At the Chinese Grand Prix , there was plenty of action and drama on the circuit, which ended in Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg coming home with his third victory of the season, winning comfortably, after having dominated all races so far.
It was clear to all who were watching- the first lap was crazy, with so much drama that you did not know where to look. It was Red Bull who lead the pack first, with Daniel Ricciardo getting a good start of the grid, pulling ahead from Rosberg, who was in pole. The pair of Ferrari’s, however, made fairly poor starts, which contributed to the events later on. Ricciardo’s teammate, Daniil Kvyat, decided to go for a bold move, snaking on the inside of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari on the second turn. Surprised at this move, Vettel pulled left to move out of the way, unfortunately causing him to collide with his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, sending the Finn into a spin, forcing him to pit due to damage. Vettel then sank into eighth.
Rosberg’s teammate Lewis Hamilton, however, was also unfortunate. After having to start at the rear of the grid after a disastrous qualifying session yesterday, came home after five pit stops to finish seventh, after he collided with Felipe Nasr’s Sauber, causing him to lose his front wing, which contributed to one of the pit stops Hamilton had to make during the race. Now, the Brit has a 36-point gap between him and his teammate, which he is determined to make up in the remaining 18 races of the season.
More drama unfolded when Ricciardo got a puncture on lap three, forcing him to pit, leaving him- as well as Hamilton and Raikkonen- having to fight back for the rest of the race.
After this, on lap four, the safety car was deployed, so the debris could be cleared off the track, leading a large amount to cars to pit for fresh tyres. The race was then resumed on lap eight, with Rosberg leading Williams’ Felipe Massa, followed by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein, none of whom had chosen to pit.
After the drama had calmed a little, and the safety car went back in on lap eight, Rosberg had pretty much smooth sailing for the rest of the race, comfortably coming home to another victory, his sixth consecutive win.
“I’m happy with today, of course, it was a great weekend for me here in China.” Rosberg reported.
“It’s a special place for me, first pole, first win here. It’s great and it really was a pleasure to drive today out there. Seldom had such a great feeling out there. And everything worked out well, the strategy and everything. The tyres held up pretty well, so I’m really pleased.”
After the safety car, Kvyat soon managed to come into second place, with Vettel catching up, the German managing to fight into third place my mid-race. Kvyat managed to keep ahead of the Ferrari until lap 35, when Vettel swooped down the inside on turn 14, leaving the Russian in third, where he finished, his second podium of his F1 career.
“Well, first of all it feels excellent to finish on the podium.” Kvyat spoke,
“After Hungary it felt like a quite long time. So yeah, you always want to see the result and today it confirmed itself. Yeah, the start went well, corner one, corner two was a bit risky obviously. In the end we can talk about it forever but it paid off and I’m on the podium so it feels good.”
However, although Vettel managed to beat him to second place, the German was still bitter towards Kvyat following the collision on the first lap, sparking a debate in the pre-podium room.
“If I don’t go left [at the start], you crash into us and we all three go out – you are like a torpedo.” Vettel spoke to Kvyat.
“I was racing … I didn’t crash” was Kvyat’s response.
“You didn’t; you were lucky this time.” Vettel told Kvyat again.
Vettel was clearly angry at Kvyat’s moves, calling him “suicidal” over the team radio during the race. However, the stewards chose to make no further action on the matter, and the two drivers seemed to bury the hatchet by clicking their champagne bottles on the podium.
After the collision, Vettel fought back consistently to bring home a second place on the podium for Ferrari, overtaking whoever was in his way.
“I had contact with Kimi which is a shame, the car was damaged after that, but obviously a great recovery by the Team, which managed to stay calm initially and then change the nose while the safety car was out. Overall we had great pace, good strategy, fantastic pit stops, I couldn’t have asked for more after this poor first lap. Hopefully in Russia we have a smoother race!” The former world champion reported.
Overall, Vettel was pleased with the outcome of the race, making sure that he explained to Raikkonen what had happened after the race had finished, apologising, feeling bad for the collision.
After the collision, Raikkonen was forced to pit, missing his front wing and suffering from a puncture, and coming back out onto the track at the back of the pack. However, he recovered well, overtaking Bottas, Hamilton and Massa to come home in a solid fifth place, only 6.7s down on his teammate.
“I have no idea of what happened at the start, I suddenly got hit and spun.” The Finn stated.
“I had a puncture in the left front tire and a front wing damage, but I managed to get back to the pits. Once I went back on track I found myself more or less in last position, the car felt a bit tricky, but I tried to do my best to charge thorugh the field.”
