Chinese GP Winners and Losers

Sunday 14-April-2013 17:52

Alonso bossed it, Hamilton held on, Mr.Kindly Tyres got his result, but it was Kimi who is the new star of China...

Star of the Race
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1st
Before the race Stefano Domenicali wasn't so sure Fernando Alonso could make his front tyres last, but you know, he seemed to do a reasonable job... While Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen duelled it out behind him, Fernando had an almost serene coast to victory, the two DRS zones and the mismatch of tyre strategies ensuring that the biggest barrier to his constant progress was the yellow flags brought out by Mark Webber parking his RB9 three-wheeler at the Turn 14 hairpin. When he came out after his tyre stop he set four personal bests in a row, the last two being fastest laps. Engineer Andrea Stella understandably got a little bit nervous, but his laid back team radio manner still came over as chilled, like he was addressing Fernando from a Milan café/bar while waiting for a double espresso, "There is no need to push. Ciao." You wonder if Andrea can even do 'agitated'. Contrast that with Sebastian Vettel's engineer 'Rocky' who only does degrees of uptight, from reigned-in, at the mild end; to barking like a wolf, at the other. Anyway, when El Nano came back on the radio and said he wasn't pushing, you believed him.

With Fernando Wins there is now also the bonus of screen time for Russian model Dasha Kapustina. There is a school of thought on some forums that only Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso should be allowed to win races in 2013 - and you have to say it's a reasonable argument.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 32: Sebastian Vettel on Felipe Massa and Paul Di Resta

Vettel had a good race from P9 and only narrowly failed to bag that last lap podium. The fact tat he was so close was due to one of the outlaps of the year when he judged the level of grip he had to perfection and overtook a Ferrari and a Force India. For his move on Massa he showed every indication that he was going to sweep down the outside at Turn 6 before diving down the inside and getting it stopped without a lock-up and neatly in front before the apex. That freed him up to overtake DiResta under DRS and be in nice clean air one lap after pitting.

He had a fairly tentative opening stint, so mindful of tyre wear that he got overtaken by Nico Hulkenberg, and his only major mistake was closing on Lewis Hamilton too rapidly on the last lap and overshooting in Turns 11/12.


Imagine that race with everyone on mediums - we wouldn't have got a grandstand finish or the variable performance throughout. Pirelli have delivered what they were asked to do, a blend of tyres that will lead to the adoption of different race strategies. The fear of tyres falling off a cliff is a clear and present danger that keeps fans' attention right until the end, because we can no longer rely on the sudden appearance of gearbox oil smoke to shake up the order in races.

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, 2nd
The fact that Kimi fronts a successful shampoo advert in China is partly the reason for Raikkonen hysteria after the race. Presumably the fact that he is a pretty inscrutable individual helps, plus the fact that he drives an auspicious flower, a Lotus. Raikkonen also speaks in zen-like simplistic terms. His best qualifying since 2009 was "not too bad" on Saturday and he was only a little bit pleased to have nursed a damaged car for two-thirds of a race, fought off massive understeer, yet still arrived back in P2.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 3rd
Lewis's self-confessed state of "ecstacy" that he got from clinching his first Mercedes pole on Saturday didn't last beyond Sunday afternoon. He was well aware that he couldn't fight a hobbled Raikkonen and only just held on from Vettel. As Kimi proved last year - you don't need to have the fastest car every race weekend, you just have to keep on scoring.

Jenson Button, McLaren, 5th
Mr Kindly Tyres was the only driver who made a two-stop strategy work - which adds credence to his theory that he could have made his tyres last in Malaysia. With no quick fix for Bahrain, Jenson has to hope that he can rely on his rubber-friendly driving skills on the massively dusty and abrasively sandy circuit at Sakhir.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 6th
Massa lost out by coming in a lap later than Alonso, and then struggled on the medium tyre - which he clearly doesn't like.

Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, 7th
Now is certainly a good time to prove that Helmut Marko can find more than one driver from his endless Red Bull talent search. So, no surprise to see Helmut with Daniel before the start, especially when he's at the pretty end of the grid. Daniel had qualified sixth in Bahrain last year but didn't score - this was his best result and it will be interesting to see if he can build on it. Obviously it helped having DiResta and Sutil clash, and Webber and Rosberg retire, but as Felipe Massa has amply proved, F1 can be a confidence thing. This should provide it.

Paul Di Resta, Force India, 8th
He was hung out to dry by his team-mate on the opening lap but recovered to beat Grosjean and Hulkenberg.

David Coulthard, BBC
Cometh the hour and cometh the man, David Coulthard is rapidly approaching Martin Brundle's illustrious ability at communicating F1 to a television audience. His performance on the Shanghai podium was a step up from his last appearance - where he was dogged by misbehaving kids. What really showed was his confident grid walk. Whereas before he might have been too reserved to snatch Toto Wolff from the clutches of Bernie Ecclestone, this race he steamed right on in there. Brundle actually paid him the backhanded complement of sticking a Sky microphone right where he knew it would be in vision during DC's interview of Daniel Ricciardo. It wasn't so much as to capture sound as to advertise his presence there. Friendly needle.

Using a good sporting cliché, at the end of the day DC is recognised the world over as a GP winner and someone who's vied for the sport's top honours, whereas Brundle's main claim to fame is getting his braking wrong at the start of the Australian GP in a Jordan, getting catapulted into the gravel, then jogging cheerfully back to the grid in what looked like a yellow, Nomex onesey.


Mark Webber, Red Bull, DNF
And it was all going so well... Red Bull's early stop to take Mark off the Soft tyre was a brilliant piece of strategy, because it put him in the environs of the man who ultimately finished in P2, Kimi Raikkonen. However his attempted pass on Vergne was very optimistic and duly netted him a 3-place grid penalty. Except... with Toro Rosso being the sister team of Red Bull the mitigating circumstance was that Mark thought that
a) He was going to be let through
b) He would have at least had a small amount of room at the apex.

Compared to Gutierrez's five-grid penalty for wholescale bungling it seemed harsh. That was a ten-placer and no mistake.

Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 12th"Multi 218, Jean-Eric, Multi 218..."

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 9th
The 'mystery affliction' that is casting Grosjean miles adrift of his team-mate hasn't gone away, and although he finished in the points he was still 43 seconds behind his team-mate, and that with perfectly working aero.

Sergio Perez, McLaren, 11th
Starting on the medium tyre was less of an advantage than he probably thought it would be. Perez got a little bit fighty when he really didn't need to, but was blameless for the Raikkonen incident. Kimi was hustling in the wrong place and drove into the McLaren. Hanging outside and choosing the outside line in corners is something Raikkonen quite likes; it was successful for him at the start in Australia this year, he bumped Alonso in Japan last year from that position and now Perez.

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, DNF
The second part of a Mexican double whammy, Gutierrez was watching Perez and not his braking point and collected a Force India. Instead of blaming the brake pedal ( a la Schumi on Vergne in Singapore 2012) Esteban held his hand up.

Adrian Sutil, Force India, DNF
Adrian Sutil was the blameless innocent of someone else's accident, although Paul Di Resta might like to believe there was a touch of karma involved.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, DNF
Rosberg's retirement was another good (retrospective) reason for Ross Brawn asking him to hold station in Malaysia. In three races Nico's collected the amount of mechanical retirements that will last Ferrari a season. How long till that impacts on Lewis Hamilton and the happiest-I've-ever-been demeanour...?

Andrew Davies

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