Today’s Chinese Grand Prix in Bahrain, as it happened…
The first time in 57 years the Silver Arrows have had a Pole Position and now they line up with a front row lockout after Lewis Hamilton’s demotion(gearbox change). A surprise with Kobayashi in 3rd alongside Past Champion Kimi Raikkonen in 4th who could both get away well, the Pole sitter has lost it into the first turn in the last few years. Can the McLarens get up the grid from 5th and 7th? They looked to have the pace in practice so never rule them out.
And we’re away, first turn and Button has jumped Kobayashi and Raikkonen up to 3rd. Mercedes get a good start and stay up top. Hamilton starts well to get up to 5th, Vettel has a terrible start and drops to 15th. Kobayashi’s bad start means he’s fighting with his teammate for 6th and 7th. Massa does well and up into 10th.
And settle down… but be ready again for DRS being enabled into the 3rd lap. Keep within that second of the car in front so you can get that boost on the straight to assist your overtake. Mercedes pulling out quite a gap on the teams below with Rosberg dropping Schumi so he isn’t in the DRS zone. Vettel telling his team he’s ‘nowhere on the straights, can’t overtake’ which is surprising. Frustration setting in for the World Champion? And Webber heads into the pits for the Prime tyre at the end of the 6th lap, early but is it gambling or good strategy? Raikkonen is hustling Button but no-one is nailing their car as they want to keep these tyres in good condition for a few more laps.
And the Pit Stop session begins! Kobayashi drops from the fight with his team mate for new boots. All the other front runners stay out. Next Lap and Raikkonen and Hamilton head in. Hamilton has done him in the pits!! And they both come out fighting with Webber, Raikkonen losing out going spectacularly wheel to wheel with Webber. Lewis is on the option tyre, so should be quicker than most others putting on Prime for a longer stint. Jenson drops in and gets a new set of options also, coming out in 7th ahead of that fight between Hamilton, Webber and Raikkonen. Schumi pits, and is passed by Button and Hamilton! Schumacher is out, cuts a solitary figure driving his car onto the grass. Apparently an issue with the Pit Stop. Rosberg pits and gives Perez the lead. A replay shows Schumi’s right front man calling out desperately as he realises he hasn’t got the nut on but off Michael goes. Mercedes under investigation for unsafe release for that.
So, Perez due to pit on options, Massa on the Primes in second both not pitted. Rosberg in third having pitted followed by Button and Hamilton. Perez has a massive lock up before flying into the Pits. Massa’s plan to go deep before pitting doesn’t really work as he comes out in 14th.
Rosberg is pulling away again, looks like Mercedes may have fixed any issue with burning up their tyres as they keep up a great race pace with Nico. Button and Hamilton holding station in 2nd and 3rd away from the fight for 4th to 6th between Webber Raikkonen and Alonso. Until Webber pits yet again and drops back. The McLaren team come out for Hamilton and new set of Prime tyres. Button comes in a couple later and comes back out in front of Hamilton by a few cars, this traffic packed tightly could make a big impact on the race result. Hamilton is stuck behind Massa, could we see a repeat of last years troubles? Nope, he passes him well on the inside and he needed to do it as Webber had smelt blood and was closing him down.
Alonso pits from 3rd followed by Raikkonen in 2nd on the next lap, Button is scything his way through the field unlike Hamilton who keeps getting held up. Alonso has jumped Raikkonen by pitting that one lap earlier. Kovalainen is trundling around the track and pits soon after.
Sergio Perez showing his racecraft by having a good scrap with Hamilton even though he’s on old tyres. Button is firing in Fastest Laps and catching Rosberg by 2 seconds a lap, but Rosberg may be making 2 stops to Jensons 3 stops. Perez’s fight with Hamilton puts Lewis into a bit of an argument with Webber, who tries to pass on the outside until Hamilton well and truly slams the door shut. Rosberg pits and is only just in front of the fight between Perez and Hamilton now after Webber left the group for the pits.
So, Button leads the Chinese GP. Alonso is right behind Hamilton now, but Perez dives into the pits and frees Lewis who will try his hardest to pull away. Massa holding well in 5th on a 2 stopper leading a gaggle of Raikkonen, Kobayashi, Vettel and Grosjean.
Woh woh woh, Webber hits a kerb and pulls a wheelie that Valentino Rossi would be proud of!! Seemingly no damage to the car as he’s still chasing Senna, but he’s got to be chuntering away under that helmet. Button is being closed down by Rosberg, who is on his apparent final set of tyres for the GP and Jenson is to pit again. Hamilton and Alonso pit and they come out in the same order. Jenson pits and he’s got serious problems, left rear issues and takes an age in the pits, that’s his race winning chances seemingly over.
Massa is 2nd and still to pit for the 2nd time, he drops in and is swallowed up by the close following pack. Button is following Vettel and Raikkonen in the race for 2nd place. Vettel has ran a good strategy and got himself into contention for a podium. There is a giant queue of cars from 2nd down to 10th, but many are 2 stoppers so might drop down when the tyres start to wear.
This is wheel to wheel stuff, Grosjean and Maldonado touch as they go side to side through a few corners, Perez joins the party and they go 3 abreast up the straight. Button still can’t get in front of Vettel, that Red Bull is a nice car in race trim. Webber is right behind Button but he has his own issues with Hamilton right on his gearbox. Webber and Hamilton go side to side around turn 1 through to 3, but then Vettel jumps on Raikkonen, he goes wide onto the marbles so Jenson jumps him also but Raikkonen manages to get back before Webber and Hamilton. Webber goes wide attempting to overtake Raikkonen and is passed by Hamilton. Raikkonen’s tyres are shot. 2nd to 10th in one lap.
Rosberg has a 25 second lead now, got to be the winner. It’s all about the fight for 2nd and 3rd now, Vettel, Button and Hamilton going for it. Button does it!!! It’s taken him a while, but in the DRS zone he makes a very late pass and slams the door when Vettel tries to come back at him. Vettel needs to worry about Hamilton now as Jenson tries to pull away. Lewis needs to be careful though, Webber is ready to pounce.
Hamilton gets onto the straight right on Vettel who dives to the inside, Hamilton follows, DRS open and takes 3rd! He needs to be watch those mirrors as Vettel and Webber try to come back at him. Webber does it on the penultimate lap and takes his team mate to get 4th.
And here we go, cool as a cucumber, Nico drives the final lap pretty much on his own apart from back markers. A stellar drive, his first pole, his first race win. Button takes second with Hamilton 3rd. So Mercedes engines lock out the front 3. Ross Brawn sounds very choked, ‘Brilliant Job Nico, Brilliant’ and thats the only way it can be described!
Full Race Result
1st Rosberg 2nd Button 3rd Hamilton 4th Webber 5th Vettel 6th Grosjean 7th Senna 8th Maldonado 9th Alonso 10th Kobayashi 11th Perez 12th Di Resta 13th Massa 14th Raikkonen 15th Hulkenberg 16th Vergne 17th Ricciado 18th Petrov 19th Glock 20th Pic 21st De La Rosa 22nd Karthikeyan 23rd Kovalainen DNF Schumacher.