Archive for the ‘China- Shanghai’ Category

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Button Heads McLaren 1-2 in Rainy China

April 18, 2010

Jenson Button became the first driver to take a double win in 2010, making a tyre call early on that would see him in control of the race, leading home his McLaren teammate in a wet Chinese Grand Prix.

There was plenty of action once again this year, and before the lights even went out, Fernando Alonso was jumping the start. His over-eagerness enabled him to get around Sebastian Vettel, while Mark Webber made a quick move past his teammate, but ultimately lost out to Alonso’s jump-start as well.

A safety car was soon to follow after Vitantonio Liuzzi, Kamui Kobayashi and Sebastien Buemi crashed at turn three, and the front-runners, bar Nico Rosberg, Button, Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov who made the call to stay out on slicks, came in for intermediate tyres. Alonso was among those stopping, but he was soon handed a drive-through penalty for jumping the start. In the meantime, Rosberg led the way on the slick tyres, while teammate Michael Schumacher, who had been among those who pitted for intermediates earlier on, began struggling, and was forced to pit once more for a fresh set of slicks. Schumacher was the first of several drivers who had to pit again, proving Rosberg and Button had made the right tyre choice.

By lap 6, Hamilton and Vettel found themselves losing time on the intermediate tyres, and both drivers raced into the pitlane, nose to tail, for a fresh set of slicks. But it was on their release from their pitboxes that became the most talked about incident after the race. Both were released within a second of each other, and it was Hamilton who ended up side-by-side with Vettel. The two fought their way down the pitlane, with Vettel nudging Hamilton, who was on the inside, between the slow lane and the fast lane, towards the mechanics. Hamilton eventually backed off, and Vettel exited the pitlane ahead of the McLaren driver. Both drivers were later reprimanded for the incident, narrowly escaping a post-race penalty.

While Rosberg maintained his lead, Vettel and Hamilton were left fighting their way through the pack. On lap eight, both drivers made their move on Rubens Barrichello, and by lap ten, Hamilton passed Webber on the back straight. On lap 11 Vettel passed Heikki Kovalainen in the Lotus. The Finn had spent the last couple of laps going backwards, having previously got up to sixth by lap nine. Hamilton made his move on his former teammate into turns one and two on lap 12, and Webber soon followed. On lap 13, Vettel was busy making a pass on Adrian Sutil, when Hamilton saw a way through, diving up the inside at the hairpin of turn 14, taking both Vettel and Sutil. Vettel eventually made the move on Sutil stick, while Hamilton continued to make a move, chasing down seven-time champion, Schumacher.

By lap 17, after two laps of trying to pass Schumacher at the hairpin, Hamilton made another attempt to get past the Mercedes driver, and although Schumacher tried to defend for the third time, Hamilton was able to get past after the German ran wide. Vettel and Webber were next on the attack, both successfully managing to pass Schumacher, sending the seven-time champion backwards through the pack.

On lap 19, after Rosberg ran off the track, Button was able to make a move to take the lead of the race. Rain began to fall, and by lap 20 cars began pitting for intermediates. Hamilton and Vettel came in on lap 21, with race-leader Button in a lap later.

Following contact with Bruno Senna on lap 21, Jaime Alguersuari suffered a broken front wing on his way into the pits for intermediates. The Spanish driver’s wing was already suffering when he clipped the kerb causing the wing to disappear under the car. The on-track incident between Alguersuari and Senna saw left-over debris on the track, and the second safety car of the race was deployed.

The restart came a few laps later, and it was Button left in charge as the safety car dived back into the pits at the end of lap 25. Button slowed right down at the hairpin of turn 14, causing the pack to bunch up, sending Hamilton slightly wide. By the last corner, after passing the first safety car line, Hamilton had Vettel all over the back of his McLaren, and Hamilton ended up pushing Webber wide. Both the Red Bulls lost ground, while Button led the way from Rosberg, Hamilton was left to make yet another move on Schumacher, who having pitted earlier than the McLaren and the two Red Bull drivers, had managed to make ground. Hamilton saw the opportunity into turn eight, and dived up the inside passing the German for fifth. A lap later and he passed Petrov in the same way, and next in his sights was Kubica in third. He didn’t have to wait long, passing the Renault driver at the hairpin on lap 30.

