Posts Tagged ‘shanghai’

F1 driver Adrian Sutil has been convicted on charges of grievous bodily harm arising from an incident in a night club in Shanghai in April 2011.

Former Force India F1 driver Adrian Sutil has been found guilty on charges of grievous bodily harm against Eric Lux, the CEO of Lotus F1 team owners Genii Capital, arising from an incident in a Shanghai nightclub on April 17, 2011.

Sutil has received an 18-month suspended sentence at the end of a two-day trial in Munuch, and also been ordered to pay 200,000 euros (US$262,200) in fines that will be paid to charities of the court’s choosing.

Sutil and Lux were guests at a party to celebrate Lewis Hamilton’s victory at the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix when the incident occurred. Lux needed two dozen stitches after receiving neck injuries from a champagne glass in Sutil’s hand.

“I’m terribly sorry. I never wanted what happened there to happen,” Sutil told the German court on the first day of the trial, insisting that the injury had been totally “unintentional and accidental.” He added, “I regret the incident very much. It’s a lesson for me.”

CCTV footage from the club had initially appeared to support Sutil’s claims that he was reacting instinctively to push away the other man who had apparently lunged towards him during a heated exchange, and that he only intended to throw the drink at Lux and not to cause any physical harm. However, Sutil’s actions were still deemed sufficiently dangerous and irresponsible enough by the court to result in conviction.

“Pushing someone away with a glass is adventurous and not in line with our experience of life,” argued the prosecutor in the case.

“The defendant knew that he had this glass in his hand,” agreed the judge in her final ruling. “The glass was moving in an intended direction.”

Sutil has previously issued a formal written apology for the incident, but Lux insisted that he had never received the face-to-face apology that he had demanded, which is why he had continued to press on with the legal charges. “A phone call is not enough,” said Lux.

Sutil responded by saying that he had “tried everything” to settle the case out of court, including the offer of a charitable donation and “tens of millions”, but had been rebuffed by Lux.

It’s unclear whether the verdict and the sentence will have an effect on Sutil’s F1 superlicense that enables him to drive an F1 car.

Sutil lost his race seat at Force India to Nico Hulkenberg at the end of the 2011 season and is yet to find a new role in the sport. A Ferrari test driver job has been speculated, but the uncertainty of the trial and now the verdict will not have helped him in his endeavours to get back to active duty.

Sutil’s friend and fellow F1 driver Lewis Hamilton, although he had been present in the club at the time the incident took place, did not give testimony after being excused due to McLaren team commitments.

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In one of the most eventful, competitive and flat-out exciting Grands Prix of recent times, Lewis Hamilton managed to thwart Sebastian Vettel’s run of victories – and yet still wasn’t the driver of the day.

Pictures by arrangement and prior agreement with CrashNet/CrashPA

The first GP of the year, Australia, showed promise for all the new tyres and gizmos that the FIA had introduced to improve the racing spectacle, but it was largely unfulfilled. Then we went to Malaysia and we thought that it was all fitting together and that it was actually pretty darn good. But nothing quite prepared us for the flat-out exhilaration of China, where suddenly all the disparate bits gelled and F1, to paraphrase a well-known energy drink advertising slogan, suddenly got given wings and took flight like rarely before in modern times in a dry race.

It hadn’t exactly been hugely promising immediately before the start. Sebastian Vettel was once again in charge at the front; Mark Webber, one of the few people able to challenge him, was back in 18th after a dreadful qualifying and was once again deprived of KERS, so it was hard to see him making much progress or even competing for points. And then came word that Lewis Hamilton was in trouble, too, with McLaren going into high panic mode with a suspected fuel leak just when they were meant to be hustling Lewis off to the starting grid. In order to avoid starting at the back from the pit lane, they had to send him out without an engine cover and deal with putting the car back together on the grid, but the question was whether he would even get away for the warm-up, let alone how many laps he would be able to limp around.

But all was not well in the world of Vettel, either. Considering he’s been untouchable so far this season, the reigning world champion would have been forgiven for strutting around the paddock looking like the king of the world. But in fact it was anything but, and Seb was looking preoccupied and worried in the moments leading up to the start, fiddling with his helmet and generally looking less than confident about the whole affair.

Maybe he had had a premonition: in which case it was an accurate one, because when the lights went out and the race began, it was a disaster for Vettel who got a horrible start. Holding Jenson Button back going into the first corner was an almost immediate lost cause, and instead he had to focus on beating Lewis Hamilton for second: he failed, despite pushing Hamilton onto the grass verge in a hard but firm move. And as if that wasn’t enough, Vettel was having to battle with Nico Rosburg who was alongside him into the tight turn 1/2/3 spiral. Vettel won that one, leaving Rosburg to play nicely (or not) with the Ferrari pair of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso to keep fourth place.

