Report: Lewis Ends Seb's Dominance

Sunday 17-April-2011 09:00

Lewis Hamilton and McLaren overcame a pre-race wobble to end Sebastian Vettel's dominance with a superb Chinese Grand Prix victory.

Hamilton's mechanics were frantically repairing a fuel leak on his car before the start of the race, but their hard work paid off as he finished ahead of Vettel to break the Red Bull's stranglehold on race wins.

Vettel came home in P2, but arguably the star of the race was Mark Webber who started from P18 on the grid to make it to a podium place on the penultimate lap. It was an epic race with exactly the kind of overtaking Pirelli had been asked to deliver.

Race Report
The track was bathed in sunshine with the ambient temperature up to 22C and the track at 29C. There was drama in the McLaren garage at the very last minute as Lewis Hamilton's MP4-26 failed to start up. There was a scramble to get the air box off and the problem sorted and he finally managed to get out of the pitlane with just 35 seconds before it closed. He had to go to the grid with body parts missing off his car.

Mark Webber, starting back in P18, decided to go for hard tyres on the opening stint although most of those around him were on the softer Option tyre.

Grid:1.Vettel, 2.Button, 3.Hamiton, 4.Rosberg, 5.Alonso, 6.Massa, 7.Alguersuari 8.DiResta, 9.Buemi, 10.Petrov

Start: As the red lights went out polesitter Sebastian Vettel bogged down and Jenson Button was easily past up the inside and he had to defend aggressively against Lewis Hamilton. Vettel squeezed him towards the inside but couldn't close the door with the McLaren right alongside. Hamilton into P2.

Nico Rosberg also fancied his chances at getting past Vettel round the outside of Turn 2 but the World Champion was able to position his car to keep the Mercedes driver back, which in turn put Rosberg under pressure from the two Ferraris. Felipe Massa got another great start and was up past Alonso into Turn 1. Like Malaysia there was no serious contact on the opening lap and no trips to the pitlane for new tyres or front wings.

Lap 1 Positions: 1.Button, 2.Hamilton, 3.Vettel, 4.Rosberg, 5.Massa, 6.Alonso, 7.DiResta, 8.Sutil, 9.Schumacher, 10.Alguersuari, 11.Kobayashi, 12.Petrov, 13.Buemi, 14.Heidfeld.

Mark Webber made up only one place on the opening lap and was P17 as he crossed the line first time round. Similarly the Renault team didn't mirror their great starts of previous races with Petrov going backwards at the end of the lap, losing places to Alguersuari and Kobayashi. The big gainer was Michael Schumacher up from P14 to P9.

In the opening stint, the gaps slowly started to open up, though the effect of the DRS wasn't immediately apparent. Cars following each other down Shanghai's long straight weren't making automatic moves past each other, largely because the FIA had limited the DRS activation zone on Saturday.

The top three drivers each put in fastest laps in the first seven tours with Button holding just a 1.2 second gap for most of the first stint. Mark Webber's afternoon looked like it was coming apart on Lap 9 when Sergio Perez ran side by side through a series of corners and got past him. At the end of Lap 10 Webber pitted to get rid of the harder Prime tyre - which bizarrely wasn't as effective as the softer Option. It was to pay dividends at the end of the race.

Nico Rosberg was the first of the front runners to pit at the end of Lap 12 from P4 , at the same time his team-mate Michael Schumacher put in the fastest lap having stopped for new tyres two laps earlier. On Lap 11 it was clear that the McLaren tyres were going away because both of them were a second slower than the pursuing Ferraris and Vettel was bustling to get past. After the race Martin Whitmarsh revealed that Jenson Button stopped a lap later than he should have and the lap times certainly bore that out.

When Button stopped at the end of Lap 13 he looked down at his dashboard at an inopportune moment and drove straight into the Red Bull garage for tyres, who then ushered him through to the McLaren pitbox next door. As a result he lost the place to Vettel when they emerged onto track as Vettel had come in behind him.

What was worse, staying out a lap too long had pushed Lewis Hamilton's tyres over the edge and he was overtaken by Felipe Massa at the end of Lap 14 before pitting. At this stage the |Ferraris' pace was looking good. Massa kept his position in front of Hamilton beyond the first stops which gave us an order on Lap 17 of:1.Rosberg, 2.Petrov (not stopped), 3.Vettel, 4.Button, 5.Massa, 6.Hamilton, 7.Heidfeld (not stopped), 8.Schumacher, 9.Alonso, 10.DiResta, 11.Sutil, 12.Kobayashi

The winner from the first round of pitstops was Nico Rosberg who now led the race. His team-mate, who had stopped even earlier, was delaying Fernando Alonso quite badly at between 0.5 and a second a lap. In the end Michael's older tyres just proved incapable of holding the Ferrari back and Alonso just drove round him on Lap 25.

Mark Webber had made his way up to P11 by Lap 23 and was involved in a hectic battle between Adrian Sutil and Kamui Kobayashi ahead of him in 9th and 10th. On Lap 24 Rosberg had a lead of 4.1 seconds over Vettel who was 2.1 ahead of Button, who was only 0.8 ahead of Massa.

Button pitted at the end of Lap 24; Hamilton, Rosberg and Webber pitted on Lap 25. When the Ferraris and Vettel didn't come in for tyres it became evident that they were only going to be stopping twice, while the McLarens, Webber and the Mercedes were stopping three times.

