Shanghai success for Nico Rosberg after victory at the Chinese Grand Prix.
China caused a stir in Formula One as a chaotic start teed up a fantastic race with Hamilton and Raikkonen fighting back, from the back. While after an unchallenged race, Nico Rosberg took his sixth consecutive victory.
Before the lights in Shanghai flashed from red to black, Rosberg angled his Silver Arrow across the track in order to cover Ricciardo after a great qualifying session by the Red Bull driver saw him start on the front row.
Rosberg’s efforts though were in vein after a great start by Ricciardo ensured he had the inside line and the lead of the race. While without the lead, Nico opted not to challenge the Australian through the first corner and stuck to his outside. Instead it was Daniel’s team-mate showing optimism into the first corner.
As the two Ferrari’s of Vettel and Raikkonen vied each other for third, the pair ran slightly wide for the first corner. The space vacated by the Prancing Horses presented itself kindly to Kvyat, who – in Vettel’s words – made a suicidal attempt to gain the positions.
Kvyat managed to hold his car closely to the inside of the track, but in fear of making contact Vettel swiftly flicked his car left – into the rear of his team-mate, sending him into a spin. The spinning Finn would lose his front wing as Vettel lost his front wing end fence, but the havoc the spin caused would go on and cause a safety car.
The safety car may not have been called directly out, but as a result of the following damage it was soon deemed necessary. With Hamilton loosing his front wing when Nasr flung the Sauber to the right in order to avoid the slow Ferrari, and Grosjean loosing his front wing on his birthday as Ericsson flicked the other Sauber to the right to avoid Hamilton.
The race leading Daniel Ricciardo even suffered a puncture before the safety car was called out, causing him to lose the lead to Rosberg down the back straight.
While Hamilton, Raikkonen and Grosjean would close back up to the pack under the safety car, Vettel ensured he would hold a better position at the restart after mugging two drivers at the pit entry. One of which was Hulkenberg, as the German – deemed by the FIA – entered the pits too slowly and received a 5-second penalty as a result.
While the safety car still circulated, Hamilton no longer liked the way the front end of his car was handling following his change onto the supersoft tyres. So, with a stroke of genius by Mercedes, the team called him back in to change onto the soft tyres. The change back onto the softs meant Lewis would have run both compounds, without having to race the supersofts and without loosing time from another pit stop.
Come the restart of the race, a tidy launch away from the hairpin ensured Rosberg would hold a strong lead over the line.
While after not pitting under the safety car, Wehrlein even sat in fourth place in the Manor. He did however lose out to Kvyat at turn six, with the Russian who caused the Vettel/Raikkonen crash even gaining positions over Gutierrez and Alonso on the same lap to move up to third.
As the field began to file into position for their first real stints, Kvyat continued his push as he moved ahead of Massa. Sebastian Vettel meanwhile was on a charge of his own, taking Perez for fifth and Alonso for fourth before another piece of his front wing flew off – even after changing his wing earlier in the race.
After Perez himself gained track position over Alonso, the Mexican was hunting down Fernando’s team-mate. And like Fernando, Jenson was running on heavily worn tyres causing him to be reeled in. The tyres though did not stop Jenson from defending from his 2013 team-mate as Sergio eyed an overtake. Moves all the way up to turn six were defended by the 2009 World Champion, before Perez hung the Force India around the outside of turn seven.
Jenson’s heavily worn tyres would only last a further few laps before he was forced to pit, handing Raikkonen and Hamilton easy positions with the Brit pitting for another medium set.
Lewis himself had made a heap of pit stops, changing between sets of softs and then the mediums to find himself running in between Massa and Ricciardo for fifth.
In the run to that fifth place, Lewis had to make his way up from the back row of the grid despite the early contact he suffered. But after pitting and coming out in 14th, behind Button, he attacked heavily to storm into the points. The storm though would bite back as his tyres began to fade, hampering his performance.
When Hamilton found the Red Bull of Ricciardo in his mirrors after the Australian pitted from P2, Lewis’ attack on Massa came to an end with Hamilton unable to find a way past. He did however only have the Bull in his back for a short spell after Ricciardo dispatched Hamilton with ease, after better traction out of the first sequence of corners allowed him to take Lewis at turn six.
While Lewis continued to struggle to gain the position over Massa once Ricciardo dispatched him, Raikkonen edged his way closer and closer to Hamilton.
Soon enough he found himself behind the Silver Arrow and lined up a move down the back straight. He could not however pull off the move down the straight as the Merc edged ahead under braking. Hamilton though ran deep into the corner, failed to make a defensive move before Raikkonen forced Lewis even further out wide at the hairpin to take the position. Like Ricciardo, Raikkonen only took one more lap to then move ahead of Massa at the hairpin.
Nico Rosberg meanwhile was out in front by a country mile as he ticked down the laps to his sixth consecutive win. Only Vettel, Ascari and Schumacher have claimed more wins a row than Rosberg – who now has a stronger win-streak than Hamilton ever has. No man has also gone on to lose the championship after winning the first three races of the year.
What could have been worse for Hamilton, who finished in seventh place, is that Verstappen was rapidly closing in on Lewis as they pushed to the flag. Should the race have lasted one lap longer, the Toro Rosso would have been scrapping to the death to take the position.
But what could have been did not unfold and Hamilton held on to take seventh by a second. As for Raikkonen who also suffered at the first corner of the first lap, he took the flag in fifth place with a reasonable gap separating him from Ricciardo.
When the drivers entered the cool down room for the podium, Vettel let his frustration’s with Kvyat show as he laid into the Russian for creating an avoidable accident at the start of the race. Kvyat though refused to back down and defended his stance with it being racing and neither of them crashed with each other – even if Vettel did make contact with Raikkonen.
|Pos||Driver||Gap to leader||Points|
|9||Carlos Sainz Jr.||1:24.127||2|
|14||Esteban Gutierrez||1 lap|
|15||Nico Hulkenberg||1 lap|
|16||Marcus Ericsson||1 lap|
|17||Kevin Magnussen||1 lap|
|18||Pascal Wehrlein||1 lap|
|19||Romain Grosjean||1 lap|
|20||Felipe Nasr||1 lap|
|21||Rio Haryanto||1 lap|
|22||Jolyon Palmer||1 lap|