Vettel failing to take the lead and race off into the distance exploded all expectations for the race. Jenson had a lead of over a second, which kept him safe from attack from behind by anyone making use of the drag reduction system (DRS); Lewis was not so lucky and never pulled out a significant lead over Vettel despite putting up the fastest sectors and laps early on.

There was action all through the field, but the one person we had expected to set off fireworks – surely Mark Webber would be scything his way through the backmarkers? – failed to spark off. He gained a few positions by passing Sergio Perez and Rubens Barrichello but then seemed to get stuck behind Nick Heidfeld in a train of cars headed by Jamie Alguersuari. Having started on hard tyres, and with his adopting a four-stop strategy for the race, it looked like it was going to be a thankless task for him – especially when a hyped-up Perez managed to re-pass him for 15th.

Just when things seemed to be settling down, pit stops started with Alguersuari and Michael Schumacher at the end of lap 11; it was a disaster for Alguersuari whose rear right wheel simply dropped off a few corners after rejoining the track and he became the only retiree of the entire race when he finally pulled over at turn 8. Schumacher’s pit stop showed the Mercedes’ hand at strategy – Rosburg was also in early on lap 13. The other cars in front were trying to stretch it, but already handling was dropping off badly and they quickly realised how much time they were losing each lap to Rosburg’s fresher rubber, and needed to react fast.

Button and Vettel both came into the pits at the end of lap 15. And we watched agape as Jenson pulled into the pit box … at the Red Bull garage. The mechanics waved him through frantically before it held up their man, but in the end Jenson’s mental software glitch worked to Seb’s advantage as it lost the McLaren critical seconds, and Vettel emerged back on tack ahead of Button. Jenson had no excuses, spoke vaguely after the race about “looking down at something in the cockpit”, but must have known that this was a game-changing moment that had surely released Vettel to a third consecutive victory at the start of 2011. It would have been bad enough for a rookie to make that sort of error, but it was absolutely extraordinary for a former world champion.

And just to complete McLaren’s misery at this point, Lewis’ tyres seemed to have fallen off the proverbial cliff and the next lap saw him lose a position to Felipe Massa before they both came in for his own pit stop at the end of lap 16; unsurprisingly when Lewis came out from pit road, it was well behind Vettel and Button and even behind the yet-to-pit Sergio Perez, although he was quickly dispatched by Hamilton through turn 6.

It all seemed to be coming good for Vettel despite bogging down at the start, but there was still one fly in the ointment: he still wasn’t in the lead, because Nico Rosburg’s early stop and subsequent fast laps had put him in front of everyone by a huge 5.5s margin, although he would have an extra pit stop to fit in during the race that would cost him later. Vettel was also behind Vitaly Petrov as both Renaults went for extremely long tyre stints, but the Red Bull was able to get past Petrov on lap 19, using the adjustable rear wing /drag reduction system (DRS) into turn 13.

The race seemed to settle in terms of position, but there was still plenty of action and high drama to watch on the track: Hamilton was trying to make a move on Massa but finding the DRS zone just not working for him; Schumacher was holding off Fernando Alonso in a battle of the former world champions; Adrian Sutil, Kamui Kobayashi and Mark Webber were scrapping over 9th, 10th and 11th; Perez was battling away in a Renault sandwich with Petrov in 12th and Heidfeld behind in 14th.

One person who wasn’t in the game at this stage was Jenson Button, who was losing ground on Vettel and who needed to pit again for fresh soft tyres at the end of lap 26, dropping him back down to eighth. Rosburg was in from the lead the following lap after trying to stretch his tyres and fuel during his second stint to maximise the success of his first pit stop strategy. He came in at the same time as Lewis Hamilton, which released Vettel into the lead for the first time in the race; further back, Mark Webber was also in, freeing him up from a frustrating battle trying to pass Kamui Kobayashi but dropping him down to 15th in the process, in a “two steps forward, one step back” sort of afternoon. Just to make the Aussie’s day, the team gloomily confirmed that his KERS was once again unavailable for the remainder of the race.

If that had been it – if the rest of the race was now a procession to the chequered flag – then Shanghai would still have counted as a “well above average” race based on what we had seen. But the true miracle of this year’s Chinese Grand Prix was that it’s only as we pass the midway point that we get to deploy the truly miraculous sentence: “And then things started to get really interesting.”

Vettel was leading ahead of Massa and Alonso, but all were on a two-stop strategy and had yet to make that final stop; Nico Rosburg was in fourth ahead of Jenson Button, while Lewis Hamilton was starting to fly on his latest set of tyres and made short work of Paul di Resta (having a solid afternoon up to this point for Force India) for sixth on lap 29. Another driver suddenly finding it all clicking together was Mark Webber, who carved through a 2.8s gap between him and Rubens Barrichello in a single lap to pass the Williams for 14th place on lap 30.

