Mclaren Order The Perfect Chinese Takeaway
Blink and you'll miss it. The Chinese weather gods were smiling upon the Shanghai International Circuit on Sunday which gave us a thrilling Formula One spectacle. Jenson Button drove majestically to pick up his second victory from four races in 2010, leading just ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton.
There had been murmurs of a Sunday washout all week long leading up to the event, and the meteorologists did not let us down, unlike in Malaysia two weeks previously. The race begun dry and immediately provided us with action. Fernando Alonso was too eager on the throttle and jumped the start, jumping the Red Bulls of Webber and Vettel with ease. Webber also got his own back for the previous Grand Prix by diving down the inside of his young team mate into the long first turn. Ferrari's Spanish "bicampeon", as he is known in Spain, was duly investigated and penalised for his itchy right foot at the start, and the rain began to fall.
Further down the grid, Vitantonio Liuzzi lost his car big time as he snapped under braking, careering into the side of Sauber's Kamui Kobyashi and the Toro Rosso of Sebastian Buemi as they made their way through Turn 4. Those behind the leading trio of Rosberg, Button and Kubica pitted for intermediate tyres within the first 5 laps.
This re-jigging of the order provided us with the brilliant spectacle of Lewis Hamilton and the Red Bulls fighting their way through the field. When the light rain subsided, Vettel and Hamilton came in together (quite literally, Hamilton sliding down the inside of the pit entry). The Red Bull and the Mclaren appeared to be released within fractions of a second of each other which resulted in Vettel and Hamilton side by side down the pitlane, the German appearing to move over into Hamilton which brought him dangerously close to the stationary air guns and various mechanics lurking around. To balance things out, it appeared as though Hamilton was equally keen to drive side by side with Vettel when taking position behind him would have perhaps been more advisable.
The fight continued as Vettel approached Adrian Sutil in the slightly drier conditions, with Hamilton in close attendance. Going into the Turn 14 hairpin, the Red Bull driver misjudged the line and ran wide thanks to Sutil's robust defence which allowed Hamilton to pip both of them on the exit. It was another brilliant battle that was evident throughout the field all race long. Both Renault drivers once again impressed, Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov finally finishing a race with a well deserved 7th place. The Ferrari's were underwhelming for the second race in succession, as much owing to Alonso's jump start as it was to the chaotic conditions. However, a 4th and a 9th isn't what the Italian marque was predicting or hoping for coming into the weekend.
On lap 22, debris from Jaime Alguersuari forced the Safety Car out for the second time after Liuzzi's incident on Lap One. This brought the field closer together once more, but with the rain becoming heavier at times, caution was needed as the race entered its latter stages. After Hamilton jumped Rosberg following his fourth pitstop, things settled down and the both cars, a few dangerous slides aside, nursed their balding intermediate tyres to the end for a fantastic and slightly unexpected Mclaren 1-2.
*At the time of writing, both Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton are in the stewards room due to their pitlane duel. Following them in were Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa after the Spaniard dived down the inside into the pit entry, which might bring further censure for Alonso in the coming days. Early reports suggest that Lewis Hamilton could be handed either a grid penalty for the Spanish Grand Prix on 9 May or a 25 second penalty added to his race time for not holding back when Vettel appeared to be very slightly ahead after their pit box releases.
Red Bull will be kicking themselves that after 4 races of appearing to have a dominant car, they have drivers sitting in 5th and 8th in the drivers championship. With major upgrades coming for Barcelona (providing a certain volcanic eruption doesn't disturb proceedings for teams), we might be seeing the end of the Red Bull unchallenged dominance. Jenson Button now leads the drivers championship by a relatively comfortable ten points from the consistent Nico Rosberg. Old rivals Hamilton and Alonso are tied on 49 points and title favourite Sebastian Vettel rounding up the quintent on 45 points.
As we head on to the beginning of the European season in 3 weeks time, the championship looks just as unpredictable as before the Shanghai show.
*Both Hamilton and Vettel have been "reprimanded" for dangerous driving, with no penalties being served.
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