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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Formula 1 - Chinese Grand Prix 2012

Shanghai International Circuit
Whilst everyone's twittering on about the situation in Bahrain, let's take a look at the tremendous action that took place in that other haven of human rights, China. Nico Rosberg managed to take the aerodynamically innovative Mercedes W03 and realise its full potential, securing Pole Position for the first time, with Michael Schumacher right behind him due to Lewis Hamilton having a 5-place gearbox penalty. This was, as you almost definitely know by now, the first Mercedes-Benz front row since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix, but would it be the first Mercedes-Benz win in 57 years?

As they left the grid, Rosberg pulled a Vettel and left them all behind, with Schumacher just keeping his second place while Kimi Räikkönen made his way up from fourth to third as Kamui Kobayashi got off to a lacklustre start, falling from a personal-best third down to sixth by the time they'd exited the first "snail" that is turns 1 and 2. Jenson Button had gone all the way round the outside of Kimi in the long right-handed first turn to take third from him on the inside of turn 2 (pictured), while Hamilton was the one to put Kobayashi in sixth. Sergio Pérez mad made up a place as well, as the traditionally poor-starting Mark Webber dropped from sixth to ninth place, behind Fernando Alonso. Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten as they piled into turn 6. After the tight hairpin and the sweeping left-right-left of sector 2, Pérez had passed Kobayashi, Mark Webber had passed Alonso and Felipe Massa had passed Romain Grosjean.

Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel, who had been knocked out of Q2 and therefore started in eleventh place had dropped down to fifteenth in the first lap. By lap 2, Alonso had got past Webber again and Vettel had regained a place from Pastor Maldonado, who tried to re-pass him to no avail in turn 1/2.

Stuck in traffic, Mark Webber pitted in as early as lap 7 to switch from the faster Options to the more durable Prime tyres, which due to the closeness of the field put him way down in 21st place from ninth. His team mate Sebastian Vettel did the same on lap 10. This put him in twentieth, while Webber had made up six places already. At this point in the race, Nico Rosberg was already 5.2 seconds ahead of Michael Schumacher, while 1.5 second behind him the battle for third between four different cars was heating up... until Räikkönen and Hamilton dived into the pits. Hamilton put on another set Option tyres, contrary to other people's strategies, and managed to exit his pit box about a second before Räikkönen. Because the Lotus pit box is ahead of McLaren's (they're ordered so the constructor's champions stop first), this put the two cars side-by-side with their pit limiters on, but Hamilton had a nose ahead, which meant he could take the pit limiter off and get away a fraction of a second before Kimi and take - effectively - fourth place from The Iceman, although they rejoined the track in thirteenth and fourteenth... until Mark Webber got between them. Kimi Räikkönen didn't let the Australian go easily though, getting a slipstream and using the KERS boost to try overtaking the Red Bull on the outside of turn 6, staying alongside him all the way round until he was squeezed out onto the kerb, losing effectively fourth place to him.

Nico Rosberg didn't pit until lap 14, but Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher pitted a lap earlier, with Button getting out ahead of the septuple world champion, who quickly realised his front-right wheel hadn't been screwed on, putting him out of the race. That was a shame, really. He could've finished second and had his best second-career result, although at that point in the race he'd have had to go through Button first. Meanwhile, staying out on qualifying tyres even longer than the Mercedes cars meant that Sergio Pérez was once again leading a Formula 1 Grand Prix, but that would only last until his pit stop on lap 16, with a slow-ish getaway putting him in tenth place. Felipe Massa thus inherited the lead, but again he still had to pit.

By lap 25, the second round of pit stops had begun, and Lewis Hamilton had got himself behind Felipe Massa, having to battle him for 11th place, with Mark Webber fast-approaching. I can tell you now that Hamilton and Massa don't collide at any point, which they did a good five or six times last year, getting past him cleanly at turn 6 on lap 26. This battle meant he had lost ground to Button ahead of him. Massa then lost a place to Webber exactly a lap later.

