After Team Red Bull showed everyone that they were the team to beat in qualifying, McLaren Mercedes drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton proved that race day makes all the difference as the duo finished 1-2 respectively in the Grand Prix of ...
After Team Red Bull showed everyone that they were the team to beat in qualifying, McLaren Mercedes drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton proved that race day makes all the difference as the duo finished 1-2 respectively in the Grand Prix of China Sunday at the Shanghai International Speedway. Nico Rosberg took third for Mercedes.
For Button, it is his second win of 2010 after the defending Formula One World Champion triumphed earlier in the season in Australia.
"For me, it is my best victory," he said. "Every one you win becomes your best victory but this was pretty tough conditions. It wasn't just the call of weather, it was good pace. At the end we were two seconds a lap quicker than other people. We still don't know where we are in the dry, but we will forget about it at the moment."
Showers were expected at race time, but when the flag fell, the showers themselves were late in coming, and it worried the two Red Bull cars as the race began with Fernando Alonso shooting out in front at the first corner, ahead of both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
But the Spaniard's effort was short lived as in the back of the pack, Vitantonio Liuzzi collided with Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi and Sebastian Buemi, bringing out the safety car for the next three laps. Liuzzi afterwards claimed that he was just an innocent bystander.
"I was just a passenger; I didn't see much." Said the Italian. "When I went into corner five, the brake locked and I slid off."
As the pace slowed while the track crews picked up debris, both Alonso and Webber dived into the pits for intermediates. Vettel and the rest of the front-runners pitted as well, and by the time the safety car pulled off the track on lap four, Rosberg took over the lead as he and Button remained on the track with slick tires.
But the decision of many of the drivers to change to intermediates was a good one, as all the racers who pitted early, now moved quickly through the field. On lap five, Alonso was given a go-stop penalty after the two-time world champion jump starts the grid on lap one.
Rosberg had increased his lead by lap six, and the other drivers began to realize that the track was beginning to dry. And many came in to change for slicks. Sauber continued to experience a slump in their Grand Prix performances, and after Kobayashi already exited the race on the first lap, his teammate Pedro De La Rosa retired from the race on lap nine with an expiring Ferrari engine.
By lap 19, Rosberg still led Button by four seconds, and Robert Kubica trailed in third by 11. The other top rivals kept moving up on the grid, despite the new threats of rain that might come down at any time. But only a lap later, Rosberg showed signs of extreme tire wear, and spun his Mercedes into turn 11, losing his huge lead, and returning back to the pits for intermediates.
With the rain threatening to return, most of the drivers came back to the pits for intermediates on lap 20 and only two laps later, the safety car returned back to the track when Jaime Algusuari brought his Toro Rosso car into the pits with a broken nosecone, leaving loose parts all over the track.
Button now led the race, with Rosberg -- despite his spin -- still only four seconds behind the Englishman, and Kubica remaining in third, closing up six seconds behind.
But the safety car stayed out longer then expected and this was the turning point of the race, as many of the drivers who trailed behind, now caught up with the top three. When the race went green again by lap 25, Hamilton quickly took advantage of this opportunity, passing Kubica for third.
By lap 40, Button continued to lead the race, with a gap of 2.6 seconds to Hamilton now in second, and improving his lap times. But by lap 48, Hamilton realized that his tires were beginning to get bald, giving the Englishman no choice but to hold his position for second. Alonso, following all the problems he encountered during the race, finally ran into some good luck, and moved up to fourth and with only ten laps to go, began to challenge Rosberg, who was so far having an impressive race.
"I took the advice from the team and my engineer and eventually decided to give it a go and stay out and it turned out to be really good." Stated Rosberg. "Out there you want it to stop raining, it was so on edge. "That went really well and it was nice to be leading the race for a long time from there. I got a little more tyre degradation than Jenson. I made a mistake so he came by, but in general I am really, really happy it is a good step in the right direction."
But as the final lap came around, Button still held a slight lead of 2.6 seconds over Hamilton, giving the McLaren Mercedes team their first 1-2 of the season, while Rosberg managed to hold off Alonso for third. Kubica continued his improvement for Renault, as the Pole took fifth ahead of Vettel. His teammate, Russian Vitaly Petrov, who was under pressure to perform by his team, finally came through by taking sixth, ahead of Mark Webber. Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher took the last two point positions.
In comparison to his earlier victory in Melbourne, which came down to an early tire change in poor conditions, Button really could not say too much on how he won in this race.
"It's not luck we came out on top today," he said. "We chose correctly in the conditions. The start was the right call, definitely, but it was slippery and we knew how quickly the soft tyres would be working.""If we didn't have the safety car later in the race we'd have been a long way up. The safety car definitely helped the situation for those who stopped for inters [but] ataying on dries was the right thing. You wouldn't think it was, but they were good, you just had to be a bit careful."
With the Pacific races now over until the end of September, the F1 circus now returns to Europe where the next race will be in Barcelona, Spain on May 8th. However, with the recent travel problems on the continent due to volcanic ash, their travel plans are certain to be complicated.