Button continued to build a gap between himself and Rosberg in second, and was some five seconds ahead of the young German. Hamilton tried to pass Rosberg on lap 36, but failed to make his turn eight manoeuvre work, and he pitted for a fresh set of intermediates on lap 37. Button and Rosberg pitted from the front a lap later, and while Button maintained his lead, Rosberg lost out, exiting the pits behind Hamilton who had made his way up to second.

As the last 20 laps played out, both Hamilton and Button’s tyres began to wear out. Hamilton was the first to complain, and after Button locked both front wheels into the hairpin on lap 52, it was obvious he was struggling too. Both battled on, and Button’s lock-up meant Hamilton was able to pull the ten second gap down to just 2. 6 seconds in the closing laps.

Button eventually crossed the line 1.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton, and the win, his second of the second elevates him to the top of the drivers’ standings with 60 points. Rosberg’s third-place finish sees him second in the standings on 50 points, with Hamilton just behind on 49. Alonso gained the most from the two safety cars, and despite his jump-start and drive-through penalty, he managed to finish fourth, pulling him level in the championship standings with Hamilton on 49 points. Kubica finished yet another successful race for Renault in fifth, with Vettel sixth, and Petrov seventh after a pass on Schumacher in the closing laps of the race. Webber finished eighth, ahead of Massa in ninth. Schumacher rounded out the top ten points-scorers in tenth. For the rest of the pack, Sutil finished 11th, with Barrichello in 12th, Alguersuari 13th, Kovalainen 14th, Nico Hulkenberg 15th, and Senna and Karun Chandhok 16th and 17th. Jarno Trulli, Lucas di Grassi, Pedro de la Rosa, Buemi, Kobayashi and Liuzzi all failed to finish.

For the fourth race in a row this season, the pole sitter has failed to turn his pole into victory, and Vettel now sits fifth in the standings on 45, with Massa sixth on 41, Kubica seventh on 40, and Webber eighth on 28. Schumacher and Sutil both have ten points, with the seven-time champion having failed to take substantial points for the fourth race in a row. In the constructors standings, McLaren’s one-two has put them ahead on 109 points, with Ferrari on 90, Red Bull on 73, Mercedes on 60 and Renault on 46.

The European season begins in three weeks time with the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona on the 9th May.

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Vettel on Pole Again in 2010, in China

April 17, 2010

Sebastian Vettel took yet another pole today in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, when it had been looking like McLaren were going to be hard to beat.

Lewis Hamilton had been fastest in Q1 and Q2, but it was the Red Bulls who stole the front row yet again in Q3, with Vettel and teammate Mark Webber showing the Red Bull’s pure qualifying pace.

The usual suspects were eliminated in Q1, with Vitantonio Liuzzi the first out of the old teams in the Force India in 18th, joining Timo Glock, Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovalainen, Lucas di Grassi, Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna down in 19th down to 24th respectively.

Pedro de la Rosa, Kamui Kobayashi and Liuzzi were trading the last of Q1’s dropout places, but it was Liuzzi who was left unable to improve. De la Rosa will start just ahead of the Force India after finishing Q2 the slowest. Nico Hulkenberg splits the Saubers of De la Rosa and Kobayashi, dropping out in 16th. Rubens Barrichello was the fastest of the Q2 dropouts in 11th, ahead of Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi, Vitaly Petrov and Kobayashi in 12th to 15th respectively.

Lewis Hamilton was fastest in Q1 and Q2, but by Q3, Vettel looked like he had found that something special. His time of 1:34.558, was two tenths faster than teammate Webber. Fernando Alonso will start third, with Nico Rosberg in fourth, once again out-qualifing teammate Michael Schumacher. Jenson Button will start ahead of Hamilton, the two McLarens fifth and sixth. Championship leader, Felipe Massa, will start down in seventh, ahead of Robert Kubica in eighth. Michael Schumacher starts down in ninth, having narrowly made Q3, with Adrian Sutil in tenth.

Tomorrow’s race promises to be exciting, with Hamilton once again looking likely to be on a charge. With a 50% chance of rain, we may end up with another Chinese Grand Prix like last year, and Vettel may become the first double winner at the circuit.

But as ever, anything can happen, and Vettel will be heading into the long corner of turn one hoping to retain his lead when the lights go out.

The race begins tomorrow morning at 8am on BBC1.