Later on, as lap 30 of 56 came and went, a three-way battle between Sergio Pérez, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber developed for third place. As Hamilton looked down the inside of Pérez into turn 6 of lap 34, Webber went down the outside, mimicking the move Kimi Räikkönen tried on him, but - unsurprisingly - he was equally unsuccessful. As the Australian gave up and pitted again, Fernando Alonso joined battle with Hamilton and Pérez for a couple of laps, before the Mexican finally decided his tyres had had enough - thanks in some part to locking up the left front at turn 14 a few times - and he left two world champions in arch-rival teams to battle for third place. By lap 40, Button pitted from the lead, but while he only expected to drop back behind Nico Rosberg who had pitted before him, a stuck left-rear wheel kept him in the pits too long and he exited just behind a string of cars, now in sixth place. This gave Rosberg time to relax, but Jenson how had his work cut out just to regain second place.

The battle for second place was now between Felipe Massa, Kimi Räikkönen, Sebastian Vettel, Romain Grosjean and Jenson Button, who passed the Frenchman for fifth on lap 41. Massa pitted, putting the train behind him a place up. Just behind them was another train, consisting of Mark Webber, Bruno Senna, Pastor Maldonado, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. All are racing for position. Hamilton negotiated round the two Williams drivers, but Alonso tried going round the outside of Pastor Maldonado in turn 7, a long left-hander. He got onto the marbles of rubber littering the unused part of the track, slithered wide and got on the grass, allowing Sergio Pérez to squeeze past him as he rejoined the circuit, now in eleventh place.

Fast-forward to lap 45 of 56 and Hamilton and Webber pass Romain Grosjean at turn 6. Grosjean tries to come back at Webber but falls into the same trap as Alonso and runs off at turn 7, dropping him down to 8th place behind Bruno Senna as punishment. Pastor Maldonado then fancied a look up the inside into the second "snail", turns 12 and 13. They bump together, but thankfully not as hard as at the start of the Australian GP which meant they could take the entire right-hander side-by-side, Grosjean chipping off a loose bit of front wing and the slightly banked turn levels out but fending off Maldonado, who quickly came under pressure from Sergio Pérez. As they all used DRS down the back straight it was a top speed war, which the Sauber was winning, but couldn't capitalise on into the braking zone as Maldonado went down the inside of Grosjean, almost made the move stick but was taken back again at the last corner of the lap, with Alonso very closely following Pérez, who in turn was right on the back of the duelling Lotus and Williams drivers as the quartet fell back from the train for second place, now battling for eighth as they started lap 46. Alonso passed Pérez at turn 2.

Lap 48 was no less eventful as we rejoin the first train of cars. Lewis Hamilton looks to make a move on Mark Webber, getting down the inside of turn 2, which puts Webber on the inside for turn 3, meaning they stayed in the same places. At turn 6, Vettel made it past Kimi Räikkönen for second, but The Iceman isn't one to wave a driver past, making it hard for Vettel to get back onto the inside for turn 7, which has just caught out tow drivers. Alas, Räikkönen was too eager and ran wide himself mid-corner, allowing Jenson Button through into third. Round turn 8, Webber tried setting the car up to pass Button but ran wide and allowed Hamilton through, who immediately attacked Räikkonen, going round the outside at turn 9, to no avail. As these guys battled, Vettel and Button started pulling away, making the battle for fourth between Räikkönen, Hamilton, Webber, Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean, the latter two drivers rejoining the train. Hamilton used DRS to get past Kimi, who then lost out to an opportunist Webber, putting the man who was in second place a couple of laps ago down to sixth, but his woes weren't over yet as he stayed out longer than hindsight says he should have. Bruno Senna squeezed down the inside at turn 1, with Kimi's Lotus team mate Romain Grosjean sneaking down the inside of turn 2 and making it stick, leaving Räikkönen in the clutches of Maldonado and Alonso, who both passed him at turn 6, Pastor in the corner and Fernando out-accelerating him on the exit of the corner. THEN, in the DRS Zone heading into turn 14, both Sauber drivers went right past him and nearly took eachother off as Kamui Kobayashi worked his way past Sergio Pérez, who locked his left-front wheel up again in the braking zone, giving Kimi a chance he couldn't capitalise on. The flying Finn who was second place on lap 48 was now twelfth. He ended up finishing the race in fourteenth position.

