Poor qualifying left Mark Webber 18th on the grid but left him with plenty of soft tyres to make his charge to third.
Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel’s two-stop strategy left him vulnerable to an attack from Lewis Hamilton.
|Sebastian Vettel||Mark Webber|
|Qualifying time comparison (Q1)||1’35.674 (-0.794)||1’36.468|
Red Bull drivers’ lap times throughout the race:
On Saturday evening it looked like a routine weekend for the world champion, apparently on course for his fifth consecutive Grand Prix victory.
He’d headed all three practice sessions and taken pole position from Jenson Button by seven-tenths of a second.
But when the lights went out on race day he got away slowly, despite his KERS working correctly, and both McLarens beat him into the first corner.
As Hamilton began to wear his tyres out, Vettel picked him off on the back straight on lap 13 – but he followed Button into the pits at the end of the lap anyway.
Despite Button’s strange attempt to park in his pit box, Vettel got in and out quickly enough to leap-frog the other McLaren.
Red Bull stuck to their plan of pitting him twice, even as the McLarens and Mercedes used three-stop strategies to extend their soft tyres stints.
This was one of several problems that left them vulnerable. Vettel’s radio also failed and he was told to switch off his KERS during the race as well.
His relatively early first pit stop meant he had to begin his final stint with 25 laps to go – a tall order. His lap times (see above) indicated he might have been able to run longer in his middle stint, potentially saving valuable time.
Hamilton reeled him in on fresher tyres and although Vettel defended carefully around the DRS zone, the McLaren nipped down the inside at turn seven to take the lead.
Webber’s weekend was dogged by problems with his Kinetic Energy Recovery System.
It failed in first practice and again on Saturday morning. It was all hands on deck in the garage as some of Vettel’s mechanics joined in to help fix Webber’s car in time for qualifying.
Running without KERS in Q1 the team gambled on him not needing soft tyres to get through. But he lapped 0.8s slower than Vettel and failed to make the cut.
Although it condemned him to start 18th it handed him the considerable advantage of several sets of fresh, soft tyres, which aided his recovery drive.
Smartly, the team got his hard tyre stint out of the way at the beginning of the race when he was always likely to be stuck in traffic anyway.
Despite losing KERS again shortly into the race he was able to move his way up through the field and take advantage of the RB7’s scorching pace when he had clear air.
After his final pit stop he was seventh but he picked off both Ferraris, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button to claim third and complete an impressive recovery drive.
2011 Chinese Grand Prix
- Hamilton: ‘It’s sweeter to win by overtaking’
- 2011 Chinese Grand Prix: complete race weekend review
- Who was the best driver of the Chinese GP weekend?
- McLaren: Button’s pit mistakes almost cost Hamilton
- Red Bull: Poor qualifying gives strategy advantage to Webber
- Ferrari: Montezemolo demands reaction after poor result
- Mercedes: Rosberg beats Ferraris despite fuel worries
- Renault: Points salvaged after poor qualifying
- Sauber: Two penalties in one race for Perez
- Lotus: Kovalainen joins in midfield battle
Image ?é?® Red Bull/Getty images