Hamilton wins thrilling Chinese GP

Lewis Hamilton ended Sebastian Vettel's run of wins with an incredible charge to victory in the Chinese Grand Prix

Hamilton wins thrilling Chinese GP

The McLaren driver's three-stop strategy proved a better bet than Vettel's two stops, allowing Hamilton to hunt down and pass the tyre-hampered Red Bull in the final laps.

Mark Webber drove an outstanding race to come from 18th on the grid to third in the second Red Bull, ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg - both of whom led for long spells in an utterly absorbing race.

Vettel's afternoon began to get complicated with a poor start that allowed both McLarens to get past him into Turn 1 and gave him a few headaches resisting Rosberg through the opening corners.

The top three then ran in a queue covered by 2s through the first stint, with Rosberg a few seconds behind, fending off the Ferraris, which were led by Felipe Massa.

Mercedes then pulled a masterstroke by bringing Rosberg in on lap 12. The German emerged in clear air and made the most of his fresh tyres, but was also helped by a chaotic few laps for the top three.

As Hamilton's tyre performance faded, Vettel surged past him using the DRS wing on the back straight. Button and Vettel then immediately pitted nose to tail, but bizarrely Button pulled into the Red Bull pit stall rather than McLaren's, and was frantically waved on to the correct pit, slightly slowing both stops, although Red Bull reacted fast and still got Vettel out ahead.

With Hamilton losing pace dramatically on his in-lap and being caught and passed by Massa, Rosberg's new-tyre pace and uncomplicated out-laps really paid dividends. As the second stint started, Rosberg led Vettel by 5s, with Button, Massa and Hamilton giving chase.

But while Rosberg and the McLarens were committed to three-stop strategies, Vettel and Massa had decided to go for just two. The latter looked like the best plan once everyone had made their second stops just after half-distance, for though that put Vettel and Massa fourth and fifth behind Rosberg and the McLarens, they were matching the leaders' pace and not allowing the top three to pull out a sufficient margin to stay ahead when they made their additional stops.

Hamilton was now on a charge though, slicing down the inside of Button to take second on lap 35, and then quickly catching Rosberg after their third stops and diving past him into Turn 6.

He then hunted down the two-stopping Massa and passed the Ferrari with ease on the pits straight with 12 laps to go.

Next in his sights was Vettel and by lap 50 Hamilton was right with the Red Bull and attacking with the DRS wing on the back straight, though the championship leader doggedly hugged the inside line at the hairpin every time the McLaren drew alongside.

Hamilton had to try something different, and on lap 52 he got much better traction out of Turn 6 and swept through on the inside into the fast Turn 7, before quickly scampering away to take a breakthrough victory in a race that proved Formula 1's 2011 rules package is achieving everything the rule-makers could have hoped for. It was also an incredible result considering a problem with the McLaren's fuel system almost forced him to start from the pitlane - the car only just making it out of the garage in time.

Rosberg fell behind Button when he ran wide trying to pass Massa. With his tyres just too old to resist the three-stoppers, Massa was swiftly overtaken by Button, Rosberg and even Webber - who also became a factor in the podium battle in the enthralling final stages.

The Australian had made little impression in his first stint on hard tyres, but like Sepang a week ago, stopping three times gave him plenty of opportunity to gain ground in clear air - and saving the much quicker softs for the final stint when everyone else was on hards gave him a huge pace advantage, as he proved by grabbing fourth from Rosberg with a Turn 6 dive three laps from the end. Lapping 2s quicker than anyone else, Webber then caught Button at the end of the penultimate lap and grabbed a sensational podium finish.

Massa had to settle for sixth, but could take satisfaction from outpacing team-mate Fernando Alonso, who both lacked Massa's speed and lost ground emerging into traffic after pitstops. He just beat Michael Schumacher to seventh, the Mercedes having got clear of the midfield by making a very early first of three stops.

Renault's podium run ended with Vitaly Petrov only able to take ninth place ahead of Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber. Paul di Resta was looking good for more points until fading in the final few laps, leaving him 11th ahead of Nick Heidfeld's Renault, with which he clashed in the closing moments. Adrian Sutil's race in the second Force India was spoiled by contact with Sergio Perez, for which the Sauber driver was penalised.