In the single lap that followed we also saw Rosburg make a bold move on Alonso through the final corner that paid off; then Button ease past the Ferrari and finally Lewis Hamilton breeze past his old rival in turn 7 as Alonso simply couldn’t make the two-stop tyre strategy work for him nearly as well (surprisingly) as Felipe Massa seemed to. And up in front, things were also starting to sour for Sebastian Vettel: his pace was falling off as he too reached the end-of-life point on his tyres, and to complicate the forthcoming pit stop he had also developed radio problems and could no longer be heard by his team, who were having to resort to alternative state of the art technology instead – ye olde pit board.

Vettel pitted at the end of lap 31, having to stick to hard tyres to make them last to the end from here; Alonso came in next time around, the most compromised of the two-stoppers, with Massa on at the end of lap 33 to take his final set of prime tyres as well. That swung the track position advantage back to the three stoppers – Rosburg leading Button and Hamilton, all of them needing to make the most of this transition period before they had to come in for their later pit stops. At this point Rosburg’s gap over Vettel was 16s – not enough to pit again and come back out in the lead.

Further back, Petrov was now defending from Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber – and lost out to them both on successive laps as Webber in particular was coming alive and really flying on this latest set of fast but short-life soft tyres, putting the Red Bull “second driver” up to seventh place – but still looking at one more pit stop before the end on his four-stop strategy.

As the race reached lap 35, Hamilton was clearly the faster of the two McLarens and was visibly frustrated at being held up by his team mate, while the pit crew sent a “look after your tyres” message to him which could be loosely translated as “We’re not giving you team orders, but whatever you do be careful and don’t take your team mate out.” Lewis Hamilton’s racing brain duly read this message as a green light to “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” – and he did, putting in a mammoth run on Button down the start/finish straight (which meant he didn’t even have access to the DRS feature.) Button was either playing nice or was just plain dopey, and stayed on the outside line instead of defending the inside run through into turn 1: Hamilton took it as a welcome mat and blasted his way through, but was incredibly lucky that Button reacted at last and stopped himself turning in on Lewis, or else it would have been a disastrous end for both McLarens there and then.

The move was done: Hamilton was in second, and pulling away from Button fast, almost 3s over the course of the next two laps. He had his sights set on claiming Rosburg’s scalp, and moreover needed to thrash the living daylights out of his car if he was to come out of his final pit stop with any sort of a chance of carrying the fight to Vettel.

Button was first to pit after locking up and flat-spotting his tyres, meaning he was in at the end of lap 37; Hamilton was in next time round and Rosburg the lap after that. Hamilton got the best stop of the three, Button a long way back and Rosburg emerging from pit road tantalisingly close ahead of Hamilton, who immediately tried an overtaking move on the German through turn 6 but couldn’t quite make it stick. Lewis still wasn’t getting a good enough run through turn 13 to take advantage of DRS, and then he flat-spotted his tyres pushing too hard. It seemed that this was the pivotal moment of the race and that it was all slipping away from Hamilton.

But then on lap 42 Rosburg got a panic flash message from his pits that fuel was critical: unless he eased off and leaned out the mix, he wasn’t going to make it. That made all the difference and this time Hamilton’s attack through turn 6 couldn’t be resisted, and Lewis was through to third place. Rosburg was also easy prey for Jenson Button a few corners later, but it had been a tremendous afternoon’s performance for Nico all the same.

The pit stops and the harder tyres for Vettel and Massa compared with the searingly fast set of soft tyres Hamilton was on has collapsed the distances between the top three: Vettel’s lead over Massa was just 3.9s and Hamilton was just 1.7s behind the Ferrari. But catching is one thing, passing quite another in this sport: would all the new F1 rule tweaks really prove their worth when the chips were well and truly down?

Hamilton demonstrated that the answer was yes, although once again he did the business down the start/finish straight without any of that new-fangled DRS malarky. He passed Massa with ease at the start of lap 45, and still had over ten laps to work on that 3.7s gap to Vettel and do battle for the lead. It wasn’t easy – Vettel put in a splendid rear-guard action to try and maintain enough of a gap over Hamilton to keep him outside the 1s activation zone for the DRS – but by lap 50 the McLaren was all over the back of the Red Bull and just desperate to pounce.

Hamilton tried activating DRS down the outside line but Vettel cleverly positioned his car on the apex of the switchback to force Hamilton to check up and lose critical momentum, foiling the move; he tried again at the hairpin next time around and was still repulsed. Then finally, out of nowhere, Hamilton caught Vettel out at turn 7 and surged past for the lead, leaving Vettel looking startled and without an answer to this sudden reversal of fortunes. For the first time, perhaps, it dawned on the young German that this wasn’t a race that was going to come good at the end after all. Once past, Hamilton pulled away as if his life depended on it – he couldn’t afford to dangle even the smallest chance in front of Vettel at this stage.

