He edged out Ricciardo by 0.152s to qualify in fifth, but was still 0.701s behind pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel. And Verstappen passed Hamilton too, taking fourth.
Hamilton stopped for tires on lap 19, his team ordering him to do the opposite to Raikkonen in the hope of leapfrogging the Finn after his tire stop.
A second-hand auto slipped behind Ricciardo after an attempt to overtake Hamilton and the same happened when he tried to overtake Vettel.
The Australian driver made use of the good fortune and wasted no time in passing first Hamilton, then Vettel and finally Bottas to take the race lead.
In Mercedes’ defence, Ferrari also chose not to pit Raikkonen, but both teams suffered as a result.
Bottas acknowledged Mercedes still “has work to do”. Pierre Gasly threw his auto up the inside of teammate Brendon Hartley, but if the New Zealander was supposed to get out of the way he didn’t receive the message and the resulting collision left debris across the track.
Bottas was disappointed on the podium and rued the safety cars coming on, claiming the race “felt like it was under control” until that point.
“We’ll be starting the race on a different tyre and that could be quite interesting strategically”.
Despite Renault not having a full spare power unit prepared for Red Bull to fit, the team managed to send Ricciardo out near the end of Q1 and he started his one timed lap with 70 seconds left on the clock.
Verstappen was in the stronger position of the two Red Bull teammates but threw away a potential victory on lap 39 when he tried an over-optimistic move on Hamilton at Turn 7.
Ferrari however kept their drivers out until lap 21 when Vettel pitted and it proved costly.
But the safety vehicle threw in a curve ball and Red Bull grabbed their chance. Verstappen, a further five seconds back, had both Raikkonen and Hamilton in his mirrors.
The final pass on Bottas was daring, but the Mercedes driver saw the Red Bull and gave just enough room for Ricciardo to get through.
It had looked to be in Vettel’s grasp until the pit stops and a late safety auto changed the complexion of the race and he was disappointed that he was clipped by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen late in the meeting which cost him further places.
Lap 3/56 – Vettel’s fastest lap now 1:38.047. Hamilton crosses the line within ten seconds of Verstappen to take fourth.
Bottas held off a late surge from Ferrari’s Raikkonen to finish second, albeit nine seconds down on a jubilant Ricciardo. Vettel was followed by Carlos Sainz and Kevin Magnussen.
And if anyone you know had predicted Daniel Ricciardo winning the Chinese Grand Prix after a weekend that saw him nearly miss qualifying due to a turbo failure in his Red Bull-Tag Heuer RB 14’s Renault engine, then you know they are definitely pulling your leg!