Fernando Alonso hailed a “perfect Sunday” following his victory at the Chinese Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver, who clinched his first win of the season after seeing off Lotus’ Kimi Räikkönen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, moved up to third in the title standings following his success. Alonso had not won in Shanghai since 2005, but the double World Champion believes this latest triumph could be the sign of things to come for Ferrari ahead of next weekend’s race in Bahrain.
Extreme tire degradation made for an exciting race full of sound and fury, with multiple pit stops, multiple changes of position, severa shunts and six different leaders. But the final result of were rather unsurprising, as the top three qualifiers also finished in the top three positions — albeit, in the reverse order of their starting positions.
Fernando Alonso, many people’s pick for this year’s Formula One world championship, won his first race of the season here in Shanghai. He beat Kimi Raikkonen with Lewis Hamilton holding off Sebastian Vettel to take his second third place in as many races as three different teams got on to the podium.
The result means that Vettel still leads the championship, three points ahead of Raikkonen and nine ahead of Alonso with Hamilton fourth, 12 points ahead of the leader.
It was Alonso’s 31st victory and he said afterwards: “It feels great after retiring in Malaysia. It means that in the two races I have finished I have been second and won.” He won by 10.1 seconds and was told to “stop pushing” just before the end. “I wasn’t pushing,” he said. “I still had some pace in the pocket. But it was not always easy to understand the race.”
Hamilton will be pleased with another podium. He started from pole but did not have enough pace to compete with Ferrari or Lotus. He said at the end: “I’m very happy with the points. We didn’t quite have the pace and we have to look at a couple of areas but the team did a great job.”
It was Raikkonen’s 20th consecutive finish. “It was a bad start,” he said. “And when I hit Sergio Pérez I thought there might be damage because I hit him hard.” But that last lap battle for third place was the best part of a race dominated by tyre strategies.
All the talk through two hours of a Chinese afternoon was of primes and options, mediums and softs. It was a most eventful afternoon – without very much happening. As Mark Webber said at the start of the season: “It’s tyres, tyres, tyres, tyres.”
At least Jenson Button and McLaren got their two-stop strategy right. It was the correct plan, because they knew, realistically, they could not challenge for victory. Button will be happy to bank the ten points and hope for better times ahead.
Hamilton got away to a great start from pole but so did the Ferraris of Alonso and Felipe Massa as Raikkonen appeared to be going backwards. Webber, starting from the back of the field as punishment for running too little fuel in qualifying, pitted at the end of the first lap to get rid of his soft tyres.
By the third lap Hamilton was having to defend furiously against Alonso and Massa. A couple of laps later Alonso, using DRS, streaked past the Mercedes and then Massa made it a double Ferrari overtake and suddenly Hamilton was back in third, where he finished. He had a happier afternoon than team-mate Nico Rosberg, who had his second DNF of the season.
Webber had more problems on the 16th lap, when he collided with Jean-Eric Vergne after trying to take him on the inside. Two laps later, his right rear wheel came off and almost hit Vettel’s car, and it got worse for Webber after the race when he was penalised for his role in the collision with Vergne and will suffer a three-place penalty at next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
By the 19th lap Button, improbably, led the race, but he hadn’t stopped at this stage. And pit stops for fresh rubber were to dominate proceedings.
Result: 1) Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1:36:26.945. 2) Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus – Renault +00:10.168. 3) Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 00:12.322. 4) Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull – Renault 00:12.525. 5) Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 00:35.285. 6) Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 00:40.827. 7) Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso – Ferrari 00:42.691. 8) Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India – Mercedes 00:51.084. 9) Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus – Renault 00:53.423. 10) Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Sauber – Ferrari 00:56.598. 11) Sergio Pérez (Mexico) McLaren 01:03.860. 12) Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso – Ferrari 01:12.604. 13) Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams – Renault 01:33.861. 14) Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams – Renault 01:35.453. 15) Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia – Cosworth 1 lap. 16) Charles Pic (France) Caterham – Renault 1 lap. 17) Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia – Cosworth 1 lap. 18) Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham – Renault 1 lap. ret) Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 35 laps. ret) Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull – Renault 41 laps. ret) Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India – Mercedes 51 laps. ret) Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber – Ferrari 52 laps.
Drivers’ standings: 1) Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 52. 2) Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 49. 3) Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 43. 4) Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 40. 5) Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 30. 6) Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 26. 7) Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 12. 8) Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 12. 9) Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 11. 10) Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 8. 11) Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 6. 12) Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India 6. 13) Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Sauber 5. 14) Sergio Pérez (Mexico) McLaren 2. 15) Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1.
Constructors’ standings: 1) Red Bull – Renault 78. 2) Ferrari 73. 3) Lotus – Renault 60. 4) Mercedes 52. 5) McLaren – Mercedes and Force India – Mercedes 14. 7) Toro Rosso – Ferrari 7. 8) Sauber – Ferrari 5.
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