Rosberg races to emphatic first win in China

2012 Chinese Grand Prix review

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Shanghai, 2012Nico Rosberg scored an emphatic maiden win in the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver finished more than 20 seconds ahead of Jenson Button.

The pair ran different strategies during the race but a slow pit stop for Button tipped the race in Rosberg’s favour.

Behind him the McLaren drivers came out on top of a fierce scrap for the final two podium positions.

Rosberg romps away

Rosberg made an immaculate start, showing a clean pair of heels to Michael Schumacher who held onto second.

While Kamui Kobayashi went backwards from third place, Button came through from fifth to take up the running behind the Mercedes drivers, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.

Lewis Hamilton dived past Kobayashi at turn six and Sergio Perez took the opportunity to demote his team mate as well.

Mark Webber slipped back at the start and was passed by Fernando Alonso. By the end of the lap they had already passed and re-passed each other again, leaving Webber tenth.

Rosberg made his escape in the opening laps, pulling out a lead of almost three seconds over his team mate. Schumacher’s slower pace did not seem to be a case of Mercedes tactics to give Rosberg a bigger lead – behind him, Button was struggling to get within range to use DRS against the Mercedes.

Webber pits early

Webber made an early pit stop at this time, in an attempt to recover some of the places he lost at the start. He switched to the medium tyres and fell to 20th place, but was immediately the quickest driver on the track.

What’s more, even as he got stuck into passing the battling Vitaly Petrov and Jean-Eric Vergne, he was still able to match Rosberg’s pace and take time out of the cars he had been racing.

That forced several others to pit to keep Webber behind. Hamilton followed Raikkonen in on lap 11, and led him out of the pits after speedy work by the McLaren pit crew. It also kept him ahead of Webber, who passed Raikkonen as they rejoined the track.

Button and Grosjean came in the next time by – the McLaren driver asking for more front wing on his first visit.

Schumacher out early

Schumacher pitted from second on lap 13 but as he pulled out of the pit box a mechanic on his right-front wheel was signalling furiously for the car to be held. The wheel hadn’t been fixed properly, and Schumacher came to a halt shortly after rejoining the track.

While one Mercedes was stopping for good, the other came to a temporary halt – Rosberg made his first pit stop, handing the lead to Perez. Mercedes had suffered heavy tyre degradation on Friday so they inspected Rosberg’s tyres closely after his first pit stop, and told him one of his rears had been close to wearing out.

Perez’s pit stop did not go to plan – he crept away slowly and lost places to Kobayashi and Grosjean.

This briefly handed the lead to Massa but Rosberg caught him before the end of the lap and, with DRS open, motored past easily on the back straight to resume the lead.

The McLaren drivers took up second and third places, Button 4.7 seconds behind the leader with a 1.7s margin over his team mate. But not for long: fourth-placed Webber made for the pits on lap 22, and Hamilton and Button followed in the next laps.

Button reels in Rosberg

Jenson Button, McLaren, Shanghai, 2012This second round of stops left them with more passing work to do. Button quickly picked off Pastor Maldonado and Perez using DRS.

Hamilton was more circumspect in his attempts to pass Massa – perhaps wisely given their altercations last year. He thought better of a move at turn one, and waited until the hairpin turn six before squeezing down the inside of the Ferrari.

Button was able to quickly pass cars on the straight and still gain time on Rosberg, reducing his advantage from 21.8s to 20.2. But Hamilton lost time behind Perez, and the gap between him and Button grew to 5.7s.

Once he hit clear air, Button took huge chunks out of Rosberg’s lead – as much as two seconds on lap 34, cutting the gap between them to 12.3 seconds. That finally pressed Rosberg into making his second pit stop, although his team noted his left-rear tyre still had some life left in it – an encouraging sign which was quickly relayed to him.

Pit problem spoils Button’s charge

The battle for the lead had echoes of last year’s contest between Hamilton and Vettel. Button needed to make a third pit stop which would drop him behind Rosberg – but with a faster car for the final stint that could allow him to make a pass for the lead.

However Button’s third pit stop on lap 40 dealt a blow that cost him a shot at victory. The left-rear wheel was slow to go on, and while McLaren avoided Mercedes’ mistake of sending the car out too soon, it cost him precious time.

Worse, it left Button mired in the middle of a string of cars disputing second place. He took up fifth behind Massa, Raikkonen and Vettel, with Grosjean, Webber and Senna behind him.