Further back from this battle, Mark Webber had come in for his final stop on lap 41, and if we thought his pace had been good before then it was nothing to what we saw on this final set of sorts tyres as he racked up the fastest laps and positively eviscerated everyone who stood in his way. Alonso – seemingly no happier on this latest set of tyres than the previous ones, although he was still able to hold off Michael Schumacher for seventh in the dying laps – was easily dispatched for sixth on lap 45, and Webber simply screamed past Massa for fifth on lap 51, looking for all the world like he was in a different race from the tired plodders trying to eke out fuel and rubber all around him.

Webber was all over the back of Rosburg by the end of lap 53, and the two were locked together as they crossed the start/finish line. Rosburg couldn’t break away and the two cars went into the turn 1/2/3 spiral locked together; still Nico held on, but as the track opened out into turn 4 and 5 he had nothing left to see off the superior pace of the Red Bull. Webber was through and up to a magnificent fourth place, with under three laps to spare.

Except – Mark wasn’t done yet. Jenson Button wasn’t far up the road, and Webber wasted no time closing right up on him. On the penultimate lap he took the inside line through turn 14 and ejected Button from third place; Jenson tried to fight back but the Aussie was having none of it.

The top three had been turned inside out in the last five laps: anyone saying that F1 was boring and that the lead never changes simply has to watch the replay of this race, because you could have placed bets on the podium positions as late as lap 50 and still been caught out completely by the final result. Small wonder then that Hamilton was ecstatic and more than a little emotional after claiming the chequered flag ahead of the two Red Bulls. Button, finishing fourth, must have been ruing that amazing pit box blunder early in the race, but in truth it probably wouldn’t have made any difference to the end result – the top three best and fastest cars and drivers won out, which is surely what should happen in a proper motor race?

Racing throughout was astonishingly clean and collision-free, although Sauber’s Sergio Perez displayed his youthful inexperience and exuberance with two incidents. The first saw him get some front wing damage by trying to hold on to the inside line through turn 2 long after Nick Heidfeld had reasonably shut the door on an attempted pass by Perez on lap 45. That incident had already been declared one that the stewards would look at after the race, when two laps later Perez spied what he thought was an opportunity to pass Adrian Sutil on the inside line of the turn 1/2/3 spiral, only to find his old tyres had no where near the grip required to pull it off and the Sauber drifted wide and into heavy sideways contact with the Force India. Both cars ran off and suffered damage, with Sutil having to pit for a new front wing and the stewards not having to take any time at all thinking about handing Perez a drive-thru penalty which dropped him all the way back down to 15th.

“I’m very sorry for the accident with Adrian – I am sorry for him and sorry for my team,” said Perez, who explained that he had felt under pressure to act to hold off Vitaly Petrov behind him. “Unfortunately I lost the rear when I was already on the inside of Adrian and crashed into him.”

Ultimately, it was the sort of race that left drivers unable to remember or talk about just what had happened in the mayhem when asked about it straight afterwards; and left commentators hoarse with the effort of trying to keep up with it all for the last 100 minutes; and left video machines tasked with collecting potential highlights of the race with an inadvertent copy of the entire event, and then some. And poor humble race reports like this one, no matter to what length they were by now bloated, found themselves sweeping huge swathes of incidents to one side which in olden times might practically have been the headline banner moment of the whole weekend.

The most wonderful thing is that it put a stop to Vettel’s run of victories. Nothing against Seb in the slightest, but the stat looming over everyone’s heads coming into this race weekend was how a driver who has won all first three races of the season has never failed to win that year’s world title, and how depressing would it be to have the championship title essentially decided before the end of April? Even Vettel’s own team mate let slip his relief during the televised post-race interviews: “Shame McLaren won in a way, but also we can’t let Seb get too far away.

“Congratulations to Lewis,” he said, then adding : “It was good that someone finally…” before finally catching himself and hastily retreating from being just a little bit too admirably frank. “Of course Seb is in the same team, but he’s been on a phenomenal run and we’re all here together fighting for victories.” Ahem: yes, Mark, good boy!

If a tie-breaker for “driver of the day” were needed, then this slip would surely have swung it to Webber. But in truth none were needed: despite Hamilton’s huge effort to clinch the win – arguably his best win if not his best overall race in his entire F1 career – and some beautiful moves on Button, Massa and Vettel on track and all outside the DRS “cheat” area, there’s no doubt that Webber’s charge from 18th on the grid and from 15th at the midpoint of the race to claim a podium place despite having no KERS is a truly superlative achievement of race craft by Webber.

It’s just as well there is a three week break before the next F1 outing: this was a race that genuinely reminded us all to make time to check our supplies of valium, and to go and have our pacemakers checked out, tuned-up and recharged before daring to put them through this sort of ordeal again on May 8 at the Grand Prix of Istanbul. Turkey has a lot to live up to if it’s to compare with Shanghai, which was the most wonderful surprise present any F1 fan could have asked for in 2011.