Toro Rosso's great qualifying effort turned to nothing, with both drivers soon falling down the order - Sebastien Buemi finishing only 14th behind Rubens Barrichello's Williams, and Jaime Alguersuari retiring when a wheel fell off after his pitstop. Behind Sutil, Heikki Kovalainen gave Lotus plenty to cheer by beating Perez and Pastor Maldonado's Williams to 16th.

PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The Chinese Grand Prix Shanghai International Circuit, China; 56 laps; 305.066km; Weather: Sunny. Classified: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h36:58.226 2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 5.198 3. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 7.555 4. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 10.000 5. Rosberg Mercedes + 13.448 6. Massa Ferrari + 15.840 7. Alonso Ferrari + 30.622 8. Schumacher Mercedes + 31.206 9. Petrov Renault + 57.404 10. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1:03.273 11. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1:08.757 12. Heidfeld Renault + 1:12.739 13. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1:30.189 14. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:30.671 15. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap 16. Kovalainen Lotus-Renault + 1 lap 17. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap 18. Maldonado Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap 19. Trulli Lotus-Renault + 1 lap 20. D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth + 2 laps 21. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 2 laps 22. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps 23. Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps Fastest lap: Webber, 1:38.993 Not classified/retirements: Driver Team On lap Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 12 World Championship standings, round 3: Drivers: Constructors:  1. Vettel 68 1. Red Bull-Renault 105 2. Hamilton 47 2. McLaren-Mercedes 85 3. Button 38 3. Ferrari 50 4. Webber 37 4. Renault 32 5. Alonso 26 5. Mercedes 16 6. Massa 24 6. Sauber-Ferrari 7 7. Petrov 17 7. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 4 8. Heidfeld 15 8. Force India-Mercedes 4 9. Rosberg 10 10. Kobayashi 7 11. Schumacher 6 12. Buemi 4 13. Di Resta 2 14. Sutil 2 All timing unofficial 
shares
comments
Rosberg: Mercedes has turned a corner

Previous article

Rosberg: Mercedes has turned a corner

Next article

Alonso: Strategy made no difference

Alonso: Strategy made no difference
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Drivers Lewis Hamilton
Author Matt Beer
Why the demise of F1's hypocritical spending habit is cause for celebration Plus

Why the demise of F1's hypocritical spending habit is cause for celebration

For too long, F1's richest teams have justified being able to spend as much as they want because that's the way they've always conducted their business. STUART CODLING says that's no reason not to kick a bad habit

The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate Plus

The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate

It's been a tough start to Sebastian Vettel's Aston Martin F1 career, with a lack of pre-season testing mileage followed by an incident-packed Bahrain GP. But two key underlying factors mean a turnaround is not guaranteed

Formula 1
Apr 14, 2021
The diva that stole a march on F1’s wide-bodied opposition Plus

The diva that stole a march on F1’s wide-bodied opposition

In 2017 new F1 technical regulations were supposed to add drama - and peg Mercedes back. STUART CODLING looks at the car which, while troubled, set the stage for the wide-bodied Formula 1 era

Formula 1
Apr 13, 2021
The themes to watch in F1’s Imola return Plus

The themes to watch in F1’s Imola return

Three weeks is a long time in Formula 1, but in the reshaped start to the 2021 season the teams head to Imola to pick things up after the frenetic Bahrain opener. Here's what to look out for and the developments to follow at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Formula 1
Apr 13, 2021
The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola Plus

The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola

After a pandemic-hit winter of seat-swapping, F1 kicked off its season with several new faces in town, other drivers adapting to new environments, and one making a much-anticipated comeback. BEN ANDERSON looks at who made the most of their opportunity and who needs to try harder…

Formula 1
Apr 12, 2021
The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture Plus

The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture

Aston Martin’s only previous foray into Formula 1 in the late 1950s was a short-lived and unsuccessful affair. But it could have been so different, says NIGEL ROEBUCK

Formula 1
Apr 10, 2021
Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of car-racing titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace Plus

Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of car-racing titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace

Max Verstappen’s star quality in Formula 1 is clear. Now equipped with a Red Bull car that is, right now, the world title favourite and the experience to support his talent, could 2021 be the Dutchman’s year to topple the dominant force of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?

Formula 1
Apr 9, 2021
Are we at peak F1 right now? Plus

Are we at peak F1 right now?

For many, many years Formula 1 has strived to do and to be better on all fronts. With close competition, a growing fanbase, a stable political landscape and rules in place to encourage sustainability, 2021 is on course to provide an unexpected peak

Formula 1
Apr 8, 2021