“There’s still plenty of points to play for,” Button’s race engineer reminded him. “We need to overtake at least Vettel, the rest will probably pit.”

Raikkonen hits trouble

Massa duly came in shortly afterwards but Raikkonen tried to hang on to his tyres. It was a gamble that didn’t pay off: the returning world champion learning the hard way that there’s only so long a worn set of Pirellis can be persuaded to cling to the tarmac.

Vettel and Button made it past the increasingly lairy Lotus. But Webber – who had already had a dramatic moment at turn 13, taking to the air on the run-off – ran wide at turn eight. That allowed Hamilton past, and he went on to take Raikkonen at the hairpin.

Raikkonen continued to go backwards, Grosjean and Alonso were the next to demote him. Grosjean then took sixth place off the Williams of Bruno Senna.

Rosberg wins – Hamilton leads the championship

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Shanghai, 2012With five laps to go, Button was within range of Vettel and made a tentative – but successful – move at the hairpin to take second place. Two laps later Hamilton claimed the final podium place off the Red Bull.

“We had absolutely no straight line speed the whole race,” fumed Vettel afterwards. But his team mate seemed to – Webber took fourth place after attacking Vettel at the hairpin and getting a quicker run out of the corner into turn 16.

Button set his fastest lap on the final tour but it was far too late to do anything about Rosberg, who duly took his first F1 win having led most of the way.

Hamilton claimed his third consecutive third place and with it took the lead of the drivers’ championship, by a scant two points over his team mate.

Grosjean scored his first F1 points with sixth behind the Red Bulls. Senna was seventh, despite having damaged his front wing on the rear of Massa’s car at the first corner.

The other Williams of Pastor Maldonado claimed eighth. Alonso came in ninth after losing time by running off the circuit trying to pass Maldonado on the outside of turn seven – one of several drivers to get caught out by marbles and dirt off the racing line.

Kobayashi claimed the final point – and the race’s fastest lap – ahead of team mate Perez. Paul di Resta struggled for grip in his Force India and was 12th.

Behind him were Massa and Raikkonen, whose tyre gamble saw him slip from second to 14th. Hulkenberg was 15th ahead of the Toro Rossos and Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham.

With both Marussias and HRTs finishing ahead of Heikki Kovalainen, Schumacher was the only driver who didn’t finish.

It was a race of contrasting fortunes for Mercedes. But having unlocked the performance of their W03 this early in the season, Schumacher must be optimistic about the races ahead.

Today, however, was all about his team mate. After 111 attempts Nico Rosberg claimed his first F1 win, and followed in the footsteps of his father Keke, becoming the third son of a Grand Prix winner to claim a victory himself.

2012 Chinese Grand Prix

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87 comments on Rosberg races to emphatic first win in China

  1. JCost (@jcost) said on 15th April 2012, 15:02

    Thumbs up for Grojean, anyone?

    • gwenouille (@gwenouille) said on 15th April 2012, 17:55

      Yep, from me too.
      A little mistake on lap 45. Then he tried the outside just like FA did with the same result. The battle with MAL and PER was nice !
      His lap 49 was great too. He’ll be delighted to be the one who brings some points this time.

  2. Himmat said on 15th April 2012, 15:37

    I hope that Michael gets a win or two as well as a couple of poles this year. I want Hamilton and McLaren to win both titles, but it would be some story for a driver entrenched in retirement to come out of it and still have what it takes to win races. Also hope for the same for Raikkonen, though Lotus seem to be 4th best at the moment.

    • I also hope that Michael can prove that he is still very fast and can beat Rosberg :)

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 16th April 2012, 15:04

        I’m no MS fan so I don’t carry the same hopes as you two, but I do think he will pole and win this season (as NR may do again too) as long as Merc has lessened their susceptibility to missing the tire performance window on variable temperature weekends. If they still depend on stable temp weekends and even at that it is no guarantee of nailing their tire window(s), then Mac will give them a hard time this season. ie. I look to see how Merc has adapted to what they learned in the first two races. As in, how much of a tightrope are they walking between nailing their tire windows and not nailing them and only falling back during the race with tires that either have degraded prematurely, or come off the car looking brand new but having never been run at the optimum temps and therefore feeling to the driver like they were destroyed.

  3. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 15th April 2012, 16:00

    I know it’s just three races into the season, but this year is turning out to be “best ever”: we got the closeness of the field from (the latter part of) 2009, the extremely changeable championship battle from 2010 AND the tight and exciting races from 2011! Couldn’t be much better.

