Chinese GP: Alonso Wins In Shanghai

Fernando Alonso secured his first victory of the season, pulling away from the chasing pack in the closing stages to win the Chinese GP.

Alonso, who started third behind Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, drove a steady race to work his way to the front while Ferrari managed his pit-stops to perfection.

Kimi Raikkonen managed to drive for two-thirds of the race with a damaged front wing and nose after an ill-judged move saw him ram the back of Sergio Perez' McLaren. He was still able to hold off Lewis Hamilton to the line who in turn fought off Sebastian Vettel who had opted for an entirely different race tyre strategy.

Race Report

The sun was shining at the The Shang circuit with the ambient temperature at 26C and the track at 35C

Grid: 1.Hamilton, 2.Raikkonen, 3.Alonso, 4.Rosberg, 5.Massa, 6.Grosjean, 7.Ricciardo, 8.Button, 9.Vettel, 10.Hulkenberg, 11DiResta, 12.Perez, 13.Sutil, 14.Maldonado, 15.Vergne, 16.Bottas, 17.Gutierrez, 18.Bianchi, 19.Chilton, 20.Pic, 21.Van der Garde, 22.Webber

Having run out of fuel on track in Q2, Mark Webber didn't have enough left in his tank to give the FIA a one-litre sample and so was demoted to the back of the grid, as happened to Vettel in Abu Dhabi.

In the run up to the start time there was a small drama with Paul Di Resta's Force India showing signs of a fuel leak, but ultimately the car was out on the grid in good time. The first seven drivers were on Soft tyres and would have to come in around Laps 5 and 6 - Button, Vettel and Hulkenberg were all on the medium tyres and would go on much longer.

As the red lights went out Lewis Hamilton got a great start from P1 and led away from the two Ferraris. Kimi Raikkonen starting from P2 had been given wrong data for his clutch bite point and was slowly away, thus he saw both Ferraris slip fast into Turn 1 but recovered to keep P4.

There was very little shuffling of the pack on the opening lap, but there was a coming together between the two Force India drivers after Turn 14 with Adrian Sutil pushing his team-mate off the track and making him drop four places.

Positions at the end of Lap One1.Hamilton, 2.Alonso, 3.Massa, 4.Raikkonen, 5.Rosberg, 6.Grosjean, 7.Ricciardo, 8.Button, 9.Vettel, 10.Hulkenberg, 11.Sutil 12.Gutierrez, 13.Perez, 14.DiResta

Mark Webber pitted at the end of Lap 1 to get his Soft tyres out of the way. Up at the front Lewis Hamilton had failed to establish a big enough gap in front of the Ferraris and so as soon as the DRS was enabled, both Alonso and Massa were past on Lap 4. Nico Rosberg's tyres were going off and Hamilton's weren't holding up well either.

Lewis then dropped behind Raikkonen before both Mercedes came in line astern on Lap 5. Alonso and Raikkonen were in a lap later and as the Lotus driver emerged we had the proof that Mark Webber's early strategy had been good, as P2 on the grid (Kimi) emerged next to P22 on the grid (Mark).

Meanwhile Adrian Sutil's race came to an early end when Esteban Gutierrez missed his braking point for the Turn 14 hairpin, sending his Sauber crashing into the back of the Force India driver. Sutil limped back tot he pits with a deranged rear wing while the Sauber was out on the spot.

Massa and Grosjean pitted at the end of Lap 7 which gave the positions on Lap 8 as: 1.Hulkenberg, 2.Vettel, 3.Button, 4.Perez, 5.DiResta, 6.Vergne, 7.Alonso (one stop), 8.Hamilton (one stop), 9.Bottas, 10.Raikkonen (one stop), 11.Webber (one stop), 12.Massa (one stop), 13.Rosberg (one stop).

The drivers who had pitted early all began to progress through the drivers who hadn't and Fernando Alonso picked off Vergne, DiResta, Perez in succession to reach P4 on Lap 14 - at which point Hulkenberg and Vettel pitted leaving him in P2 behind Button. Hulkenberg had got past Vettel but a slow pit-stop for the Sauber driver handed Vettel his place.

On Lap 15 Mark Webber's great Chinese leap forward ended when he tried an ambitious move to get past Jean-Eric Vergne. He thought Vergne was leaving the door open for him and found at the apex that he wasn't. Webber had to pit but when he returned to the track there was a problem with a rear tyre not attached properly. Webber crawled back to the pits to get it fixed, but it parted company just after the Turn 14 hairpin and meandered across the track as the three-wheel RB9 got parked. To add insult to injury Webber got a three-grid-place penalty for Bahrain for the move on Vergne.

A lap later and it was Raikkonen's time for a bit of drama as the Finn tried a very ambitious move on the outside of Sergio Perez through Turn 5. The Mexican let his car drift out on the racing line and Kimi Raikkonen had placed his Lotus there. Kimi braked but still hit the back of Perez and damaged his front wing and punched a hole in the nose.

