Lewis Hamilton wins in China, to take Chinese Grand Prix victory ahead of Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel.
It may have been the third round of the 2015 championship, but today’s Chinese Grand Prix was the first race of the year to start with all 20 cars on the grid. By the end of the race that number had fallen to 16 after two engine blowouts, one gearbox and one brake failure. But out in front Hamilton was taking the chequered flag ahead of Rosberg under the safety car.
This weekend had been dominated by Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes after the Brit topped almost every individual session leading to the race. Fastest in FP1, 2 & 3, Q2 & Q3, but after only running the medium tyres in the opening stage of qualifying Lewis missed out on the perfect clean sweep.
And once the 5 red lights went out in Shanghai, Lewis covered Rosberg into turn one to keep his team mate behind. Vettel remained third after the grid whilst his former team mate, Ricciardo, suffered a poor start to fall towards the back of the field after anti-stall kicked in.
Raikkonen utilised the bunched up field to move up to fourth over the first lap before the two Ferrari’s kept in close proximity to the two Mercedes’. Bottas was also picked off by his team mate, Massa, in the opening stages of the first lap to push the Finn further back.
As Ricciardo tried to make his way back through the rear of the field, he found himself behind his fellow Red Bull driver. Kvyat at the time was running the prime compound tyres compared to the soft’s attached to the Aussie’s Red Bull. With the speed advantage, the team opted to enforce team orders and get their Russian to move out the way. But in F1 style, things didn’t exactly go the way the team wanted and Kvyat fought his team mate for position. After a few attempts at holding position, Ricciardo eventually made up the position at turn 6, and again at turn seven after initially running wide.
Soon enough, a driver was opting for a bold non-team ordered attack on another driver. This time it was F1’s youngster Max Verstappen as he darted down the inside of Ericsson at the hairpin. A late lunge but Verstappen made it stick, even if the overtake took the Sauber driver by surprise and backed him into Hulkenberg.
Moments later however, Ericsson saw Hulkenberg pulling to the side of the track rather than pulling alongside his Sauber once the Force India suffered a gearbox failure to make the first retirement of the day. Whilst his car was rolled off the grass and out of danger, the first pit stop window opened.
Vettel and Ferrari boxed early in a bid for the undercut. But once the Silver Arrows came back out, Seb remained in third. Elsewhere on track things got a little hot when Kvyat’s engine went up in flames. Red Bull have not been happy with Renault this season to say the least, and today just adds more fuel to the fire with one of their cars forced out of the race.
Over the following laps Vettel clawed his way towards Rosberg as Nico found himself edging closer to Lewis. But at this stage of the race, Nico wanted none of it and told the team to get Hamilton to go faster as Rosberg feared being held up by his team mate. Lewis replied with slightly improved times, but not enough to satisfy the pit wall who instructed the race leader to up his times otherwise Rosberg would receive the preferential strategy, effectively the lead of the race.
By the mid way stage of the race, Ricciardo had found himself back in the middle of the field. Running in P13, Daniel darted down the inside of Ericsson at the first corner to engulf himself in the battle for tenth. But the Swede regained the position momentarily a few corners later before loosing out a few laps later.
Now it was time for the leaders to pit again. Vettel once again hit the pit lane first looking for the undercut and as he took his out lap, Rosberg pitted. As for Hamilton, he posted a new fastest lap whilst Seb stormed around to close the gap to Nico. Yet once all had pitted, the top four order remained Hamilton leading from Rosberg, Vettel and Raikkonen. Although the gap between Nico and Seb had been considerably decreased as Lewis once again found himself in the ‘hot seat’.
As for Maldonado, the Venezuelan got a bit heavy footed attacking the pit lane entrance and locked up heavily. Given he was pitting, a lock up would not cause him any issues as the tyres would soon be taken off. Yet Maldonado’s lock up sent him running into the escape area despite the gravel trap being removed, he came to a holt. Luckily he received a push back into the pit lane entrance and continued on his way, but Pastor was soon back in the limelight after spinning his Lotus a few laps after pitting.
Out in front, Hamilton held a lead of 4 seconds to Rosberg whilst Vettel dropped back from the front two. For Raikkonen, he remained close to Seb but found lapped traffic in his way. First of all came Fernando Alonso in the McLaren with both McLaren’s running somewhat competitively for their positions in a scrap for the mid field places. Alonso however slowed down to allow Raikkonen through before the Finn found himself behind Button and Maldonado.
In true Kimi fashion, he groaned over radio “come on, get these two cars out of the way” as he looked to get passed the lapped traffic. Once he did, Alonso found himself behind the two men. But Fernando had no issues in getting passed the duo as Button made sure they were well out of his way when he rear-ended the Lotus at turn 1. Button had tried a late dart down the inside of Maldonado, but Pastor covered the position and Jenson had nowhere to go.
The crash sent the two spinning out off the track but able to continue for the time being, but Pastor returned to his garage to retire a few laps later. Although before retiring, Pastor radioed the team claiming to have a brake failure.
Unfortunately for the star of today’s race, Max Verstappen was forced to retire late into the race. On lap 54 of the 56, Verstappen’s Renault engine went up in flames on the pit straight causing the 17-year-old to retire after a race full of bold overtakes. Due to the position of the car, the safety car came out to neutralise the race and bring an end to any battles on track.
As the marshal’s attempted to wiggle his car into the pit lane, they bumped and banged the Toro Rosso on the pit wall. But behind the safety car, Lewis Hamilton sat in front of Rosberg and Vettel to take his second win of the season in yet another Mercedes one-two finish.
For Lewis, today’s win is his tenth consecutive podium finish in a row and he extends his championship lead to 13 points. Rosberg’s second place in China moves him within four points of Vettel with Mercedes’ German yet to win in 2015.
As for seventh place Romain Grosjean, today’s result was his first point scoring finish since the Monaco Grand Prix last year. He was joined in the points by both Sauber’s and Ricciardo but found himself behind both Williams’ and Raikkonen in the non-podium point scoring positions.
Both McLaren and Marussia finished the race with both cars. But Button’s 13th place finish was under review following his crash with Maldonado. As Pastor retired after the incident, the FIA decided to review the incident after the race and later decided to award Jenson a 5 second time penalty. The penalty pushed Button back one position, swapping 13th for 14th place with Carlos Sainz.
Roberto Merhi also received a five second time penalty after failing to stay above the required time during the safety car period at the end of the race. Merhi finished the race in 16th, and as no other drivers still running in the race were behind him, Roberto’s position remained the same following the penalty.