Another four laps passed before Jenson Button could get past Sebastian Vettel for second place in turn 14, making an unsure initial move but committing in the end and keeping the formerly dominant Vettel behind him. By now the top ten was as follows: Nico Rosberg (leading by 25 seconds), Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Romain Grosjean, Bruno Senna, Pastor Maldonado, Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi, with Sergio Pérez not far behind. Would this be the finishing order? Don't be silly.

On lap 54 of 56, Lewis Hamilton was the next man to overtake Sebastian Vettel, confidently DRS'ing him into turn 14 for third as Mark Webber got ever closer to his Red Bull team mate. He had to drive defensively down the pit straight, thankfully not being penalised for weaving to defend, as there's a new rule that says a defending driver may only make one change of direction approaching a corner. A lap later, Webber confirmed to Vettel that this isn't 2011 anymore by getting alongside him on the back straight with DRS, braking down the inside and getting ahead mid-corner but ending up wide for the exit. Alas, the combination of Vettel getting too eager on the throttle and the apparent extra grip on the edge of the exit or that corner meant that he made it stick, putting Vettel in fifth place when he was second only three-and-a-bit laps ago. Since when was the racing this close in the last quarter or so of the race?! It wasn't close for Nico Rosberg though, who had to be told about it later before going on the podium with Jenson Button and former GP2 team mate Lewis Hamilton to celebrate his first ever win in 111 races, and the first win for Mercedes-Benz in 57 years (although to be fair they weren't in the sport for 54 of those years). That won't matter to Nico Rosberg or Ross Brawn though - who was one year old the last time a Mercedes won a Grand Prix - much less the Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug. A hard-earned win for all, and a win everyone on the grid seemed to be happy about.

So that's all the action that happened a week ago. Now we see what happens in the politically-charged Bahrain GP. Results and points below (from F1Fanatic.co.uk):

RACE:

Pos#DriverCarLapsGapDifferenceReason
18Nico RosbergMercedes56
23Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes5620.62620.626
34Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes5626.0125.386
42Mark WebberRed Bull-Renault5627.9241.912
51Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault5630.4832.559
610Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault5631.4911.008
719Bruno SennaWilliams-Renault5634.5973.106
818Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault5635.6431.046
95Fernando AlonsoFerrari5637.2561.613
1014Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari5638.7201.464
1115Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari5641.0662.346
1211Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes5642.2731.207
136Felipe MassaFerrari5642.7790.506
149Kimi RaikkonenLotus-Renault5650.5737.794
1512Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes5651.2130.640
1617Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Ferrari5651.7560.543
1716Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso-Ferrari5663.15611.400
1821Vitaly PetrovCaterham-Renault551 lap1 lap
1924Timo GlockMarussia-Cosworth551 lap49.600
2025Charles PicMarussia-Cosworth551 lap0.398
2122Pedro de la RosaHRT-Cosworth551 lap42.671
2223Narain KarthikeyanHRT-Cosworth542 laps1 lap
2320Heikki KovalainenCaterham-Renault533 laps1 lap
Not classified
7Michael SchumacherMercedes1244 laps41 lapsWheel


DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP:

TotalAUSMALCHI
















Lewis Hamilton45151515
Jenson Button4325018
Fernando Alonso3710252
Mark Webber36121212
Sebastian Vettel2818010
Nico Rosberg250025
Sergio Perez224180
Kimi Raikkonen166100
Bruno Senna14086
Kamui Kobayashi9801
Romain Grosjean8008
Paul di Resta7160
Jean-Eric Vergne4040
Pastor Maldonado4004
Daniel Ricciardo2200
Nico Hulkenberg2020
Michael Schumacher1010
Felipe Massa0000
Timo Glock0000
Charles Pic0000
Vitaly Petrov0000
Heikki Kovalainen0000
Pedro de la Rosa0000
Narain Karthikeyan0000


Also, this ---->

About two thirds into the race, Mark Webber ran wide at turn 13, getting thrown up into the air by a bump in the run-off area. Thank goodness the front wing works, otherwise he could've potentially done a back flip like he did in Valencia two years ago.

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