“Obviously the fifth position is not ideal and not what we were looking for, but after what happened it’s not a disaster. Seb came to apologize to me afterwards and it’s obvious he didn’t run into me on purpose. Unfortunately this does not change things for the race but it’s only the third round of a long season…”
Daniel Ricciardo made an excellent recovery after his puncture on lap 3, after he sunk into seventeenth following a pit stop. He fought long and hard for the remainder of the race, using everything he had to end up in a pleasing fourth place.
Ricciardo seemed thrilled, however, at the overall result, naming his recovery “the best of [his] career”.
“The second part of the race was one of the best races of my life.” He reported.
By the end of the race, Hamilton was just ahead of a storming Torro Rosso, driven by Max Verstappen, after he ended up near the back of the pack following the surge to the pit lane following the safety car. Verstappen overtook the likes of Force India driver Sergio Perez, teammate Carlos Sainz, and Williams’ Valterri Bottas. Saint followed his teammate, also overtaking Bottas on the final lap to come home in ninth place.
“At the start I had a good first reaction but I was in the wrong power mode,” Verstappen reported,
“From there on was very tricky, with the safety car I lost even more ground.
“But I stayed calm, overtook the rivals one by one, and at the end we had to come back to an eighth position.”
After starting on the medium compound tyre, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso managed to run as high as fourth after many of the other drivers who had started the race on supersofts went to pit behind the safety car, however his ballsy two-stop strategy only managed to leave him in twelfth place, just in front of his teammate, Jenson Button.
“Today wasn’t easy. We didn’t quite have the pace to record a good result and finish in the points. We chose a two-stop strategy and tried to benefit from that, but the early Safety Car didn’t help us, and our race didn’t really work out as planned after that. That’s the way it is, but it’s a shame.” Alonso reported.
“On a positive note, today’s race was the first proper long run I’ve completed in this year’s car – I didn’t ever finish a 50-lap stint during testing, and I retired early in Melbourne because of the accident.There’s a long way to go, but we’ll keep improving. I’m already looking forward to the next race.”
Button tried as hard as he could to deny Alonso of that place, closing the gap quickly during the final laps, after he had put on fresh tyres, however ultimately had to settle for thirteenth place, unable to pass his teammate.
“My start was good: I made up a lot of places and was able to take the battle to the other cars. Our pace on the Option tyre during the first stint was also pretty good – it was fun racing the quicker cars.” Button stated.
“When the Safety Car came out, there was mayhem in the pit-lane because Nico [Hulkenberg] was trying to slow everyone down to help his team-mate. After that stop, we seemed to be sitting in a strong position, but we were running the Medium compound, and we just seemed to stand still compared with the others.
“Perhaps fitting the Option at the end was the wrong choice – I could have stayed out until the end on the Medium, but I decided to have some fun by fitting softer [ie, faster] rubber – but it just couldn’t make its performance last to the end. Still, as I say, it was worth having a crack at it.”
It was clear that the McLaren did not have the same pace as the cars in the top ten, as they were overtaken by their rivals who were fighting for the podium places.
It wasn’t a particularly good race for newcomers Haas, with their best finish being Esteban Gutierrez’s 14th place, and teammate Romain Grosjean coming home in 19th place, complaining that his car was nearly un-driveable in the closing laps. However, it was a first for the team- both drivers managed to finish the race, despite Grosjean wanting to retire near the end.
Gutierrez used a three-stop strategy to come home to the finish line. He began the race in 18th place on the soft tyres before switching on lap 35 to the supersofts. Gutierrez took another set of supersofts on lap 44 that managed to carry him to the finish. It was his first full race distance of the 2016 season, as he suffered retirements in both Australia and Bahrain.
Grosjean started the race 14th and was on the same tyre strategy as his teammate. However, this strategy soon was dismissed when on the opening lap Grosjean was sent to the pits for a new front wing following the stack up that occurred. Despite returning to the race in 21st, Grosjean drove as hard as could, despite complaining about problems with the car. He gained back two positions to cross the chequered flag in 19th place.
“It was a horrific race.” A disappointed Grosjean reported.
The start was terrible when [Marcus] Ericsson turned into me and got my front wing. From there we had the safety car and I thought, ‘OK, we still have a chance to do something.’ But the balance in the car was nowhere near good.
“I don’t know what happened. Somehow, it’s positive that we had such a difficult race, because we can analyze what we did wrong, what we did right and what we could have done differently. From there, we can come back stronger. It’s a difficult one after the two first races.”
Behind Gutierrez was Force India’s Nico Hulkenburg, who received a five-second penalty for driving unnecessarily slowly in the pit lane during the stops made behind the safety car in lap 4. Despite a strong start from both drivers, they both ended up outside of the points, with Hulkenburg came home in 15th place. He had a good start however, going from 13th up to 5th place, overtaking well, until the safety car was released, forcing him to pit. He had faced a problem with tyre degradation, and that on top of the time penalty he received, did note make it a positive outcome for the German.