Race results

Pos Driver       Team                 Time
 1. Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes     1:36:58.226
 2. Vettel       Red Bull-Renault     +     5.198
 3. Webber       Red Bull-Renault     +     7.555
 4. Button       McLaren-Mercedes     +    10.000
 5. Rosberg      Mercedes             +    13.448
 6. Massa        Ferrari              +    15.840
 7. Alonso       Ferrari              +    30.622
 8. Schumacher   Mercedes             +    31.206
 9. Petrov       Renault              +    57.404
10. Kobayashi    Sauber-Ferrari       +  1:03.273
11. Di Resta     Force India-Mercedes +  1:08.757
12. Heidfeld     Renault              +  1:12.739
13. Barrichello  Williams-Cosworth    +  1:30.189
14. Buemi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari   +  1:30.671
15. Sutil        Force India-Mercedes +     1 lap
16. Kovalainen   Lotus-Renault        +     1 lap
17. Perez        Sauber-Ferrari       +     1 lap
18. Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth    +     1 lap
19. Trulli       Lotus-Renault        +     1 lap
20. D'Ambrosio   Virgin-Cosworth      +    2 laps
21. Glock        Virgin-Cosworth      +    2 laps
22. Karthikeyan  HRT-Cosworth         +    2 laps
23. Liuzzi       HRT-Cosworth         +    2 laps

Fastest lap: Webber, 1:38.993

Not classified/retirements:

Driver        Team                Lap
Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari  12

World Championship standings after round 3

Drivers:              Constructors:             
 1. Vettel     68    1. Red Bull-Renault     105
 2. Hamilton   47    2. McLaren-Mercedes      85
 3. Button     38    3. Ferrari               50
 4. Webber     37    4. Renault               32
 5. Alonso     26    5. Mercedes              16
 6. Massa      24    6. Sauber-Ferrari         7
 7. Petrov     17    7. Toro Rosso-Ferrari     4
 8. Heidfeld   15    8. Force India-Mercedes   4
 9. Rosberg    10    
10. Kobayashi   7    
11. Schumacher  6    
12. Buemi       4    
13. Di Resta    2    
14. Sutil       2  

An eventful, exciting and unusual qualifying session saw Sebastian Vettel put in an astonishing laptime of 1:33.706s that wiped the floor with McLaren and everyone else who might have been feeling that they were inching they way back into contention with the reigning champion.

Red Bull also provided the other big shock of qualifying, but in a far less happy way for Mark Webber. Webber’s car was still being repaired from its electrical problems in early practice, and the team were unable to rescue the KERS system on the car leaving Webber with a deficit of some 0.35s per lap. Despite this the team were confident that they could get through to Q2 even sticking to the prime tyres in order to save the softer options for the subsequent rounds and for the race; but in the final moments of Q3 the teams further back down the running order started to switch to the options and the boost in sped was over 1s a lap, causing the relative driver positions to go into slot machine chaos. Webber was unable to find the pace and was finally ejected from Q2 by Pastor Maldonardo’s final flying run on softs.

Q2 also proved eventful, with Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button all safely sitting in the pits on unbeatable one-lap runs on options, but everyone else feeling nervous about suffering the same sort of last minute shock as Webber and heading back out on the track on softs. Nick Heidfeld was just taking to the track on his only qualifying lap of the session when his team mate Vitaly Petrov put in an excellent time to go fourth – only for his car to then die on him immediately afterwards, with problems in either the gearbox or hydraulics that left him stalled in the middle of the track in turn 5, resulting in a red flag with only 2:02 left to run in the session; Heidfeld didn’t get to complete his lap and had to come back into the pits, that set of options wasted.

Two minutes was borderline for cars to get out and start a flying lap before the chequered flag came out: not only did the contenders queue for over a minute in the pit lane, but once the track went green again there were astonishing scens on the out lap as the cars jockeyed and raced each other hard for position. In the end, the confused and busy conditions meant that the final runs mostly failed to change the standings as they had been prior to the red flag: the most significant development was that Nico Rosberg managed to push himself up into the top ten and into Q3 while his team mate Michael Schumacher failed and would have to start from 14th on the grid. Nick Heidfeld did manage to get his run in, but could only manage 16th after the disruption – there would be no repeat of the Renault’s stunning start at Malaysia here in Shanghai.

Heidfeld’s team mate Petrov was through to Q3 but – as the rules don’t allow a recovered car to take any further part in qualifying – he did not run in Q3 and will duly start in 10th position on the grid tomorrow.

Vettel supplied the only surprise of Q3 by coming out very early for his first fast lap, with Jenson Button, and proceeded to put in a sensational record time that had jaws audibly dropping up and down pit lane. Button’s time was over seven tenths off but still proved to be the best of the rest, as Lewis Hamilton’s late single flier failed to beat his team mate by 0.04s. Hamilton admitted afterwards that he had needed to compromise Q3 to an extent in order to get the tyre strategy right for the race itself: “We are in quite a strong position: the options I just qualified on, a new set of options and a new set of primes and a decent set of options as well,” Hamilton explained. “I just wanted to increase chances for the race because that is what counts.”

