Posted by Simon Wright
FORMULA ONE crowned a new winner today as Nico Rosberg joined the elite of winning a Grand Prix. He won the Chinese Grand Prix from Jenson Button by over 20 seconds to become the first new winner since Mark Webber triumphed at the Nurburgring in 2009. Not only that, the result sees the first triumph for Mercedes GP since their return as a full manufacturer two years ago. The last time a Silver Arrow was first past the chequered flag came at Monza in 1955, when Juan Manuel Fangio took the honours. Rosberg’s drive was through a combination of managing his tyres in another classic on the Shanghai International Circuit and steady pace throughout the 56 laps. Another third place for Lewis Hamilton saw the Brit claim leadership in the drivers championship for the first time in nearly two years.
Although there was no sign of rain spicing up the action, cooler track temperatures played right into the hands of the Mercedes team who have struggled with significant amounts of rear tyre wear on raceday in the past. Rosberg made no mistakes from his maiden pole position yesterday and made the perfect start. He left the rest trailing into the first corner, with team-mate Michael Schumacher keeping the chasing pack behind. This enabled Rosberg to build an early three second cushion and let the German, starting his 110th race this weekend into an early rhythm. Further back, Button gained two positions and Kamui Kobayashi dropped from his fantastic third on the grid into seventh by the end of the first lap. There was minor contact between Bruno Senna and Felipe Massa whilst world champion Sebastian Vettel had a nightmare first lap and looked completely out of contention in 15th place during the early laps.
Mark Webber’s decision to pit as early as lap seven to get rid of the graining soft tyres inspired his race and gave the event added dynamic. Drivers like Button and Hamilton pitted soon afterwards, indicating that McLaren were planning on making three tyre stops. Other teams such as Mercedes GP and Sauber went on a two stop strategy. There would be no benefit for Schumacher though, as he made his second early departure from three races in 2012. The seven-times world champion made a scheduled pitstop on lap 12, but a problem on the right front wheel meant a brief delay. The nut wasn’t tightened before the green light was given for Michael to leave the pits. He felt the problem into turn three on his return to the track and wisely pulled off the road. Mercedes would be fined for the unsafe release after the race. Schumacher told Lee McKenzie from BBC Sport; “I noticed it in Turn 3 once I started to load the front right tyre. Already by Turn 6 there was quite a bit of smoke and damage and I thought it was better to stop.” He would be the only retirement from a dramatic afternoon.
It started as a slow burner, but the Chinese Grand Prix was about to come alive from half-distance as cars on different strategies scrambled for track position. Those planning to make the extra pitstops were rejoining in traffic all the time. Both Hamilton and Button lost crucial time in the traffic; Hamilton enjoying a brief scrap with his old adversary Massa before making a clean pass. Button’s strategy meant he had a brief stint in the lead. However he never got the gap higher than the nine second mark and any lingering hope of catching Rosberg disappeared when an issue with the wheel gun on the right rear tyre led to a lengthy nine second stop during his final pit visit. It dropped Button into the traffic and left him fighting for second.
Kimi Raikkonen was part of the scrap, as the Finn planned on only making two pitstop visits. It didn’t work out as his tyres simply ‘fell off the cliff’ with nine laps remaining. In one lap he was swamped by the pack and was relegated from second to tenth. Eventually Raikkonen finished a distant 14th. The two stop strategy plan didn’t work for the Sauber drivers or Massa but it did for the two Williams cars. Bruno Senna finished an excellent seventh and Pastor Maldonado achieved his best ever result in Formula One with eighth. This included the best dice of the race with Romain Grosjean. Both survived the wheel-to-wheel entertainment and it was the Frenchman who prevailed, taking sixth place at the chequered flag for his first ever points in F1. Following Raikkonen’s drop down the field, Vettel held a surprising second place. World champions aren’t immune to tyre trouble though and just like last year, Sebastian couldn’t hold on against the more tyre friendly McLaren drivers. On the penultimate lap, Webber got past around the outside to take a satisifying fourth place.
The day belonged to Rosberg though as he cruised across the line to take a fantastic first victory in the sport. Button and Hamilton completed the podium positions with Webber finishing fourth for the third successive race. After the race, Hamilton said to Planet F1; “We knew Nico would be really quick, and we knew if he got away it would be hard to catch him as it proved. First pole and first win is always special so congratulations.”
Behind Vettel, Grosjean, Senna and Maldonado was Fernando Alonso. Despite racing Hamilton closely during the event, the double world champion struggled passing the two stoppers with his equipment and had to settle for ninth place. After their Malaysian success, Ferrari have been brought back to reality. Kobayashi set the fastest lap and took the final point ahead of Malaysian hero Sergio Perez, Paul di Resta and Massa.
At long last Nico Rosberg has managed to fulfil his longstanding promise. Sometimes in sport, good things do come to those who wait. Next up is the Bahrain Grand Prix in seven short days time where hopefully the action on track in Sakhir will take the headlines rather than the off-track events in the country.
2012 UBS CHINESE GRAND PRIX RACE RESULT
|1||NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES GP||56||1hr 36min 26secs|
|2||JENSON BUTTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||56||+20.6secs|
|3||LEWIS HAMILTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||56||+26.0secs|
|4||MARK WEBBER||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||56||+27.9secs|
|5||SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||56||+30.4secs|
|6||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||56||+31.4secs|
|7||BRUNO SENNA||WILLIAMS RENAULT||56||+34.5secs|
|8||PASTOR MALDONADO||WILLIAMS RENAULT||56||+35.6secs|
|10||KAMUI KOBAYASHI||SAUBER FERRARI||56||+38.7secs|
|11||SERGIO PEREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||56||+41.0secs|
|12||PAUL DI RESTA||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||56||+42.2secs|
|14||KIMI RAIKKONEN||LOTUS RENAULT||56||+50.0secs|
|15||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||56||+51.2secs|
|16||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||STR FERRARI||56||+51.6secs|
|17||DANIEL RICCIARDO||STR FERRARI||56||+1min 03.1secs|
|18||VITALY PETROV||CATERHAM RENAULT||55||1 LAP|
|19||TIMO GLOCK||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||55||1 LAP|
|20||CHARLES PIC||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||55||1 LAP|
|21||PEDRO DE LA ROSA||HRT COSWORTH||55||1 LAP|
|22||NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN||HRT COSWORTH||54||2 LAPS|
|23||HEIKKI KOVALAINEN||CATERHAM RENAULT||53||3 LAPS|
|Retired||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER||MERCEDES GP||12||LOOSE WHEEL|
|1||LEWIS HAMILTON (MCLAREN)||45|
|2||JENSON BUTTON (MCLAREN)||43|
|3||FERNANDO ALONSO (FERRARI)||37|
|4||MARK WEBBER (RED BULL)||36|
|5||SEBASTIAN VETTEL (RED BULL)||28|
|6||NICO ROSBERG (MERCEDES GP)||25|
|7||SERGIO PEREZ (SAUBER)||22|
|8||KIMI RAIKKONEN (LOTUS)||16|
|9||BRUNO SENNA (WILLIAMS)||14|
|10||KAMUI KOBAYASHI (SAUBER)||9|
|11||ROMAIN GROSJEAN (LOTUS)||8|
|12||PAUL DI RESTA (FORCE INDIA)||7|
|13||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE (SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO)||4|
|14||PASTOR MALDONADO (WILLIAMS)||4|
|15||DANIEL RICCIARDO (SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO)||2|
|16||NICO HULKENBERG (FORCE INDIA)||2|
|17||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (MERCEDES GP)||1|
|2||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||64|
|8||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||9|
|9||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO FERRARI||6|