“It was a frustrating race in the end,” Hulkenburg stated,”even though the start and the first few laps were great.
“The dirty air affected us, we had some faster cars coming through and this destroyed my tyres. In fact, tyre degradation was the main story of the day and we appeared to suffer more than some others, which is why I went backwards in the second half of the race.
“The time penalty was an added blow, but in the end it didn’t make a huge difference to my result: the rules say you shouldn’t slow down coming in, but in the heat of racing it’s hard to gauge if that is giving you an advantage. Ultimately, we didn’t have the pace to get back into the points: it’s something we have to work on and do better in the coming races.”
It was also a disappointing race for teammate Sergio Perez, as the safety car also ruined his advantage, forcing him to pit along with most of the grid. He was well up into the points, 3rd place, when the safety car came out. After pitting, his good lead was ruined, as he found himself at the back of the pack, having to fight his way through the field once more. He unfortunately ended up just outside of the points as the race finished, leaving the team with a no-points finish today.
“Today things didn’t go our way and the timing of the safety car didn’t help me.” Perez reported.
“The start of the race was really good and things looked very promising. I was up in third place when the safety car came out and we had no option but to pit, which dropped me back into the pack. I had to fight hard because the cars around me were on different tyres and there were some quick cars recovering as well.
There were some entertaining battles during the race and we put up a good fight, but the points finish slipped away in the final part of the race. I think we chose the right strategy and made good choices, but the race didn’t go our way. It’s also clear that we need to keep doing our homework to come back stronger for the next few races.”
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson came home in 16th place, after a risky move to attempt to complete the race with only two stops, starting on softs, before changing to the medium compound tyre. After making a decent start, he then found that he was unable to keep the pace up as he changed onto the mediums, hoping that he will soon be able to find some more performance in the car in the coming races.
“I think it was a decent race, I made a good start, and had a good first lap. When the safety car came out, we went for a bit of a gamble and decided to try to do the rest of the race on just two stints of medium tyres.
“But it felt like we didn’t really have the pace we hoped for on the mediums. We have to analyse everything and see if we could have done something different strategy-wise. In our situation you sometimes need to try to take a chance and it could have worked out. Apart from that, I think it was a strong race, with no mistakes from my side. I felt like the driving was good, but we still need to find some more performance in the car.”
However, it was more of a challenging race for teammate Felipe Nasr, after being caught up in the carnage at the start of the race, collided with Lewis Hamilton, resulting in a puncture, causing him to have to pit to replace it, as well as replacing the nose on his car. Because of the time he lost whilst in the pits, he was unable to catch up with the rest of the pack, finishing in 20th place.
“It was a difficult race for me this weekend, especially as it was compromised after the start at turn 1.
I got hit, which resulted in my front right tyre having a puncture and in a nose change. That cost me a lot of time in the race, because I couldn’t recover the lap I lost in the safety car period. So this meant, I had a lot to catch up in the race. Anyway, I still feel that we have a lot to do in the car to bring back the pace, because I am still struggling with the same issues that I’ve been having in the last couple of events. I have confidence in the team that we can get the performance back.”
Renault’s Kevin Magnussen gave a steady drive, starting and ending in the same place- 17th. From his end of it, there wasn’t much drama going on as there was at the front, so he was able to keep to his strategy- 3 pit stops, going on softs twice before finally going onto mediums.
“It was a pretty steady race for me really.” Magnussen stated.
“I had a decent start and then I didn’t actually have much action; just passing people on strategy so no one was really fighting hard. This isn’t a weekend that we will be very happy about but it’s definitely one that we can learn from. There’s a lot we still don’t really understand so once we do, we’ll be a stronger team. We knew it was going to be a tough start, we’re not panicking.”
Teammate Jolyon Palmer went from starting in 19th to finishing in last place- 22nd after a fairly good start. Unfortunately tyre degradation seemed to be a problem for him, and he did not feel like his pace was as good as usual, ending with a bad finish. However, he is keen to move onto the next race, after learning from this one.
“The start was good today, as was the first lap – we made up a lot of positions. From then on though, it was a tough day. The balance of the car was all over the place, tyre degradation was bigger than usual and the pace wasn’t as good as previous races. We need to look in the data really, and I’m definitely happy to move on to the next race.”
Manor’s Pascal Wehrlien had a good drive, fending off Button and Vettel after the first round of pit stops, eventually coming home in 18th, ahead of Haas’ Grosjean. Teammate Rio Haryanto finished 20th in the other Manor.
However, despite all the drama that occurred in this action-paced race, there were no retirements- a rare occurrence in the sport. For whichever reason you choose to remember it by- the Chinese Grand Prix was a clearly memorable race.