Rosberg dominates in China to win his first Grand Prix in 111 attempts
15 April, 2012
Apr.15 (PVM) Nico Rosberg won his first ever F1 race, after 111 grand prix starts, when he powered to a dominant and faultless victory in the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, giving Mercedes their first win, as a team, in more than half century.
Rosberg, in the Mercedes AMG W03, was in a class of his own in qualifying a day earlier when he took his first ever pole position with a scintillating lap, and on race day from the moment the red start lights went out the German simply drove away from his rivals, made no mistakes and in the end cruised to a well calculated and much deserved victory.
Nevertheless, it was a bittersweet day for the Silver Arrows. As they celebrated victory they would surely be excused for a pitstop error which forced Michael Schumacher to retire while running strongly in second, in the process scuppering a very likely one-two finish on the day.
On the up side it appears that the team have resolved the tyre wear issue on the W03 which is now a contender, having beaten McLaren, and the rest for that matter, head to head in normal conditions – fair and square as they say. Game on! True lovers of grand prix racing won’t be complaining about the implications for the quality of racing yet to come in the Chinese year of the dragon.
Rosberg, beaming from ear to ear, said after the race, “It’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m very happy, very excited. It has been a long time coming for me and team after two years and a bit. We are finally there. It’s nice to see how quickly we are progressing. We didn’t expect to be that fast today but I’m very happy with the pace.”
The victory also returns Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn to the winner’s circle which was so familiar to him during his legendary Ferrari era, and more recently in the Brawn GP days, “I am elated, any race win is special but after a tough time to win a race like that is very special. It was a super super job from Nico. The engineers and drivers knew exactly what they had to do and they did it perfectly. It was stunning, we still had the fear with the tyres but he used them perfectly. It’s just a tragedy that we had the problem with Michael [Schumacher] because he would have been in great shape too. We have started a new adventure, I have been lucky to have a lot of special days and this is certainly a special one.”
Behind Rosberg it was a case of barely controlled mayhem as a dozen drivers rubbed wheels and threw everything at one another in a fierce, race long battle, for second place – seldom have we witnessed such close racing, incident packed but ultimately devoid of controversy and a not easily described day at the magnificent Shanghai International Circuit. This was one of those races we will all want to remember for years to come.
In the end it was Jenson Button who, despite a 10 second delay during a pitstop, carved his way through to take the runner-up spot ahead of his team mate Lewis Hamilton who overcame a five place grid penalty to take third. Along the way the pair had to dispense of the Red Bull pair, the Lotus duo, both Williams, the Saubers and Fernando Alonso – and in no instance was it a simple move. The McLaren boys had to work very hard for the podium.
In retrospect McLaren will be happy having two drivers on the podium, albeit not on the top step, after all they started from fifth and seventh respectively. As for victory, they were the among the first to acknowledgethat Rosberg and Mercedes were simply the best on the day and no way were they beatable in China – victory ordained for the German squad and duly delivered.
Button summed up his afternoon, “I had some really good battles out there. It was a pity because when I exited the pits I had four cars in front of me who I wouldn’t have been up against. If that didn’t happen, I would have had a clear run on Nico. All in all though, it was a fun day, I really enjoyed it out there.”
Hamilton, who has now scored a hat-trick of third places in the three races so far this season and leaves China leading the world championship points standings, said, “We knew Nico would be really quick, and we knew if he got away it would be hard to catch him as it proved. First pole and first win is always special so congratulations. I’m happy to be on the podium after starting seventh, the strategy was good – it was one of the best races of the season. There was a trail of cars behind me at the end, but overall it was a fantastic day.”
Mark Webber took his tally of fourth place finishes, this year, to three out of three after snatching the place from Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel on the final lap. Webber was the first driver to stop for tyres and spent most afternoon battling his way up the field.
“You needed a bit of experience today, it was a very, very close grand prix but congratulations to Nico. It was different strategies playing against each other – utter chaos. The difference between fourth and fifth is not massive between team-mates, it was just a few more points that was all. We’ve finished close to McLaren in all three races but there’s a long way to go,” commented Webber afterwards.
Vettel was one of the biggest winners on the day, recovering from 11th on the grid to finish fifth, although he appeared to be heading for a podium spot until the very end, but his two stop strategy in the end was a few laps to far for the Pirelli tyres and what looked like second became fifth in a matter of a couple of laps at the very end.
Possible the most relieved man in the Shanghai paddock after the race was Romain Grosjean who at last finished a grand prix for his Lotus team, having crashed out early in both previous races. Sixth place was a just reward for the Frenchman who had a subdued early stanza of the race, but around mid-distance started making all the right moves and became embroiled in the dozen car battle for podium spots. He was not shy to go wheel to wheel and eventually muscled his way to his ever F1 points finish.
On the other end of the spectrum was Grosjean’s team mate Kimi Raikkonen who was looking his old feisty self throughout the race and looking set for a podium until lap 48 when his two stop strategy took its toll – the Pirelli mediums he had bolted on simply ‘went off the cliff’ – with virtually no traction the 2007 world champion dropped from second to 12th in the space of a couple of laps and eventually taking the flag in 14th.
Raikkonen explained, “We tried to run two stops but we ran out of the tyres in the end. We tried but it didn’t pay off today. There are two choices and we took another one, we thought it was going to work out but it didn’t.”
The Williams revival continued in China with Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado finishing seventh and eighth respectively. Senna staying out of trouble to bag a useful haul of points for his team, while Maldonado who simply could not stay out of trouble, surviving some hair raising moments to ensure a double points score on the day for the former world champion squad.
In fact one of the highlights of the day must be the Maldonado versus Fernando Alonso battle – make that slug fest – as the pair slugged it out in good old fashioned style. Both going off track as they tried to out-manoeuvre one another in a most entertaining duel during the last half of the race. The Ferrari simply did not have enough and Alonso crossed the line in in ninth – the Spaniard enduring a day which saw him in the wars with just about everyone and again out classing his team mate Felipe Massa who finished 13th.
The final point went to Kamui Kobayashi, who along with his team mate Sergio Perez, were another pair who were constantly in the thick of the action. Perez running as high as second at one stage. Thus 10 and 11th will be something of a disappointment for the Swiss squad whose Japanese driver started from third on the grid. They would have expected been expecting more on the day.
There is not much time to pause and reflect for the Formula 1 world as they depart China for Bahrain, where engines will be fired up for first free practice in a mere five days time. But for Formula 1 fans, the next race cannot come soon enough, as now Mercedes appear to be real contenders which only makes the championship prospects all the more intriguing.
Subbed by AJN.
Chinese Grand Prix Result – 15 April 2012
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||56||6||12|
|5||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||56||11||10|
|12||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||56||15|
|15||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||56||16|
|21||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||55||22|