Chinese Grand Prix
Fernando Alonso put the disappointment of early retirement in Malaysia to bed with a superb performance at the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai last weekend. It was the 31st victory of the double world champion’s career which puts him fifth, level with Nigel Mansell, in the all time winners list.
Alonso and team-mate Felipe Massa both leapfrogged Kimi Raikkonen off the grid, who started second, before passing pole-sitter and early leader Lewis Hamilton on lap five.
The race took a while to unfold, with a variety of different strategies being used, but once it settled down, Raikkonen recovered to second after his poor start and contact with the rear of Sergio Perez’s McLaren, the young Mexican was arguably being too forceful in his defence against the Fin.
Hamilton completed the podium, only just managing to hold off a charging Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull who was on fresher tyres. Vettel still leads the championship, but the lead has been trimmed to just three points over Raikkonen with Alonso a further six back.
Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber would have hoped to have a good weekend and to move on from the drama and controversy in Malaysia, where Vettel ignored team orders to overtake Webber and win, but instead the Australian suffered a miserable weekend.
Webber started from the pit lane because of a fuel pump problem in qualifying, before colliding with Jean-Eric Vergne from the sister Torro Rosso team, something which he will receive a three place grid penalty for in Bahrain this weekend. The Australian was finally forced to retire after his right rear wheel wasn’t properly secured during his pit stop. As a result the wheel detached itself and somewhat unfortunately for the conspiracists, narrowly missed Vettel’s car.
There was drama further down the field too when the two Force India’s collided with Paul Di Resta being pushed onto the grass at turn twelve. A couple of laps later it was all over for Di Resta’s team-mate Adrian Sutil when the young rookie Estaban Gutierrez, in the Sauber, ploughed straight into the back of him, ending both their races. Gutierrez will take a five place grid penalty to Bahrain as punishment for the incident.
Elsewhere, Daniel Ricciardo had his best weekend, after qualifying seventh he was able to bring his Torro Rosso to the finish in the same position, behind Jenson Button in his McLaren, who drove a sensible race on a different strategy to those around him, and the Ferrari of Massa who faded after his strong start to cross the line sixth.
The F1 circus now heads to the Persian Gulf for the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix. There have been calls for the Grand Prix to be cancelled this year, as it was in 2011, owing to the political unrest in the country but everything is set to go ahead as planned. Let’s hope the only fireworks that take place are on the track, and not in the surrounding areas.