Lewis Hamilton won the enthralling Chinese Grand Prix and becomes the first driver other than Sebastian Vettel to win a race this season. Reigning World Champion Vettel could only manage second and Mark Webber, who battled from 18th on the grid, grabbed third. Jenson Button finished fourth, despite him leading for most of the early part of the race. Hamilton now lies just 21 points behind the reigning World Champion.
Hamilton told the BBC that this win was “one of his best ever” and utilised his three-stop strategy exceptionally well to chase down Vettel who was struggling on old tyres, having chosen to go with a two-stop strategy.
Writes James Richardson…
Starting from pole, Vettel got off to a poor start, being overtaken by the McLarens of Button and Hamilton before the first corner and he was put under significant pressure by the fast-starting Mercedes of Nico Rosberg during the first couple of laps. Mark Webber endured a torrid first stint getting stuck behind slower traffic after his KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) and drag reduction system (DRS) were not working to their full capacity and was hampered even more by his poor grid position. In the last part of the race, however, he found much better balance and was able to chase down Jenson Button, who was struggling on the harder tyre, to grasp the final podium position on the penultimate lap of the race.
With Vettel qualifying seven-tenths of a second faster than second placed man Button, the smart money was on the young German for a dominant win and this looked likely as he led Hamilton’s McLaren by six seconds after the final round of pit stops. The Red Bull driver was, however, struggling on his last set of tyres and Lewis was able to hunt him down on fresher rubber, passing him four laps from the end to take a brilliant victory.
Button led the race going into the first round of pit stops but erroneously stopped in the Red Bull garage before moving on to the McLaren box. This mistake cost Button the lead and prossibly a podium position as his pace couldn’t match that of the first stint: “I was looking down and when I looked back up I could see I was in the wrong place.” said the 2009 World Champion to the BBC. It was a disappointing afternoon for the Englishman but his fourth place provided McLaren with a decent points haul and enabled them to close the gap to the seemingly dominant Red Bulls.
Nico Rosberg finished fifth, with Felipe Massa ending up sixth, Fernando Alonso seventh, Michael Schumacher eighth, Petrov ninth and the impressive Kamui Kobayashi rounding off the points finishers with tenth. Paul Di Resta continued his admirable start in Formula 1, finishing just outside of the points in 11th.
Of the new teams, Team Lotus continued to show their improvement, with Heikki Kovalainen actually finishing ahead of two more well established rivals: Pastor Maldonado’s Williams and Sergio Perez’s Sauber to take 16th place.