Nico Rosberg popped his Mercedes onto the second row of the grid alongside Hamilton pushing the two Ferraris onto the second row, while birthday boy Paul di Resta (25 today) split the two Toro Rossos of Jamie Alguersauri and Sebastien Buemi, who had emerged from the disrupted Q2 with an excellent result of putting both cars through into the final session.

Qualifying times and grid positions

Pos  Driver                Team         Time           Gap   
 1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull     1:33.706s
 2.  Jenson Button         McLaren      1:34.421s  + 0.715
 3.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren      1:34.463s  + 0.757
 4.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes     1:34.670s  + 0.964
 5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari      1:35.119s  + 1.413
 6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari      1:35.145s  + 1.439
 7.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso   1:36.158s  + 2.452
 8.  Paul di Resta         Force India  1:36.190s  + 2.484
 9.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso   1:36.203s  + 2.497
10.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault      No time

Q2 cut-off time: 1:35.858s

11.  Adrian Sutil          Force India  1:35.874s  + 1.388
12.  Sergio Perez          Sauber       1:36.053s  + 1.567
13.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber       1:36.236s  + 1.750
14.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes     1:36.457s  + 1.971
15.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams     1:36.465s  + 1.979
16.  Nick Heidfeld         Renault      1:36.611s  + 2.125
17.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams     1:36.956s  + 2.470

Q3 cut-off time: 1:36.147s

18. Mark Webber            Red Bull     1:36.468s  + 1.196
19. Heikki Kovalainen      Lotus        1:37.894s  + 2.622
20. Jarno Trulli           Lotus        1:38.318s  + 3.046
21. Jerome D'Ambrosio      Virgin       1:39.119s  + 3.847
22. Timo Glock             Virgin       1:39.708s  + 4.436
23. Tonio Liuzzi           HRT          1:40.212s  + 4.940
24. Narain Karthikeyan     HRT          1:40.445s  + 5.173

107% time: 1:41.941s

Some races you can summarise in three lines because they are, frankly, rather dull. Other races you want to summarise in three lines because to try and extract even the slightest detail is to get sucked into a maelstrom from which there is no escape and only insanity awaits. This was the case with the 2010 Chinese Grand Prix, where whole books could be spun out of the events of just single laps.

So, okay, the three line summary: it rained, it dried, it rained again. The safety car came, went, returned at a suspiciously opportune moment. There was overtaking, strategy, controversy and incidents aplenty before the coolest head prevailed – just.

Right. Deep breath, and we’ll start pulling the threads apart and hope to avoid the tapestry unravelling into madness …

The formation lap saw light rain falling, but not quite enough to justify intermediate tyres from the get-go. Timo Glock’s Virgin had the inters on, but it wasn’t going anywhere – the team had left him up on the jacks as the rest of the field got underway. He was cleared away before the field came back for the start, but the team was unable to start him from the pit lane. He was joined in retirement by his team mate Lucas di Grassi early in the race, a bad day for Virgin.

Fernando Alonso got a simply unbelievable start, zipping past both Red Bulls on the front row. And by unbelievable, I mean exactly that – either he altered the universal laws of the universe or else he had jumped the start. Physicists everywhere were relieved when replays showed it was clearly the latter and he was handed a drive-thru penalty.

Meanwhile, Tonio Liuzzi triggered the big crash of the day when he lost control under braking into a hairpin, the car snapping away into a spin that unfortunately saw him running straight through the apex of the corner and collecting two of the cars that were running ahead of him, Sebastien Buemi and Kamui Kobayashi. All three were out of the race, and Nico Hulkenberg had to tiptoe his way through the wreckage, lucky not to get caught up in it.

With three cars sitting by the side of the road, a safety car was inevitable. And with the rain starting to build and conditions dipping, this meant the teams needed to make a fast call on whether to pit for intermediates. It was soon clear that the smart money was to do just that – Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher all came in, as did Lewis Hamilton – just. He had actually gone past the pit lane entrance when the call was finally made and he had to swerve in to still make it.

That left Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button, Robert Kubica, Vitaly Petrov, Pedro de la Rosa and Heikki Kovalainen as the top six runners, but on slicks. This looked disastrous, and hence especially surprising that Button should get caught out given that it was his stunningly savvy call to switch early to inters in Australia that had won him the race. Instead, he seemed hoist on his own petard this time, doomed to a mediocre afternoon.