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Vettel Clinches Red Bull 1-2 in Soggy China

April 19, 2009

He gave us a taste of  his talent in the wet, with his first victory with Toro Rosso at Monza, last season, and now Sebastian Vettel has proved it wasn’t just a one off, after bringing his Red Bull home in first place at a rain-dampened Chinese Grand Prix. Teammate, Mark Webber scored his highest finish yet, following the young German home in second, to put Red Bull Racing on the top of the podium for the first time ever.

Despite the race starting behind the safety car at the soggy Shanghai circuit, Vettel drove faultlessly and with sheer determination to give the British team their first Grand Prix win. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the team though, who had to fight off stiff competition from Brawn-Mercedes throughout the race. Jenson Button, who qualified fifth behind teammate Rubens Barrichello in fourth, wasn’t giving up on the chance of a hat-trick of wins for the Brackley-based team, and led a fair proportion of the race, after passing Barrichello on lap 11.

When the Red Bulls of Webber and Vettel pitted on laps 14 and 15 respectively, the Brawn driver took over the lead. Whilst Button enjoyed clear air and clearer visability, BMW’s Robert Kubica rammed into the back of Toyota’s Jarno Trulli on lap 18, lifting himself off the track, and causing the Toyota to retire a lap later. Following the shunt, the safety car was once again deployed, during which the Ferrari of Felipe Massa gave up the will to live and came to a stand-still on lap 21. The race resumed on lap 23, and with Button and Barrichello having both pitted behind the safety car, Vettel took over the lead of the race from Jenson.

The following laps saw Button, who had exited the pits in second, and Webber in third, jostling for position, with Webber eventually passing and pulling away from the Brit. Following the second round of pitstops, Vettel was leading Webber, with Button and Barrichello behind. The standings stayed as they were with Button finishing third for Brawn, with Barrichello following in fourth.

Current champ, Lewis Hamilton, who started nineth on the grid, finished in sixth, behind teammate Heikki Kovalainen, who not only got through his first full lap of the 2009 season, but also secured his first points-scoring finish with a faultless drive.

Unlike Kovalainen’s impressive mistake-free comeback to the 2009 season, Hamilton had his fair share of spins in the newly-improved McLaren, spinning on two separate occasions in turn ten, and once in the final corner of the circuit in the closing stages of the race. McLaren brought their new diffusers to Shanghai following the FIA’s ruling on Wednesday that the diffusers of the Brawn, Toyota and Williams cars were legal.

Fernando Alonso, who also sported the new-design diffuser, had put in a hot lap in qualifiying and started second on the grid. Having pitted in the early laps in the Renault, he rejoined the back of the pack in time for when the safety car came in, but all the Spaniard could manage was nineth in the race.

As for Ferrari? Once again, the Italian team failed to score any points, with Felipe Massa retiring through mechanical problems early on in the race, and Kimi Raikkonen only managing to finish in tenth, despite his earlier battle with Hamilton for the points-paying positions. Raikkonen pitted on lap 28, and the team heavily fuelled the Finn to the end of the race, meaning the Ferrari driver was somewhat slower than his rivals. For a team who were unbeatable in the constructors standings in 2008, and who nearly won the driver’s championship, it is their worst start to a season since 1981.

For Red Bull, they leave the Shanghai circuit and head to round four in Bahrain with their heads held high. The Milton Keynes-based team have given Brawn a run for their money, and look set to continue their pace in the future races. Red Bull still need to adapt their car to incorporate the double-decker design diffuser since the FIA’s ruling this week, making their win all the more impressive. So far, with the McLarens and Renault’s Alonso being the only cars who have changed their diffusers, the other teams still have work to do ahead of Bahrain next weekend, with it looking likely that Ferrari won’t be introducing the part until the Spanish Grand Prix in three weeks time.

Despite having not finished in either of the first two races, and his ten place grid drop in Malaysia, Vettel’s victory puts him on ten world championship points and third in the overall standings. Button still leads the driver’s championship with 21 points, to Barrichello’s 15. Brawn continue to lead the contsructor’s championship after just three races as a team, with 36 points. Red Bull move to second in the contructor’s standings with 19.5 points.

 

The Bahrain Grand Prix takes place in a week’s time, with qualifying on Saturday at 12pm, and the race on BBC One on Sunday at one o’clock.