It looked like Raikkonen would have to come in for a change, but he managed to maintain his lap time and stayed out. In fact on Lap 19 he closed the gap on Lewis Hamilton in P3 in front of him.

With Webber's car parked near the Turn 14 hairpin the back straight DRS was disabled and so Alonso took extra long to get past Button, but by Lap 21 he was in front.

Massa and Rosberg pitted for the second time on Lap 20, Hamilton and Raikkonen a lap later - but surprisingly Raikkonen didn't change his front wing and came out still in hot pursuit of Hamilton. Rosberg had been in for tyres on Lap 20 and was back in a lap later with hydraulic problems that ended his race.

At the end of Lap 23, Button and Alonso pitted - Alonso for the second time and Button for the first.
Positions on Lap 25: 1.Vettel (one stop), 2.Hulkenberg (one stop), 3.Alonso, 4.Button (one stop), 5.Hamilton, 6.Raikkonen, 7.Di Resta (one stop), 8.Massa, 9.Grosjean, 10.Perez (one stop), 11.Ricciardo, 12.Vergne

With different strategies at work and the grid mixed up with cars out of sequence there were quite a few tyre-wear mis-matches and with tyre preservation all important (and an easy DRS), drivers were not fighting to keep their rivals behind.

Alonso was easily past Vettel on Lap 29 and Hamilton past Button. Vettel then pitted on Lap 31 dropping behind Massa and Di Resta before charging past them both on the same lap.

Positions on Lap 33: 1.Alonso, 2.Hamilton, 3.Raikkonen, 4.Button (one stop), 5.Vettel, 6.Hulkenberg, 7.Massa, 8.Ricciardo, 9.Grosjean, 10.Vergne (one stop), 11.DiResta

Raikkonen became the first of the front runners to stop for the third time on Lap34. Massa and Hulkenberg came into the pitlane together and exited side by side, but when they got to the end of the pitlane Hulkenberg couldn't get out of first gear quickly and Massa was away.

When Hamilton pitted on Lap 37 he found that Raikkonen's early stop had undercut him.

Positions on Lap 39: 1.Alonso (two stops), 2.Vettel (two stops), 3.Button (one stop), 4.Raikkonen (three stops), 5.Hamilton (three stops) 6.DiResta (two stops), 7.Massa (three stops), 8.Hulkenberg (three stops).

Button was well out of sequence with the drivers around him but was making his second set of mediums last. With six laps of life in the Soft tyres it was clear that he would be going through to around Lap 50 before coming in. Vettel also needed to stop again and would drop back behind the Lotus and Mercedes when he did. Raikkonen and Hamilton cruised by Button.

Alonso pitted from the lead on Lap 40 and then reeled off a string of four personal best laps including two fastest laps on Laps 45 and 46 which brought the comment from his engineer that there was "no need to push" to which Alonso responded, "I am not pushing." He was able to maintain a 10+ second gap to Raikkonen who was suffering understeer from his damaged front wing.

Raikkonen seemed to be able to keep Lewis Hamilton at bay even though the cars were close on track. They had Vettel ahead of them in P2 but knew that both he and Button, now behind them in P5, had to stop for their compulsory set of Soft tyres. Jenson came in on Lap 49, exiting in P7. He was able to overtake Massa under DRS for P6 and would gain DiResta's place when the Scot had to pit for his own set of Soft tyres late on.

Vettel pitted at the end of Lap 51 and emerged 11.2 seconds behind Hamilton, but then set about destroying the Fastest Lap time. On Lap 52 he set fastest sector times on his Outlap and then on Lap 53 reduced the fastest lap by three seconds to a 1:36.808. He was almost four seconds a lap faster than Hamilton that lap.

Hamilton had closed up to 0.6 behind Raikkonen on Lap 51 (of 56) but could not get any closer as Vettel homed in on the final podium place. Coming across the line for the final lap Vettel was just two seconds back. Hamilton was shouting for blue flags to get the backmarkers out of the way, but his redemption came at Turn 11/12 when Vettel misjudged his braking and overshot the corner.

That gave Hamilton just the gap he needed to stay in front on the long back straight. Had Vettel been more patient it would have been an easy pass. With all this last lap drama unfolding we switched back to see Fernando Alonso take a ten second win over Kimi Raikkonen while Hamilton held on for third place in front of Vettel in P4.

Button was five seconds clear of Massa, in P5 and P6 respectively, followed home by Ricciardo, Di Resta, Grosjean and Hulkenberg.

It had been a dominant win for Ferrari who never looked in any trouble, although Raikkonen's unnecessary contact with Perez obscured just how fast the Lotus could have been. There were still question marks over a number of cars who had potentially used the DRS under yellow flags when Mark Webber's car was being removed and that would go on long after the race.

Mercedes had scored their second podium in a row, but Hamilton knew he didn't have the race pace to challenge the two cars in front of him and had to rely on a rare Vettel mistake to keep that third place in the end.