Except … Maybe not. The rain eased. Those on slicks were able to maintain decent pace, although Kovalainen was predictably easy prey to the superior horsepower behind him once the safety car came in and racing resumed. And with the track drying, the intermediates were cooking to death within minutes. Michael Schumacher, ever the wily old fox, was first to realise the situation and he was back in the pits next time around, and a lap later everyone else had to concede defeat and come in as well. Suddenly that call to stay out by Rosberg and Button didn’t look foolish in the least: indeed, now it looked like a race-winning one.

Rosberg comfortably led the race, pulling out a 4.5s lead by lap 20 but then the rain started to fall again resulting in Rosberg making an error, running off the road at turn 11 which allowed Jenson to be right back with the Mercedes. Button knew that this was the moment to pounce, and he did so, outpowering Rosberg down the straight into the hairpin to take the lead – one that he would never surrender, right through to the chequered flag, despite some late tyre and handling issues that caused him to lose much of his lead and cause a few tense moments at the end.

While Button’s rise to the top was as cool and smooth as we’ve come to expect from the world champion, the Adventures of Lewis Hamilton (Aged 25 And A Quarter) couldn’t have been more of a contrast. His first visit to the pits had been that wild, late dive that had everyone’s eyebrows climbing, but his second (for the change back to slicks after cooking in the inters) was even more dramatic, as he and Vettel did a side-by-side drag into the pit lane entrance. And then it got worse on the exit, as Vettel and Hamilton were released almost simultaneously. Vettel was alongside Hamilton, just ahead and on the proper outside line, but Hamilton would not yield. The two went side-by-side down the pit lane itself, Hamilton just inches from the pit box area where the mechanics were working and air hoses were hanging. Hamilton nearly slid sideways into the Williams pit crew at one point, and further down Vettel finally got tetchy with Hamilton and nudged him in a move that could have set off a disastrous chain reaction. Fortunately the danger passed, Hamilton had to concede and Vettel exited in the lead, but it was all disturbing stuff. Unsurprisingly both drivers were summoned to the stewards’ room after the race and given reprimands for their actions, but it’s a sign of a new maturity from the officials that no race-changing penalties were handed down and that the action on-track was allowed to stand.

With so many front runners now scattered down the field, there was a lot of action as they tried to climb back up. Vettel and Hamilton quickly passed Barrichello and then made short work of the struggling Webber (whose handling had been compromised by damage on the front right wheel during the pit stop) before coming up to the back of the Force India of Adrian Sutil. Vettel went for a move down the outside into the hairpin on lap 13, while Hamilton toyed with going down the inside and making it a three-way, but Lewis saw sense and pulled back. It was a wise call, Vettel and Sutil luring each other into outbraking, leaving Hamilton just the gap he needed to scoot past them both. Sutil managed to close the door on Vettel that time around, so it was another lap before Sebastian was able to make it past – by which time Lewis was half a straight ahead.

Now Hamilton had Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes to contend with – a face-off we’ve been looking forward to since the start of the season. Schuey obviously knows how to make it difficult for someone to pass and deployed all his consummate skills to that effect, frustrating the younger driver until lap 17 when Hamilton made a great dive up the inside Schumacher out of turn 13: they crossed at the apex of the next corner, but Lewis had the edge into the next and the move was completed, allowing him to start off after Vitaly Petrov in fourth place, 16s up the road.

But this was the moment the race changed again, with forecasts of rain – initially saying “the same as earlier, for ten minutes” but ultimately proving somewhat harder and far more persistent, lasting much of the remainder of the race. The teams started to call in their cars on lap 20 with Webber and Schumacher first in, and almost everyone else was called in the following time around and uniformly opted for intermediates despite the close call (Hulkenberg tried to be clever and went for slicks, only to immediately fall off the road and have to slink back to the pits as conditions worsened.) That single extra lap on inters worked wonders for Webber and Schumacher, however, who found themselves ahead of Hamilton and Vettel again.

And then immediately after the pit stops, there was another safety car deployment. This appeared to be caused by Jamie Alguersuari, who damaged his front wing on lap 21 on the back of a Hispania that he was lapping. That left debris on track even though the wing itself clung on by its fingertips; the wing finally fell off as Alguersuari entered the pit lane, scattering more debris there as well.

Even so, the lengthy safety car period seemed somewhat of an overreaction for such a minor incident: it seemed for all the world as if the race officials just wanted to spice things up by wiping out all those big gaps between cars that had developed after multiple pit stops by some and not others. This was great news for the likes of Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso, but bad news for Button, Rosberg and Kubica who had genuinely earned their impressive lead by holding their nerves and calling the right strategy. For those of us watching, however, this tightening up of the field made for a mouthwatering setup for the second half of the race.

The restart was messy. Jenson Button was in charge, and he slowed up to such a degree that the rest of the field almost piled into each other. It meant Jenson got a great jump on everyone but it wasn’t exactly the nicest move, and it had consequences involving Lewis Hamilton who now found himself in a Red Bull sandwich through the tight final corner, Webber on the outside and Vettel on the inside. Inevitably, Vettel struggled to hold the tighter line, moved out slightly which required Hamilton to give him space which in turn caused him to move out and push Webber off the edge of the track. Webber was not amused, but this one was a racing incident and no penalty or investigation by the marshalls was required.

Hamilton was now up to fifth, and no one could accuse him of having an uneventful day: if there was action, overtaking or controversy to be had in Shanghai, you’d also find Lewis Hamilton in close vicinity. And he wasn’t done yet, making it past Michael Schumacher for a second time into turn 8 on lap 26, and then getting past Vitaly Petrov at the same spot next time around to take fourth place. Now he had his sights on a podium finish and set about Robert Kubica, taking no prisoners with a move around the outside of the Renault into the hairpin on lap 29.

And still he wasn’t satisfied. He set about catching up to Nico Rosberg in second, who was clearly starting to struggle with rapidly wearing tyres but who put up a spirited defence to hold Hamilton back. Stymied, Hamilton opted to come in for his final set of new tyres on lap 37, the team hoping to learn from the experience with Schumacher/Webber earlier in the race and gain track position with the advantage of fresh inters for anextra lap. And it worked a treat, Rosberg coming in a lap later only to emerge behind the McLaren.

The sealed the top three, since even as tyres faded badly and everyone started slithering around in the concluding laps, none of the top three came seriously under threat. Fernando Alonso did manage to wrest fourth place from Robert Kubica on lap 39 to complete a very creditable recovery after the jump start, his tyre wear seeming the best among the front runners. Alonso had earlier needed to pull off a particularly vicious move on his team mate Felipe Massa as they came into the pits together on lap 21, running wheel-to-wheel alongside him on the pit entry and then cutting the corner to take a risky lead into the pit lane itself. That meant Alonso got to the pit box first while Massa sat behind, queuing and fuming, but given that Massa’s pace was never fast it’s just as well Alonso didn’t get stuck behind him for a lengthy stint.

The later laps were cruel to Michael Schumacher and Jamie Alguersuari, their tyres completely shot leaving them sitting ducks for the likes of Vitaly Petrov – who despite spinning out of fifth on lap 33, seemed to have the best tyres in the final part of the race and he put them to good use.

All in all, then, it was a frustrating day for Red Bull, who despite dominating qualifying and looking the class of the field, faded away into mediocrity on the race day itself. Partly that was due to some strategic naivety, but the car was also having worrying problems getting enough heat in its tyres in the wet and after the safety car. The Red Bull might be the class of the field in hot and sunny conditions, but it definitely has an Achilles heel in wet and changeable ones.

But the surprise was that McLaren should have been able to dominate the race instead, despite a disappointing qualifying. It wasn’t just a case of a single strategic decision giving them the advantage, either, because the two drivers had completely different approaches to the race – and yet ended up in a close one-two at the end of it. Button applied as much brainpower as horsepower, and his smooth no-drama style was vital; whereas Hamilton raced his socks off, providing drama and entertainment throughout the day.

McLaren are rewarded with a classy 1-2, and lead in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships. And for the first time in their F1 careers, Button and Hamilton appeared on the podium together. Any thoughts that Button had made a mistake switching to McLaren are erased, and there’s talk of titles in the air in Woking in springtime.

Race results

Pos  Driver        Team                       Time
 1.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           1h44:42.163
 2.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +     1.530
 3.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +     9.484
 4.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +    11.869
 5.  Kubica        Renault                    +    22.213
 6.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +    33.310
 7.  Petrov        Renault                    +    47.600
 8.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +    52.172
 9.  Massa         Ferrari                    +    57.796
10.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +  1:01.749
11.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +  1:02.874
12.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +  1:03.665
13.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:11.416
14.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth             +     1 lap
15.  Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth          +     1 lap
16.  Senna         HRT-Cosworth               +    2 laps
17.  Chandhok      HRT-Cosworth               +    4 laps

Fastest lap: Hamilton, 1:42.061

Not classified/retirements:

Driver        Team                         On lap
Trulli        Lotus-Cosworth               27
Di Grassi     Virgin-Cosworth              9
De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari               8
Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari           1
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               1
Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes         1
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              1

World Championship standings after round 4

Drivers:                    Constructors:             
 1.  Button        60        1.  McLaren-Mercedes          109
 2.  Rosberg       50        2.  Ferrari                    90
 3.  Alonso        49        3.  Red Bull-Renault           73
 4.  Hamilton      49        4.  Mercedes                   60
 5.  Vettel        45        5.  Renault                    46
 6.  Massa         41        6.  Force India-Mercedes       18
 7.  Kubica        40        7.  Williams-Cosworth           6
 8.  Webber        28        8.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          2
 9.  Sutil         10       
10.  Schumacher    10       
11.  Liuzzi         8       
12.  Petrov         6       
13.  Barrichello    5       
14.  Alguersuari    2       
15.  Hulkenberg     1 




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