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Another messy F1 race for Ferrari - but what's new?

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Leclerc looking for explanation behind decision to let Vettel pass (1:48)

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc says he'll be asking his team why they issued team orders so early in the race. (1:48)

Another race, another head-scratching performance from Ferrari -- compounded by a third consecutive one-two finish from Mercedes. Ferrari was supposed to be the favourite coming to China but it leaves Shanghai having raised even more question-marks about its ability to beat the German manufacturer to either title in 2019.

Here's a rundown of the good, the bad and the ugly from the Chinese Grand Prix.

Ferrari | Mature Leclerc impressive | Mercedes' decisive double-pit | Kvyat harshly penalised | Bottas beaten | Kimi has fun | Another Lewis milestone | Seb versus Max

Ferrari team orders: For the third race in a row, the Ferrari pit wall attempted to dictate the order of its cars on track. After Charles Leclerc ignored an order to stay behind his teammate for at least two laps in Bahrain, he was compliant in China when asked to move over for Sebastian Vettel on Lap 11.

To be fair to Ferrari, Vettel looked like the quicker car at the time and was being held up by his teammate, but as soon as he got clear the roles reversed and he faced pressure from a frustrated Leclerc. Vettel made a bunch of errors that saw both cars lose time and fall into the sights of Max Verstappen, while losing any hope of troubling the Mercedes pair.

Leclerc couldn't resist pointing out the obvious over team radio: "I am losing quite a lot of time. I don't know if you want [to know] it or not, but just to let you know". Red Bull smelt blood and pitted Verstappen early to give him a tyre advantage over the Ferraris, successfully undercutting Leclerc and giving him a shot at a pass on Vettel on Lap 20.

Arguably, the Red Bull had the pace and strategy nous to trouble Ferrari regardless of the team orders, but given the situation, Ferrari could have been the one attempting the undercut on the Mercedes duo with one of its cars rather than have them battle. Even though the end result saw Vettel secure his first podium of the season, it looked messy and left Leclerc with a disappointing fifth place finish.

A strong head on young shoulders: We wrote after qualifying about how hard Leclerc is on himself, but again after the race he showed a good degree of maturity. The youngster refused to comment too much on how the race had unfolded until he had been part of a proper debrief -- it's not uncommon for frustrated younger drivers to vent their frustrations in the TV media pen directly after the race. The questions he said he has for Ferrari are very valid too, his race strategy was puzzling at best.

Meanwhile, at Mercedes... If you wanted a perfect example of how differently the two main teams are operating at the moment, you just had to contrast Ferrari's clumsy execution of the race with what Mercedes did on Lap 36. With Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel stopping a second time late in the race, Mercedes was in a tricky situation -- dawdling too much over reacting with its own drivers could have placed either one or both of them under pressure.

So what did they do? The slightly unconventional approach of pitting both its drivers at the same time -- known as 'double-stacking'. It's a brave call as it puts the driver running in P2 at risk if the first stop is slower than anticipated -- team boss Toto Wolff said after the race the team had "everything to lose" at that moment -- and often requires them to wait stationary for a short while, hence the name. But Hamilton's tyre change was so quick he had left the pit box by the time Bottas arrived there, despite being just some 4 seconds behind. Bottas barely had to slow down before his own stop, and both silver cars were back out on track with any potential danger averted.

It was a clinical performance from a Mercedes pit wall that came under scrutiny for some botched moments in 2018. Hamilton even took a moment to praise the race strategists after the race and it's hardly surprising that he did so. On days like this, with Hamilton in the car and the strategists operating at the top of their game, Mercedes looks pretty unbeatable.

Harsh penalty: Daniil Kvyat was given a drive-through penalty -- the third most severe penalty available to the stewards after a stop-go and a black flag -- for his part in the accident with the two McLarens on the first lap. We can only assume the stewards had another view of the incident, because from every camera angle shown on the world feed it was clearly a racing incident.

