Race Report: Chinese GP

It was an eventful Chinese Grand Prix but that’s bound to happen when you toss the leaders into the midfield or worse. Having started from Pole position, Nico Rosberg’s momentum continues with another win putting him squarely in the championship lead and represents his 3rd win this season and he did it with over a 30-second lead on Sunday.

His teammate, Lewis Hamilton chose to start the race on the back of the grid and ran in to early trouble with a broken front wing in turn one. He later made five stops after running as high as 3rd on the day. His strategy didn’t work and his tires gave out toward the end of the race leaving him adrift of a podium finish. It turns out the keel of the car may have been damaged and this prevented the car from creating the much-needed downforce on the front of the car.

The start of the race was already punctuated but the presence of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciard but it was the diving pass of teammate Daniil Kvyat into turn one that squeeszed Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel into his own teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, causing damage to both of the red cars. Ferrari executed a recovery drive to finish in the points. Vettel and Raikkonen put their cars in 2nd and 5th respectively.

Meanwhile, Ricciardo suffered an exploding tire and yet managed to recover and give the team a dual points finish in 3rd and 4th. The chassis looked very hooked up on the tight sections and even racy down the long straights.

WinWin

A big win for Rosberg who continues his march toward a possible championship and Mercedes who read the tea leaves correctly and handed Rosberg his 6th win in a row.

A win for Ferrari who had a first-corner debacle and managed to recover and score big points with Vettel putting in arguably the drive of the race.

A win for Daniil Kvyat who finished on the podium even though criticized by Vettel for his aggressive diving move at turn one which caused Ferrari’s woes on the day. Regardless, Kvyat was taken a page from the Vettel and Hamilton playbook and made aggressive driving pay off with a podium position having suffered a bad start to the season and establishing that he can run with teammate Ricciardo or any other driver on track. The interaction between the two wasn’t the most pleasant:

Sebastian Vettel: You ask what happened at the start? If I didn’t go the left you’d crash into us and we’d all three go out!
Daniil Kvyat: Well…
SV: No, no ‘well!’ You came like a torpedo!
DK: Well that’s racing.
SV: If I keep going the same line then I crash.
DK: Then don’t keep going…
SV: But there was a car on the left also, that’s why I hit the other car.
DK: I couldn’t see all the three cars man, come on. I have only two eyes.
SV: You’ll crash driving like that.
DK: But we didn’t, so…
SV: Yeah, you didn’t! I know it’s racing but…you need to expect that when you’re packed up it’s crazy. You were lucky this time.
DK: Well I’m on the podium, you’re on the podium. It’s fine.
I’ll be honest, I like that kids answer…then don’t keep going.

It was a win for the Toro Rosso duo as they brought home the final points-paying positions in 9th and 10th and while the intra-team battle didn’t materialize in the waning laps, the duo did a good job.

A win for Daniel Ricciardo for a great recovery drive for sure. Oh, a big win for Kai’s pants too.

FailFail

A fail for Force India who were running in the points and managed to garner a 5-second penalty for Hulkenberg’s slow driving in pit lane which forced Vettel to pass him on pit entry. Perez was running in the points but managed to fall backward and out of the top ten and the team feel they should be doing better than they are.

A fail for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton and not because of anything Lewis did, he drove a hard race, but just circumstances of the engine change, grid start and the inability to get the car on the podium having ran as high as third at one point.

Renault also had a tough day with Kevin Magnussen finishing 17th and Jolyon Palmer 22nd and not the kind of result they wanted or the kind of result the Renault power unit produced in the Red Bull skin.

WTHWTH

Is this a more realistic glimpse of where we thought Haas F1 would be in 2016 or just a one-off and bad day at the office? It’s hard to know but the team had a miserable day with Grosjean even asking to park the car as it was not drivable. Tracks can make all the difference but the first two races of the season have been both road course and purpose-built circuit but Shanghai is a tough circuit and difficult to master.

Pirelli’s tire pressures and some of the numerous tire issues over the weekend have been scuttled as a real “issue” on the tire company’s part but the marble build up was interminable and lends credence to the fine line the tires were possibly running on this circuit.

McLaren doesn’t get a WTH for a bad day and while they weren’t in the points, they were able to be competitive and had decent straight-line speed which has plagued them in the past. A competitive McLaren could cause a WTH comment from those who have been long-suffering fans.

Results:

Pos Driver Car Gap
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h38m53.891s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 37.776s
3 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull/TAG Heuer 45.936s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/TAG Heuer 52.688s
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m05.872s
6 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m15.511s
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m18.230s
8 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m19.268s
9 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m24.127s
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m26.192s
11 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m34.283s
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 1m37.253s
13 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 1m41.990s
14 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1 Lap
15 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1 Lap
16 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1 Lap
18 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 1 Lap
19 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1 Lap
20 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
21 Rio Haryanto Manor/Mercedes 1 Lap
22 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1 Lap

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP

Pos Driver Points
1 Nico Rosberg 75
2 Lewis Hamilton 39
3 Daniel Ricciardo 36
4 Sebastian Vettel 33
5 Kimi Raikkonen 28
6 Felipe Massa 22
7 Daniil Kvyat 21
8 Romain Grosjean 18
9 Max Verstappen 13
10 Valtteri Bottas 7
11 Nico Hulkenberg 6
12 Carlos Sainz 4
13 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
14 Kevin Magnussen 0
15 Sergio Perez 0
16 Jolyon Palmer 0
17 Marcus Ericsson 0
18 Fernando Alonso 0
19 Jenson Button 0
20 Pascal Wehrlein 0
21 Felipe Nasr 0
22 Esteban Gutierrez 0
23 Rio Haryanto 0

CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP

Pos Constructor Points
1 Mercedes 114
2 Ferrari 61
3 Red Bull/TAG Heuer 57
4 Williams/Mercedes 29
5 Haas/Ferrari 18
6 Toro Rosso/Ferrari 17
7 Force India/Mercedes 6
8 McLaren/Honda 1
9 Renault 0
10 Sauber/Ferrari 0
11 Manor/Mercedes 0