Nico Rosberg has continued his domination of the 2016 season by winning an action pack Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai today.
After initially losing out to a fast starting Daniel Riccardo, Rosberg only had to wait till lap 3 to gain the lead again when Riccardo picked up a puncture, causing the Australian to fall to the back of the pack. From then on in Rosberg had total control of the race, never losing the lead again. The German had a near faultless drive and finished 38 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, while Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat took the last podium position.
It was a tough day for Vettel as he was involved in a controversial move on the first lap, which saw him crash with his team mate Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen moved right into Vettel’s path as the German moved left to ensure he was not tagged by Kvyat, who had gone for an aggressive dive down the inside. The resulting tag put Kimi in a spin and damaged both Ferrari’s. Vettel was quick to blame the fast staring Kvyat for the incident, branding the Russians move “Suicidal” on team radio. Though Kvyat has maintained he had every right to be there. Things got heated between the pair in the podium room after the race. As Vettel looked to give Kvyat a dressing down.
“You. Asking what happened at the start. If I don’t go left, you crash into us and we all three go out, you are like a torpedo.” The four-time world champion argued. Though the Russian didn’t seem fazed at all by what was going on. Kvyat simply responded: “We didn’t crash.” To which Vettel said, “You didn’t. You were lucky this time.” Kvyat again just shrugged. “I’m on the podium. You’re on the podium.”
They were not the only drivers to tangle in the first corner, as Lewis Hamilton was turned into by Sauber’s Felipe Nasr as he avoided Raikkonen’s damaged car swerving back on to the circuit. The crash resulted in the Mercedes front wing becoming lodged under Hamilton’s car. The current world champion had to crawl round the lap with the wing below him, damaging the underfloor of the car before he pitted at the end of the first lap with Raikkonen, who also picked up damage from his clash with his team mate.
There was some salvation for Riccardo, Hamilton and Raikkonen, when the safety car was called out on lap 4 to clear up the debris from the first lap crashes. Several cars dived into the pits, making use of what essentially was a free pit stop, during which Nico Hulkenberg was accused of deliberately going slow to compromise another drivers race. And was handed a five second time penalty to serve at his next pit stop. The pack bunched up behind the safety car and once the car was in we were treated us to a master class in overtaking from drivers up and down the grid. Especially from Raikkonen and Riccardo. Riccardo managed to finish 4th in the end, with Raikkonen just behind in 5th.
Despite some good overtakes, the race didn’t seem to go Hamilton’s way today. While he fought up valiantly through the field his strategy seemed to chop and change all the time. Sometimes even leading us to ask the question “is it a magic 8 ball deciding Lewis’ strategy today?” The result was he finished 7th behind the Williams of Felipe Massa, and is now 36 points adrift of his team mate in the drivers’ championship.
“It was definitely a difficult one,” a rather sad Hamilton told the media. “I got a good start, which is always difficult from the back. I tried to avoid what was ahead of me but got tangled in it. After that I battled through, but I just felt like every time I stopped I had to come through again, I wasn’t gaining ground and at the end there wasn’t enough tyres. That’s racing but it’s not a great finish.”
Massa drove a great race in the end. He had to go defensive in the closing laps of the race as he tried desperately to keep a faster looking Hamilton behind him. While at the same time nursing his medium tyres home for a nice points finish for the Williams team.
The two Torro Rosso’s finished 8th and 9th, with Max Verstappen winning that particular battle over his team mate Carlos Sainz. While Williams’ Valtteri Bottas rounded out top points positions in 10th.
Elsewhere down the grid it was a successful day in terms of reliability, as all 22 drivers saw the chequered flag. It is only the 6th time in the history of F1 every car has managed to see the chequered flag in a race.
Overall the race was interesting, trying to work out the strategies for drivers was almost impossible at points. But in the end the race was enjoyable, and certainly one of the better races China has thrown up in the last few seasons. And if nothing else, the Vettel/Kyvat podium room spat is funny to watch.
Chinese Grand Prix result
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
2. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
3. Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull
4. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
5. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
6. Felipe Massa, Williams
7. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
8. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso
9. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso
10. Valtteri Bottas, Williams
11. Sergio Perez, Force India
12. Fernando Alonso, McLaren
13. Jenson Button, McLaren
14. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas
15. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
16. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber
17. Kevin Magnussen, Renault
18. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor
19. Romain Grosjean, Haas
20. Felipe Nasr, Sauber
21. Rio Haryanto, Manor
22. Jolyon Palmer, Renault
Feature Image Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas press release.