After a difficult start to the season finally Nico Rosberg claimed his 1st Formula One win for the Mercedes F1 team. The win marked Mercedes’ first win since returning to the sport as a works team in 2010. This was the marque’s first victory in F1 since the Italian Grand Prix in 1955 when the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio took the win.
Having claimed a front row lock-out in qualifying following Lewis Hamilton’s demotion on the grid (Hamilton having picked up a 5 place grid penalty for a gear box change). The team were still uncertain of what sort of race they had in prospect. Having struggled in the first two races of the season with tyre degradation; there were question marks over whether the team had finally found the right set up to manage their tyres adequately over a race distance. Mercedes as early as this morning where quoted as saying their chances were dependent on finding the Pirelli’s sweet spot.
With a mixed up grid brought on by Hamilton’s penalty and some great performances from the smaller teams (Kobayashi’s Sauber in 3rd and Kimi Raikkonen in 5th being the highlights); we had an unfamiliar grid order leading into the race. For the first time since 2009 current world champion Sebastian Vettel failed to make the top 10 shoot out and he lined up 11th consequently.
From the off it appeared like it might be Mercedes’ day when both cars got off the line in position with Rosberg opening a gap early over team mate Schumacher who appeared comfortable in the first stint holding back the likes of Hamilton and Webber behind him. World champion Vettel had a disastrous start to the race and fell back to 13th on the first lap. He then struggled with lack of straight-line speed whilst trying to haul himself back up the field early on in the race. As the race would unfold a mixture of 2 and 3 stop strategies amongst the field lead to some high drama and great battles.
There was to be some disappointment for Mercedes in the first round of stops when a botched pit-stop lead to Michael Schumacher having to retire from the race with a loose wheel. This was his second retirement in three races this season.
As the race settled down and strategies came into play we started to see the familiar look of the Red Bulls and McLarens coming to the fore and starting to challenge for the podium places. Raikkonen’s Lotus Renault held 2nd up until lap 46 when his risky tyre strategy (having last pitted on lap 28) failed to pay off. Kimi was to be overtaken by the McLarens and Red Bulls within a lap of each other and fell down the field swiftly in the closing laps prior to finishing 14th. The disappointment of that result was erased for his team with Romain Grosjean claiming his first world championship points of the season with a hard fought 6th place finish. He’d fought with the likes of Alonso and the Maldonado to claim the best finish since his return to F1.
Further down the field the resurgence of Williams F1 continued with points finishes for Maldonado and Senna on Frank Williams’ 70th birthday. The team have been seemingly re-invigorated following their switch back to Renault engines and an overhaul of their design and engineering team structure. The 7th place for Senna and 8th for Maldonado saw the team pick up points in consecutive races (following Senna’s 6th in Malaysia) and a double points finish for the first time this season.
One person who was disappointed with how their race went was Fernando Alonso who having chased Jenson Button early on during the race fell backwards during the final stint and struggled with traffic to only finish 9th and relinquish the world championship lead that he held after his shock Malaysian Grand Prix victory three weeks ago.
It was a hugely disappointing day for Sauber following their qualifying heroics with only a solitary point to show for their efforts this weekend with Kobayashi finishing tenth.
In a race that was void of many major incidents or accidents it was the racing that took centre stage. With the mix of 2 and 3 stop strategies the battles behind Rosberg took the majority of the television coverage including some great battles involving Vettel, Hamilton and Webber as their differing strategies came into play. Maldonado and Grosjean’s battle in the closing laps was a particular highlight as was Vettel attempting to defend his position from Webber and Hamilton in the closing laps as he attempted to salvage a podium finish from his lowly grid slot. In the end Hamilton prevailed and finished on the bottom step of the podium with Webber picking up 4th spot to beat his team-mate again this season. The Australian heads Vettel now in the world championship by 8 points after this race. Despite only finishing 3rd Hamilton now leads the world championship with 45 points.
One person wondering what might have been is Jenson Button. On his final pit-stop a tyre issue cost him around 6 seconds in the pits and possibly lost him a chance to challenge Rosberg following a great performance from the former world champion. That 9.7 second spot left him behind the likes of Raikkonen, Vettel, Webber and Hamilton. Button as has been seen in the past displayed excellent race-craft to slice through competition and claim the 2nd placed spot. Button remained convinced that without the slow stop he may have challenged Rosberg in the closing laps.
With both McLarens being on the podium it meant that Mercedes Benz powered drivers filled out the podium spots much to the delight of Norbert Haug. The Mercedes Motosport supreme described his delight to Sky Sports F1 after the race and was visibly emotional as he picked up the constructor’s trophy on the podium.
It’s been a stunning weekend for Rosberg who had struggled in the first two races of the season. Not only did he claim his first pole at the 111th time of asking. He utterly dominated the race to mark his 1st career victory and follows in his father 1982 world champion Keke’s footsteps. In the post race press conference Rosberg admitted he was he “didn’t expect to be that fast today”. He went on to say how special it was to take his first race win for the Silver Arrows joining the likes of Fangio and Moss having been victorious for the German marque.
The Chinese Grand Prix
56 laps; 305.066km;
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Rosberg Mercedes 1h36:26.929
2. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 20.626
3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 26.012
4. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 27.924
5. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 30.483
6. Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 31.491
7. Senna Williams-Renault + 34.597
8. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 35.643
9. Alonso Ferrari + 37.256
10. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 38.720
11. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 41.066
12. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 42.273
13. Massa Ferrari + 42.700
14. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 50.500
15. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 51.200
16. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 51.700
17. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:03.100
18. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
19. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
20. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
21. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 1 lap
22. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
23. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 3 laps
Fastest lap: Kobayashi, 1:39.960
Driver Team On lap
Schumacher Mercedes 16
World Championship standings, round 3:
1. Hamilton 45 1. McLaren-Mercedes 88
2. Button 43 2. Red Bull-Renault 64
3. Alonso 37 3. Ferrari 37
4. Webber 36 4. Sauber-Ferrari 31
5. Vettel 28 5. Mercedes 26
6. Rosberg 25 6. Lotus-Renault 24
7. Perez 22 7. Williams-Renault 18
8. Raikkonen 16 8. Force India-Mercedes 9
9. Senna 14 9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 6
10. Kobayashi 9
11. Grosjean 8
12. Di Resta 7
13. Vergne 4
14. Maldonado 4
15. Ricciardo 2
16. Hulkenberg 2
17. Schumacher 1
All timing unofficial