2012: Chinese GP: Review

Nico Rosberg has won the Chinese GP ahead of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver showed that he had race pace after securing his first pole position while tyre strategy proved to be crucial for all teams and drivers in the race. The field was split between two and three stop strategies, with some drivers being able to make better use of their particular choice than others. The McLaren drivers made the most of their good starts to finish on the podium while Michael Schumacher was unlucky to leave his pit-box with one tyre not attached, bringing  a premature end to his race on lap 13. He was the only retirement with Heikki Kovalainen finishing in 23rd after a problem with his car meant he had to pit four times and ended up three laps down. He did run as high as 11th, however, during the race. Daniel Ricciardo was the last car on the lead lap in 16th. Before the race there had been questions raised as to whether the Mercedes pace would drop off once again in the race, however, Rosberg proved the doubters wrong by winning with a 20s margin, albeit helped slightly by the train which developed behind Felipe Massa.

At the start of the race, the Mercedes powered cars made strong starts with Rosberg and Schumacher maintaining their front two positions while Button moved into third from fifth and Hamilton jumped from seventh to fifth. Other notable movers off the line included Kamui Kobayashi who dropped from third to behind his team-mate, who had improved from eighth to sixth. Sebastian Vettel got squeezed out which meant he went from 11th to 15th while Massa was 10th after starting 12th. Jean-Eric Vergne started from the pit-lane while Bruno Senna made contact with the Ferrari of Massa, however both continued without noticeable bother in the race. Mark Webber was the first to pit on lap seven and immediately started setting fastest sectors and lap times. Schumacher, Button, Räikkönen, Hamilton and Perez were involved in a close scrap with Hamilton and Räikkönen pitting on the same lap and battling for position down the pit-lane with Hamilton coming out ahead. As they exited the pit-lane Webber got involved and he ended up splitting the pair. Later in the race Hamilton and Webber found themselves behind Perez but were unable to pass him. The Mexican locked his brakes a number of times before he finally pitted. The race developed in relation to tyre strategies. Massa had a slightly more promising race than he has of late and spent a period of the race ahead of his team-mate, however, he was then advised by his engineer that Alonso was on a different strategy and so he should allow him to pass.

Romain Grosjean enjoyed a successful race, after only completing five laps in total at the first two rounds, as he finished in sixth place, ensuring that he got some solid points. Both Williams drivers finished in the points on the day before team owner, Frank Williams’, 70th birthday while Alonso finished in ninth, meaning that he is one of only three drivers who have finished in the points at every race so far – the other two being Hamilton and Webber.    Both Force Indias finished outside the points with Ricciardo and Vergne. Vitaly Petrov finished ahead of both Marussia drivers and Narain Karthikeyan and Pedro de la Rosa. Marussia revealed after the race that, rather than leave Pic out to be lapped by the leaders, they would bring him through the pit-lane taking an effective drive-through. This meant that he would lose less time off-line on the marbles. The marbles proved to cause problems for some drivers, including Alonso and Grosjean who found out the hard way as they got offline and were sent wide. Webber was another driver who had an off and as he returned to the track he was launched in the air but this did not effect his race and he finished a strong fourth.

There was an exciting battle for second in the latter stages of the race, headed by Massa who was yet to stop with Räikkönen, both McLarens, both Red Bulls and both Williams also involved.  When Massa pitted Räikkönen was left at the head of the queue. His tyres started to drop off and he lost about ten positions in a lap – eventually finishing in 14th. Grosjean and Maldonado, two drivers who have failed to finish the first two races, were involved in a battle as the pair banged wheels and it was Grosjean who came out on top. Hamilton got past Webber and then advanced on Vettel who was on older tyres. Hamilton’s team-mate Button also overtook Vettel to get himself onto the podium.

Nico Rosberg was untroubled at the front and crossed the line 20s ahead of Button and Hamilton. Webber was fourth, ahead of Vettel, Grosjean, Senna, Maldonado, Alonso, and Kobayashi. This means that there have been three different winners from the three races so far – keep up to date with that and other driver statistics here.

Championship standings

1. Lewis Hamilton 45
2. Jenson Button 43
3. Fernando Alonso 37
4. Mark Webber 36
5. Sebastian Vettel 28
6. Nico Rosberg 25
7. Sergio Perez 22
8. Kimi Räikkönen 16
9. Bruno Senna 14
10. Kamui Kobayashi 9

1. McLaren 88
2. Red Bull 64
3. Ferrari 37
4. Sauber 31
5. Mercedes 26
6. Lotus 24
7. Williams 18
8. Force India 9
9. Toro Rosso 6

The racing continues this weekend with the somewhat controversial Bahrain GP.

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