The positions on Lap 27 were: 1.Vettel(1), 2.Massa(1), 3.Alonso(1), 4.Rosberg(2), 5.Button(2), 6.|Hamilton(2), 7.DiResta, 8.Sutil, 9.Kobayashi, 10.Petrov

At this stage of the race all the three-stoppers started to gain significant chunks of time on the two-stoppers and when they closed up to their gearboxes, they were as good as past them. Rosberg, Button and Lewis Hamilton all closed up on Fernando Alonso and were past him without serious effort. On Lap 30 Hamilton passed Alonso on acceleration alone from Turn 14 and as he said afterwards: "I've never overtaken anyone there before unless it was a backmarker."

Alonso pitted on Lap 32 and Massa on Lap 33, but the big competition was now between the two Mclaren drivers who were both closing on Rosberg.

The positions on Lap 34 with all the front-runners having stopped twice now were: 1.Rosberg, 2.Button, 3.Hamilton, 4.Vettel, 5.Massa, 6.Schumacher, 7.Webber, 8.Petrov(1), 9.Alonso, 10.Perez(1).

On Lap 36 Lewis Hamilton made an unexpected (from Button's point-of-view) overtaking move on Button. Button went to turn into the first corner and found the other Mclaren almost alongside him. Jenson let him through and Lewis was away.

On Lap 37 Button pitted followed by Hamilton a lap later as down the order Mark Webber made one of many great moves in the race, this time on Michael Schumacher (who himself was on top form). All the three-stoppers came in about the same time. On Lap 39 it was Rosberg and on Lap 40 it was Webber. Right at this time, the BBC was able to show coverage from earlier in the race of Fernando Alonso's DRS wing opening before Turn 16 outside of the activation zone.

Such had been the three-stoppers' pace that they had already got ahead of Fernando Alonso by the time they put their last set of tyres on. The positions on Lap 41 were: 1.Vettel, 2.Massa, 3.Rosberg, 4.Hamilton, 5.Button, 6.Alonso, 7.Schumacher, 8.Webber, 9.Di Resta, 10.Kobayashi.

Hamilton - released from Button - was right onto Rosberg's gearbox. The Mercedes team had radioed through that he had to save fuel to get to the end of the race and he proved no match for an aggressive Hamilton who overtook him into Turn 6. Lewis suffered a flatspot on his front left while trying to find a way past Rosberg which gave him a worrying vibration till the end of the race.

Behind them Mark Webber was flying on the softer tyre and put in a fastest lap of 1:38.993 and was going three seconds faster than his team-mate Vettel. Now it was a case of the three-stoppers hunting down the two-stoppers in front of them. On Lap 45 Hamilton put an overtaking move on Felipe Massa that lasted from Turn 14 the previous lap through to Turn 1 on the next. Massa defended but the Mclaren got great traction out of the final corner and was past him on the straight.

On lap 45 Mark Webber breezed past Alonso for P6 as Rosberg failed to make a move on Massa, missed his braking into Turn 14, ran wide and allowed Button through.

Positions on Lap 48: 1.Vettel, 2.Hamilton, 3.Massa, 4.Button, 5.Rosberg, 6.Webber, 7.Alonso

Jenson took some time to get past Massa and was finally through on Lap 49 as Mark Webber closed on both Rosberg and Massa.

On Lap 51 both Rosberg and Webber passed Felipe Massa, while at the front Lewis Hamilton stalked race leader Sebastian Vettel. On lap 52 Lewis made an easy overtaking move on the World Champion to take the lead as Webber closed on Rosberg's P4 position.

Unlike Hamilton, Button was barely closing on Vettel and when Mark Webber easily passed the Mercedes driver on Lap 54 to take P4 Jenson looked in great danger of losing his podium place. As it turned out, Webber caught and passed Button with ease on the penultimate lap to take an amazing P3 from P18 on the grid.

Hamilton crossed the line to take an epic victory ahead of the two Red Bulls in a historic race which saw 23 out of 24 cars finishing. Button had to be content with P4 and Mercedes translated their good grid slot for Rosberg into P5 with a strong performance from Felipe Massa in P6. In the closing stages of the race Michael Schumacher closed in on Alonso's P7 at an amazing rate of knots but failed to overhaul him by the line. Petrov was nearly half a minute back in P9 having gone for two stops.

There has not been so much overtaking action in the closing stages of a dry F1 race for quite some time. Pirelli had certainly delivered what was asked of them.


01. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:36:58.226
02. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +5.198
03. Mark Webber Red Bull +7.555
04. Jenson Button McLaren +10.000
05. Nico Rosberg Mercedes Grand Prix +13.448
06. Felipe Massa Ferrari +15.840
07. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +30.622
08. Michael Schumacher Mercedes Grand Prix +31.026
09. Vitaly Petrov Renault +57.404
10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber +1:03.273
11. Paul di Resta Force India +1:08.757
12. Nick Heidfeld Renault +1:12.739
13. Rubens Barrichello Williams +1:30.189
14. Sebastien Buemi Scuderia Toro Rosso +1:30.671
15. Adrian Sutil Force India +1 Lap
16. Heikki Kovalainen Team Lotus +1 Lap
17. Sergio Perez Sauber +1 Lap
18. Pastor Maldonado Williams +1 Lap
19. Jarno Trulli Team Lotus +1 Lap
20. Jerome d' Ambrosio Virgin Racing +2 Laps
21. Timo Glock Virgin Racing +2 Laps
22. Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT F1 Team +2 Laps
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT F1 Team +2 Laps
Did not finish
24. Jaime Alguersuari Scuderia Toro Rosso +47 Laps

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