaking moves in the Haas, compromising his race late on.

In truth, Grosjean was doing no such thing, clear enough up the road to not create any turbulent air for the following Verstappen.

But what the Dutchman was doing was thinking ahead, alerting race director Charlie Whiting to a potential situation that might ensue in the laps ahead to affect his race outcome, a sign of his burgeoning maturity.

So too, the manner in which when struggling with understeer late in the day, he managed to keep Ricciardo at bay to hold onto a thoroughly deserved podium place.

The only sadness amid it all is that Red Bull are too off the pace right now to be truly competitive, Verstappen needing wet races at present to give him a sniff of clinging to the coat tails of both Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

That pair clearly rate their rival highly, both in their post-race interviews alluding to what he had pulled off on track, Hamilton joking – but with a serious edge – he would be looking back at Verstappen’s performance to see if there was anything he could learn.

Hamilton has made no secret of the fact that he relishes having as many title protagonists as possible to make the world title that much sweeter when it comes.

Repeated back slaps and references to “this guy” in the post-race celebrations shows he puts Verstappen in that bracket as a key challenger. F1 is in the midst of a two-way battle for the title between Hamilton and Vettel.

How salivating a prospect and deserving a one for that particular tussle to include Verstappen.

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Alonso ecstatic over race performance before retirement at Chinese GP

F1i 9/04/2017
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Fernando Alonso

Alonso started 13th in the tricky conditions but put his flair and skills to good use, climbing as high as 8th before the transmission of his MCL32 decided to call it a day.

Despite another retirement, Alonso reckoned his drive was even better than in Australia! “Yeah, incredible,” said Alonso.

“I thought Australia would be unrepeatable and here it was the same or even better. The conditions helped and so we took advantage of that.

“People were spinning left and right and we were gaining places more or less for free, and then when the track was damp we were keeping the pace of the best with a top speed deficit that’s pretty incredible.

“One of the best things that have happened to me,” he added.

Alonso believes that he was en route to challenge for points before his driveshaft issue, even affording himself the luxury of keeping Valtteri Bottas Mercedes behind at one point.

“I think we’d be fighting with Perez and Magnussen for the final points,” he said.

“I think we could have scored one or two points like in Australia in an incredible way, because running ahead of Bottas and that he can’t overtake you for two or three laps was one of the most surreal things that have ever happened to me.

“He was like 300m behind me and he passed me on the straight but then I could sort of stay with him on the following lap, so it was one of the most surreal things that have happened to me.”

Alonso admits that because of their lack of testing mileage McLaren are still in discovery mode at this stage of the season.

“As we said in Australia: having not done testing, we are discovering new problems race after race. Let’s hope we can have a normal reliability soon to be able to finish the races.”

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