If anything, Lando Norris made the error by running wide at Turn 6 and causing light contact with teammate Carlos Sainz that then triggered the collision between Sainz and Kvyat when the Toro Rosso had a slide on the corner exit. But considering it all happened in the mayhem of the first lap, it seems incredibly harsh to issue a penalty to any of the drivers.

The battle for fastest lap: If the race itself was dull, there was at least some excitement over who would get the bonus point for fastest lap. In the end it was claimed by Pierre Gasly thanks to a late pit stop for soft tyres - the first time we have seen a driver successfully take on a fresh set for that purpose and claim the point. Prior to Gasly's lap, Vettel had held the fastest lap thanks to a quick one just after his second pit stop.

Bottas beaten: After showing a pace advantage over Hamilton throughout Friday practice and in qualifying, Bottas couldn't quite match his teammate in the race. He put the loss down to a bit of wheelspin as he crossed the painted start/finish line, giving Hamilton a slight advantage in acceleration into Turn 1. Bottas closed on Hamilton at the start of the second stint after pitting before his teammate, but he never had the pace to truly take the fight to the lead Mercedes. It means he has been knocked off the top the driver standings for the first time since the start of the season.

The rookie class of 2019 continues to impress: Alexander Albon is a star in the making. He's perhaps been the low-key rookie of the three on the grid this year -- behind F3 champion George Russell and Lando Norris, who had two hugely impressive races to kick off his career -- but Albon stole the show on Sunday with a great drive from a pit-lane start to 10th.

Making it all the more praise-worthy was why he was starting there in the first place. Albon crashed heavily at the end of final practice on Saturday morning, meaning he missed qualifying altogether. That sort of setback is a huge test of a rookie's resolve in their third race but the Thai driver rose to the challenge brilliantly. If he keeps up that level of performance, it might put some pressure on Gasly's seat at Red Bull, as the Frenchman has been underwhelming at the senior team so far this year.

All hail the Kimaissance: Kimi Raikkonen is doing a great job at Alfa Romeo and arguably pulled off the overtake of the race shortly after his second pit-stop, moving around the outside of Kevin Magnussen at Turn 6 and then cutting back to overtake on the inside as they powered out of the exit of the corner. It's hard to dislike Raikkonen at the best of times and even more so since he joined Alfa Romeo and he's scored points at every race so far this year. That Magnussen move followed a beautifully executed strategy, too.

Raikkonen admitted this week he has started to view F1 as more of a hobby than a day job -- imagine being that good at one of your hobbies.

Win 75: It may have been Formula One's 1000th championship race, but there was another significant milestone by the end of Sunday afternoon. Lewis Hamilton secured the 75th victory of his career, moving him just 16 shy of Michael Schumacher's record of 91. Given that he has another year left on his contract after this season, that target is looking all the more realistic. It's also a little bit mind-boggling to think Hamilton, who made his debut in 2007, has won 7.5 percent of all championship F1 races.

Max versus Seb is box office: The final word should be on the great fight between Vettel and Verstappen for third position after their first pit stop. Verstappen made a brave, late lunge at the final hairpin and briefly passed Vettel on the inside -- the same place where he spectacularly misjudged a move last year and collided with Vettel.

Vettel, to his credit, refused to yield lightly and squeezed Verstappen as they went wheel-to-wheel out of the corner. Verstappen briefly had two wheels on the grass and eventually had to give up the attempt. It was the only real drama of note at the front end of the grid beyond the usual Ferrari team order tomfoolery.

Other points worthy of mention

  • Daniel Ricciardo scored his first points for Renault with a solid, if very lonely, drive to seventh position. It was another bittersweet afternoon for the team as its reliability issues continued -- Hulkenberg was brought into the pits mid-way through the race to retire.

  • Haas once again failed to record a point with either car despite both making it through to Q3. The team saw how costly missed opportunities were in 2018 and at the moment it doesn't appear to be making the most of the potential in its car.