After a relatively dull qualifying session, the race did anything but disappoint today. This topsy-turvy Chinese Grand Prix proved yet again, that if you add a little bit of water, you get a stormy race!
The action started before the lights even went out. Glock was left up on his jacks as the rest of the pack went off on their parade lap. This relegated the German to the pits where he joined Chandok and di Grassi.
As the drivers lined up for the start, Vettel made sure his nose poked firmly in the way of Webber. The lights went out and as Vettel moved over to hold off Webber, Alonso simply smashed past into P1.
From the camera angle at the start, it looked as if Alonso was just faster. However, it soon became clear that the Spaniard had rolled forward.
He surely knew he would get a drive-through and I think he decided to commit to the move to get himself into a better position when his penalty came.
Further back, Luizi spun and collected Kobayashi and Glock, ending all three drivers' races.
Right from the start, the weather provided some lovely tension. Very early on, Alguersuari, Sutil, and Barrachello darted into the pits for intermediate tyres. This seemed like a risk as the rain was extremely light.
Nevertheless, both Ferraris, both Red Bulls, and Hamilton decided to pit as well. Hamilton’s decision was clearly a very late one as the McLaren man had do rally cross over the grass to make it into the pit lane after almost speeding through to start a new lap.
The race was now led by Rosberg, Button, and Kubica, (who all elected to stay out on dry tyres). However, their risk was looking to be incorrect as Alonso, on inters, sped up the rankings.
Unfortunately for the Ferrari man, by lap five he had received his drive-through order. At this time, Schumacher came back into the pits for….dry tyres again?
The crazy places at this stage were as follows:
Rosberg, Button, Kubica, Alonso, (still had to do a drive-through), Sutil, de la Rossa, Petrov, Barrachello, Alguersuari, Massa, Kovalainen, Hamilton, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Trulli, Senna, Schumacher, Chandhok.
As soon as I had finished writing down these positions, Alonso darted in for his drive- through. However, he was joined by almost everyone else, back in for slicks!
A potentially punishing incident followed in the pits when Hamilton was joined side by side with Vettel. Neither driver was backing down and although Vettel eventually won the mini race, both cars will be investigated later today.
I really don’t know about this one. I think it will be hard for the stewards, but I don’t think you can really blame anyone.
The lollypop man can only concentrate on his driver and the driver can only do what he is told to. The thought at the end of the race was that any punishment would be harsh.
On lap 7, Alonso pitted again for dry tyres this time, whilst Hamilton put on a great show fighting both Red Bulls and Barrichello. A few laps later, de la Rossa retired with engine failure.
A quick mention for Kovalainen here who found himself in P6. This was excellent from the Lotus man, but unfortunately he simply didn’t have the machine to stay there. He was no match for the following Bulls and McLaren.
On the final straight of lap 9, both Red Bulls and Hamilton were side by side. Vettel passed Webber into the penultimate corner, and cleverly seeing the two Red Bulls out of position, Hamilton slotted past them both!
Hamilton now moved up on Schumacher and I don’t think I was alone on the edge of my seat. Strangely, further back the Ferraris were stuck behind Barrichello.
Hamilton and Schumacher gave us a great show. The aggression of the McLaren was nicely countered by the experience in the Mercedes. However, eventually the new passed the old and as Hamilton charged on, Schumacher fell back into the clutches of Vettel.
But what’s this at the front? Button had moved right up behind Rosberg. The young German had made a mistake and Button capitalized by taking Rosberg in the final straight. Great work from Button, who was once again in a strong position after a personal tactical call.
No sooner had Button taken the lead; we got yet more weather madness! Schumacher and Webber darted into the pits for intermediate tyres. They were followed by the Ferraris. Oddly, Alonso had got past Massa somewhere….but where?
A replay showed that Alonso had made a cheeky move on his team mate on the pit entry. This left Massa incandescent, but meant that the faster Alonso would not be stuck yet again behind his slower team mate.
Button pitted one lap later (lap 20), for his inters as Alguersuari caused a safety car incident by running over his front wing in the pit entry.
The positions at this stage were as follows:
Button, Rosberg, Kubica, Petrov, Schumacher, Webber, Hamilton, Vettel, Sutil, Alonso, Barrichello, Massa, Kovalainen, Hulkenberg, Alguersuari, Senna, Chandhok, Trulli; (although the Italian was classified as out, he was back on track and gaining some experience).
The safety car took to the pits around lap 24 and Button walked a tightrope by slowing the pack to almost a stop on the penultimate corner. There was very nearly a nasty accident, but Button was acting within the rules.
This madness helped Hamilton, who was in a Red Bull sandwich. The three drivers lined up again in a row, but due to the closeness of the rest of the field, Webber was simply forced off the track and out of Hamilton’s way.
Lap 27 now, and Alonso was all over Sutil, Massa all over Barrichello. Alonso dispatched Sutil and quickly moved up to Schumacher. The battle between these two old foes was short and Alonso won.
Meanwhile, Hamilton excellently passed both Renaults and moved up to Rosberg. Could Hamilton win this?
A small mistake from Petrov gifted Alonso another place whilst Schumacher fell further back.
Hamilton and Rosberg gave us yet another great show. The pair swapped positions several times before the McLaren made the final move stick on lap 36.
Around this late stage, most of the drivers' tyres had gone off and we got yet another set of pit stops.
The positions after all this were as follows:
Button, Hamilton, Rosberg, Alonso, Kubica, Vettel, Webber, Schumacher, Petrov, Alguersuari, Massa, Barrichello, Sutil, Kovalainen, Hulkenberg, Senna, Chandhok.
With just over 10 laps left, tyres began to look off again, but most drivers were able to persevere.
We got some late action from a fight between Petrov, Alguersuari and Massa for the precious last point positions. Petrov and Massa came out best whilst Alguersuari fell back on dead tyres.
Petrov went on a charge and took both Schumacher and Webber and we got some last lap action from Massa taking Schumacher. However, the day belonged to McLaren who passed the line in a well-deserved one-two victory.
This was a great race and it was really lovely to see how close Button and Hamilton seem to have become. I must admit, I am warming to Hamilton every second and both McLaren drivers looked really comfortable and pleased for each other.
It was lovely to watch, and 100 percent genuine. I think Alonso is well worth a mention as he made at least 5 stops before finishing P4. The big losers today? Red Bull again failed to capitalize on strong starting positions.
Today belonged to McLaren though as both drivers drove flawlessly. Well done to them, and thank you for such a great race! We’ve got three weeks now for this volcanic cloud to disperse before the European stint of the season…bring it on!
Drivers Championship Top Three:
(well, four…but come on, Nando and Lewis are on the same points)
Constructors Top Three:
Red Bull: 73
1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
5 Robert Kubica Renault
6 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault
7 Vitaly Petrov Renault
8 Mark Webber RBR-Renault
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
11 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes
12 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth
13 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari
14 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth
15 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth
16 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth
17 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth
Ret Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth
Ret Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth
Ret Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari
Ret Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari
Ret Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari
Ret Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes
Ret Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth