Front to back: the Chinese Grand Prix

How every F1 team and driver fared in an action-packed race in Shanghai.


Lewis Hamilton:
qualified 22nd, finished 7th
Nico Rosberg: qualified 1st, finished 1st
Rosberg left all of the drama behind him as he assumed the lead when Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull slowed with a puncture on lap three, and on the more durable soft compound Pirelli for his opening stint, simply did as he pleased as he romped to a 37-second win, his sixth victory in succession. Only three other drivers in F1 history – Sebastian Vettel, Alberto Ascari and Michael Schumacher (twice) have reeled off six straight, and all three of them won at least one world title. Hamilton’s race was always going to be tougher after starting dead-last following an ERS failure in qualifying, and losing his front wing in the manic first few corners meant he could only nurse a damaged car to the tail-end of the points. Ominously for the world champ, he’s 36 points behind his teammate after just three Grands Prix.

Sebastian Vettel:
qualified 4th, finished 2nd
Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 3rd, finished 5th
Ferrari would have taken second and fifth for its two drivers after the madness of the opening corners, where Vettel took avoiding action from Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull and clattered into Raikkonen, damaging both cars. Vettel called Kvyat’s move “suicidal”, while the Russian said he was merely “racing”. Whoever was at fault, Vettel showed superb pace in a compromised car to be best of the rest, but a very distant second to Rosberg. After leading Friday practice and looking odds-on for pole on Saturday, fifth for Raikkonen was underwhelming, but a good recovery considering he was sideways at the second corner without a front wing.

Front to back: what happened in Bahrain?

Felipe Massa:
qualified 11th, finished 6th
Valtteri Bottas: qualified 5th, finished 10th
A salvage job for one side of the Williams garage, a disappointment for the other. Massa ran as high as second in the topsy-turvy opening laps but could do nothing to repel the charging Ricciardo and Raikkonen late, but some canny defence kept Hamilton’s Mercedes in his mirrors as he took sixth. Bottas was mugged by both Toro Rossos in the final laps and backed into the final point on offer, confirming that Williams has fallen from last year’s highs of being clearly the third-best team on the grid.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo:
qualified 2nd, finished 4th
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 6th, finished 3rd
Kvyat’s second career podium owed plenty to his suicidal/racing move on lap one, and the Russian kept a consistent pace from there on to make amends for a slow start to the season, and didn’t blink when Vettel questioned his tactics in the post-race green room before the podium ceremony. It was a podium that Ricciardo had every right to feel aggrieved he wasn’t on; after a brilliant start, he described his puncture and the resultant safety car as “like being punched in the stomach by a heavyweight”. Ricciardo was immaculate afterwards to storm back to his third straight fourth-place finish to start the season, and sits an impressive third in the drivers’ standings. A first rostrum visit for 2016 won’t be far away after a recovery drive the Aussie described as “one of the best of my life”.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg:
qualified 10th, finished 15th
Sergio Perez: qualified 7th, finished 11th
After a Saturday of so much promise, leaving Shanghai on Sunday with no points was a bitter pill to swallow for Force India, especially after both cars made strong starts. Perez was eight seconds outside the top 10 after starting from seventh on the grid, and finished 11th in China for the fourth time in five visits. Hulkenberg’s wild weekend featured a three-place grid penalty for an unsafe release from the pits when the left front wheel fell off his wagon in qualifying, a penalty in the race for driving too slowly coming into the pits, and finally the fastest lap of the race on lap 48. Too slow, too fast, too few wheels … and no points.

Jolyon Palmer: qualified 19th, finished 22nd
Kevin Magnussen: qualified 17th, finished 17th
Renault’s wait for its first points of 2016 will continue to Russia in a fortnight’s time, but the Enstone team looks further away than ever after a forgettable weekend in Shanghai. Palmer suffered the ignominy of finishing last in a frantic race where all 22 starters remarkably saw the chequered flag, while Magnussen ran inside the top 10 as a lot of the front-runners pitted in the early-race safety car period before reality ensued thereafter. Neither driver could crack Q2 on Saturday in by far the team’s worst weekend of the season.

Toro Rosso
Max Verstappen:
qualified 9th, finished 8th
Carlos Sainz: qualified 8th, finished 9th
The junior Bulls were in close proximity once again at the end of a race that looked textbook on paper, but was anything but. Verstappen had searing pace late in the race and seemed certain to pass Hamilton for seventh but just ran out of laps, while Sainz doubled his points tally on the final lap when he squeaked past Bottas’ Williams.

Felipe Nasr:
qualified 16th, finished 20th
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 15th, finished 16th
After a fortnight of conjecture on whether Sauber would be in Shanghai at all, the team did well to get both cars into Q2 on Saturday, with Nasr’s late lap in Q1 consigning Magnussen to the back three rows of the grid. The Brazilian inadvertently clashed with Hamilton in the first-lap mess and was fighting a losing battle after picking up a puncture, while Ericsson found himself unexpectedly battling with the likes of Raikkonen and Hamilton for position in the early stages before finishing 16th.

Jenson Button:
qualified 13th, finished 13th
Fernando Alonso: qualified 12th, finished 12th
No points for McLaren in China, but the team is, bit by bit, inching forwards. Both Alonso and Button were caught out by the timing of the red flag in qualifying for Hulkenberg’s three-wheeled Force India, and the Spaniard ran as high as third in the early laps of the race as he stayed out where those around him pitted. Alonso tried a two-stop race and Button made three stops as the team split its strategies, but both drivers ended up finishing in the same positions they qualified in.

Pascal Wehrlein:
qualified 21st, finished 18th
Rio Haryanto: qualified 20th, finished 21st
Wehrlein learned a harsh lesson on Saturday when he opened his DRS flap as he splashed over a puddle on the main straight in Q1; the resultant spin off a bump on the circuit spat him into the barriers and caused a red flag (and no doubt a red face) as he didn’t set a time. The German ran as high as fourth after the early pit stops, but fell back towards customary Manor territory thereafter. Haryanto kept his nose clean on a track he was familiar with and completed another race distance for the sport’s smallest squad.

Romain Grosjean:
qualified 14th, finished 19th
Esteban Gutierrez: qualified 18th, finished 14th
Grosjean’s 30th birthday was quite the comedown after his superb points-scoring finishes in Australia and Bahrain; the Frenchman was critical of what he felt were mandatory tyre pressures that were too high for the majority of the weekend, and any chance of a surge into the points from 14th on the grid was scuppered by losing part of his front wing on the opening lap. Gutierrez at least saw the chequered flag after non-finishes in Melbourne and Manama, and was the last car to be lapped by the all-conquering Mercedes of Rosberg.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s