F1

Chinese GP: McLaren Mercedes race report

HEIKKI KOVALAINEN Started: 12th Finished: 5th Fastest lap: 1m54.516s on lap 41 (10th) Pitstops: one (W-W) Championship points: 4 Championship pos: 9th A faultless race from Heikki, who started the race from 12th on the grid and climbed ...

HEIKKI KOVALAINEN
Started: 12th
Finished: 5th
Fastest lap: 1m54.516s on lap 41 (10th)
Pitstops: one (W-W)
Championship points: 4
Championship pos: 9th

A faultless race from Heikki, who started the race from 12th on the grid and climbed relentlessly through the field to finish fifth. Elevated to 10th before the Safety Car was withdrawn on lap nine, he tussled in the lower reaches of the top 10, rising to eighth before the second Safety Car stint -- to recover debris from the Heidfeld/Trulli crash.

Massa's retirement elevated him to seventh and he slipped past Barrichello at the second restart to run sixth, then fifth after Kimi's pitstop on lap 28. Making his sole pitstop on lap 34, he dropped to ninth, but the team's strategy allowed him to pass two pitting cars and overtake Adrian Sutil to run sixth. He passed Lewis after he ran wide at the exit of Turn 10 to come home fifth.

"The visibility was unbelievably poor -- especially during the first few laps after the Safety Car came in," Heikki said. "But our pace was good and, during the last laps of the race, I could get close to Rubens -- just not enough to start an attack. Our strategy was spot on: finishing higher than fifth was not possible today and I'm very pleased to have scored four solid points without making a single mistake -- despite some massive moments!"

LEWIS HAMILTON
Started: 9th
Finished: 6th
Fastest lap: 1m54.665s on lap 39 (12th)
Pitstops: one (W-W)
Championship points: 4
Championship pos: 10th

Lewis rued a missed opportunity to get onto the podium today after spinning twice and losing ground in the middle of the race as he struggled to keep his wet-tyres working properly.

From ninth on the grid, he made an immediate strong charge -- enjoying fantastic tussles with Kimi and Trulli to get up to fifth. "It was almost too difficult to drive at the beginning of the race," Lewis said. "But I found a good pace and had some fun in the opening laps, but unfortunately I destroyed my tyres quite early on."

Lewis spun at the exit of Turn 10 and dropped to 10th, once again resuming his charge to re-pass Heikki and Trulli to run eighth. Cars stopping during the second Safety Car period moved him to fifth and a ballsy pass of Kimi around the outside of Turn 7 put him fourth. Stopping on lap 33, he dropped to seventh and clambered back to fifth, when he ran wide at Turn 10 and was passed by Heikki. Another spin, at Turn 16, left him seventh. Sutil's retirement in the closing laps elevated him to sixth at the chequer.

"I made a few too many mistakes today," Lewis added. "It was very slippery and my front-left tyre was finished long before the end but I still gave it my best. This afternoon was a real struggle but I'm glad I got some points for the team."

Today's double-score gives Vodafone McLaren Mercedes eight points, putting us fourth in the constructors' championship.

MARTIN WHITMARSH -- team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

"First of all, I want to offer our hearty congratulations to all at Red Bull Racing on the occasion of their first grand prix win. Sebastian drove a great race -- and well done, too, to our old friend Adrian Newey. As for our team, Heikki scored a very well deserved four points for an impressive fifth place. It isn't at all easy to drive a faultless race in conditions like those we faced today, but Heikki did just that. Lewis pressed hard all afternoon -- and, when you do that, occasionally you run wide or spin. Lewis duly did so -- but, in truth, his was a great drive, too.

"We were never going to be able to live with the Red Bulls or the Brawns today, which is why we chose a one-stop strategy. The track was wet throughout the race, and the longer stints that our strategy dictated inevitably caused more wet-tyre wear than that experienced by the two-stoppers; but, despite the challenges posed by that extra wet-tyre wear, our drivers both coped very well. So, overall, an encouraging result: getting two cars into the points shows that we're making good progress, but there's more to come and we're working flat-out to develop the improvements that will deliver it."

NORBERT HAUG -- vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"More than fifth and sixth places are not possible for us at the moment and this has to change. Congratulations to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing for a faultless race -- hats off. Again everybody experienced difficult conditions like in Malaysia. At least, seven points are better than nothing, but our speed has to improve significantly. We had four cars with Mercedes-Benz engines in the top six, so thanks to all our engine guys in Brixworth and Stuttgart for the good job."

-credit: mclaren

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