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Rosberg’s Shanghai Surprise

By Mav | 15 Apr 2012 | One Comment | 1,927 views

What was that about tyre degradation? Mercedes defied expectations by dominating the Chinese Grand Prix and providing Rosberg junior with his first Grand Prix victory – the first for the Mercedes’ works team since Fangio dominated the 1955 season. Behind him, Sebastian Vettel slipped from second to fifth in the closing laps as Jenson Button recovered from a problem on his final pit stop to take second and Lewis Hamilton completed the podium for the third race in a row.

Vettel’s team mate also picked him off with two laps to go. Devilish reporters asked Mark Webber about which was his favourite pass in the hope he’d say Vettel but I suspect he may dwell more on the mistake while attempting to clear Raikkonen that allowed Hamilton through. Behind the Red Bulls, Romain Grosjean’s sixth-place meant his first points in Formula One while the Williams’ pairing of Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado led home Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi.
Mercedes AMG Petronas
Driver of the Day:
It was a cool, controlled drive from Rosberg belying the fact that it was his first win. Button may have pointed to his costly pit stop but it’s unlikely it would have influenced the result as the Mercedes driver established a comfortable gap. It’s 30 years since Dad clinched his maiden Grand Prix victory and notably, Keke Rosberg went on to claim the Drivers’ crown that year, despite it being his only win of the season. So far, 2012 has echoed that unusual year with three different winners and little in the way of a reliable form book – can history repeat itself for the Rosberg family?

Good Day:
Given Button’s pitstop and Hamilton’s grid penalty, McLaren should be happy with their weekend as the latter moved to the top of the standings despite not finishing better than third place so far. There were also strong results for Romain Grosjean scoring his first points in Formula One and points for Williams.

Bad Day:
It will have been a frustrating day for Michael Schumacher who should have completed a Mercedes 1-2 only for the wheels (well the front right one) to come off his charge. However, it was Lotus and Kimi Raikkonen who had a terrible day. The Finn was comfortably holding a gaggle of cars at bay in second place on a used set of medium tyres on his final stint when his tyre degradation reached tipping point with 10 laps still to go. From second he tumbled to fourteenth in the space of just four laps. The initial problem seemed to be that the Lotus driver’s middle stint wasn’t long enough to make the final run possible – despite the fact that he was matching Rosberg’s pace at the point he pitted. Then he exited behind the immovable force that was Felipe Massa. Unable to pass, the time spent in the Ferrari’s dirty air sealed Raikkonen’s fate.

Talking Point:
Last year’s race was one of the highlights of the year with a feast of overtaking. Twelve months on and another entertaining race and yet this was defined more by the lack of overtaking – Raikkonen may have been off the pace, yet he was able to back up the field and set-up a thrilling battle for second. Throughout the field but most notably Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, significantly slower drivers were comfortably keeping opponents at bay. Alonso claimed he could have finished sixth if it wasn’t for traffic (handily ignoring Massa stepping aside for him) and yet drivers up and down the order could have said similar. The DRS zone looked surprisingly ineffective – it wasn’t as if the end of back-straight hairpin was any stranger to overtaking pre-DRS. Red Bull were actually being left behind on the straights such was their aerodynamic set-up and yet they weren’t being picked off either. So what has changed?

Race Rating:
There’s always something special about a driver’s first victory but behind him, there was also drama aplenty as the “Raikkonen train” was released to scrap for the remaining podium places and provide a thrilling finish.

Full Result:

1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h 36.26.929
2. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes +20.626
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +26.012
4. Mark Webber      Red Bull-Renault +27.924
5. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault +30.483
6. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault +31.491
7. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault      +34.597
8. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault      +35.643
9. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +37.256
10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari      +38.720
11. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari +41.066
12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes      +42.273
13. Felipe Massa Ferrari +42.779
14. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault +50.573
15. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes +51.213
16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari +51.756
17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari +63.156
18. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault +1 Lap
19. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth +1 Lap
20. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth +1 Lap
21. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth +1 Lap
22. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth +2 Laps
23. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault +3 Laps

Fastest Lap: Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber-Ferrari, 1:39.960

Fastest Pitstop: Fernando Alonso, Ferrari – 20.024s (entry-exit)

Not classified/retirements:

Michael Schumacher     Mercedes     Lap 13     Insecure wheel

What did you make of the Chinese Grand Prix? Who do you think was driver of the day? Who had a weekend to forget? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…

Related Links
Chinese GP: Tyre and Pit Stop Strategy

Photo: Mercedes AMG Petronas

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