2018 South African Motor Sportsman of the Year Kelvin van der Linde competing in this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona. Picture: AUDI
2018 South African Motor Sportsman of the Year Kelvin van der Linde competing in this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona. Picture: AUDI

The 2018 Formula One championship is gaining some momentum as the third race of the season, the Chinese Grand Prix, took place this past weekend.

A good qualifying stint by team Ferrari saw both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen place their cars on the front row of the grid. Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton managed to qualify third and fourth.

On race day it was a case of getting into the first turn with no incidents and Vettel managed to emerge out of the first corner ahead, while Raikkonen lost a position to Bottas who moved up to second as Hamilton lost five positions to ninth. Following an incident where two Torro Rosso cars collided with one another, a safety car was dispatched due to the debris on the track, which played firmly into the hands of Red Bull who brought their drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen into the pits for a set of fresh tyres.

With the leading teams having lost their window, the Red Bulls were stronger towards the end of the race as everyone else lost grip from worn-out tyres. This meant that Ricciardo could slice through the field to finish in first, followed by Bottas in second and Raikkonen in third.

Verstappen finished fourth, but a 10-second penalty after a collision with Vettel meant he finished in fifth behind now fourth-placed Hamilton. This means Vettel still leads the championship with 54 points, followed by Hamilton on 45 and Bottas with 40. The next race is the Azerbajain GP on April 29.

It was also the Italian leg of the electric Formula E championship, which saw Sam Bird (DS Virgin Racing) take victory ahead of Lucas Di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler) and Andre Lotterer (Techeetah). Leading the championship at this stage is Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah) with 119 points, followed by Bird on 101 points and Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra Racing) on 82. The next race will take place in Paris, France on April 28.

Motoring awards

On the local front, the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists’ 2017 Motor Sportsman of the Year awards took place in Johannesburg last week where 21-year-old Kelvin van der Linde took the overall award. This was thanks to his achievements racing an Audi R8 with great success in Australia, America and Europe, where he was part of the team that won the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. This is the third time that Van der Linde has been awarded this trophy for his racing achievements.

Other South African motor sportsmen who were nominated included Matthew Scholtz, who won the American super stock 1000 championship and was inducted into the AMA (American Motorcyclists Association) Hall of Fame. Sheridan Morais, former South African Superbike champion who won the Super Sport Class in the World Superbike Championship in Germany, was nominated for his two-wheeled achievements.

Kelvin’s younger brother Sheldon, who finished third overall in the ADAC championship in Germany piloting an Audi, was also awarded for his achievements. Sheldon won in the 24-hour Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta in the US.

Wilhelm Baard, who won his class at the Jaguar Simola Hill Climb in 2017 in his 745kW Nissan GT-R, breaking the 40-second barrier in a time of 39.892 seconds, was acknowledged.

Springbok colours

Ryan Hunt, who has raced Moto-X for nearly four decades, winning 12 South African titles, also competed with great success in the UK, Europe and the US. He has been awarded Springbok colours and has a Motorsport South Africa (MSA) lifetime achievement award for representing our country in international events.

Also awarded was Richard Leeke, who became the youngest driver ever to win a national rally when he won the Volkswagen Rally at only 21.