  4. Klint said on 15th April 2012, 16:47

    Great to see Rosberg take the win at long last. For the last 2 seasons it has always been Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Button and Hamilton at the top of the leaderboard with extraordinary consistency, and however they started. This season it seems as though that stranglehold is breaking apart, or at the very least, Rosberg is joining the party.
    Lots of exciting action in the race, but it begins to seem as though strategists and pit crews are as important as drivers, with luck playing a leading role too. The decision-making on when and if regarding tyre changes was probably more significant than Vettel’s driving for instance, in getting him up to 5th place, while Raikkonen’s strategy to stay out whatever happened, cost us the chance to see a battle for the lead in the closing stages. Do we really want the strategists to be so fundamental to the results?

  5. john miller said on 15th April 2012, 17:22

    I’m off to the bookies tomorrow to see what odds I can get for a three-way points tie for the WC at the end of the year. Just got to work out which three and their positions on countback… Piece of cake then, really!

  6. carlos said on 15th April 2012, 17:39

    Tire excitement is fine but the marble corridor is ridiculous. There is nowhere to run.

  7. TED BELL said on 15th April 2012, 17:56

    The Pirelli problem continues…

    Never seen such tire degredation. The weakness of the Pirelli tire is of great concern. Evidence suggests that if you go off line at the wrong place at the wrong time due to the debris field left on the track someone will certainly have an unpredictable moment. KR drove his nuts off to stay ahead, near the end we all witnessed the perils of these failing tires. The accumulation of material shed from these “un-Formula One” like tires are an embarrasment to this level of competition.

    If this trend continues someone will have to pay the price. Many support the concept that this is now good racing but I think it shows that F1 is OK with gimmicks like tires that fail in such an absurb manor and ultimately the potential for it becoming a high price to pay will be its down fall.

    Formula One is about challenging man and machine in pursuit of victory nation against nation. The pathway to that victory is one where testing the limits of mechanical adhesion is what the sport itself is based on. To see these cars challenge those limits as we did in China and then be confronted with an “ice rink” due to the failing Pirelli tires is a danger to the sport.

    History shows that even the best lost their lives while dealing with absurb tire performances. In a few days we celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of those moments, all due to the tire.

    If this continues, I suggest that a BLACK FLAG be thrown at Pirelli.

    • gorgonzola said on 15th April 2012, 18:07

      100% agree…

      But also its the teams to adapt and what Lotus did today was mind-boggling you would expect Marussia to do that type of error not them…:Really Sad taking away from all the good work Kimi did…. This was a HUGE mistake…

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 15th April 2012, 19:13

      Regardless of your view point on tyres you cannot throw a ‘black flag’ at Pirelli. They have provided what people asked of them and this is in absolutely no way a reflection on the quality of their tyre.

      You cannot request high degradation tyres without respecting the issues it creates off-line.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 16th April 2012, 15:22

        I take TED BELL’s point but I don’t go so far as to blame Pirelli…they are doing what they have been asked to by the FIA.

        I blame the fact that the FIA still refuses to go as far as the likes of myself would like…ie. reduce aero dependancy even further than they did with the reduction of the effect of EBD for this season.

        I think they have the right idea with sticky tires (mechanical grip) and a reduction in aero dependancy, but I would go a little further. Sticky but more stable tires, much less aero dependancy, no DRS and then to me we would have seat of the pants passing without the gimmicks of DRS, mandated degrady tires, and aero trickery. It seems to be all about nailing or not nailing the optimum tire performance window so far this year, and it seems such a fine line that on any given day a driver can go from hero to chump just by that factor alone.

        I also take heart that the cars are much much more safe than they used to be, as are the tracks, not that I think that means they should add an element of danger because of these safer-than-ever cars and tracks in F1 we now experience.

  8. Klint said on 15th April 2012, 18:04

    (@ TED BELL) I think you overplay the danger element re the tyres, but I do think you’re right that F1 is becoming too full of gimmicky rules and attempts to enhance the racing, at the expense of the “man and machine in pursuit of victory”. Would we be better with more than one tyre supplier and no limits about having to use two grades in one GP? I suspect so, even if sometimes one driver/car/tyre combination walks away with victory.

  9. Mallesh Magdum (@malleshmagdum) said on 15th April 2012, 18:22

    i wonder why teams use the traffic light system for pits. It has failed with Ferrari in the past also. Thats why Schumacher was let off without the wheel nut on

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 16th April 2012, 2:45

      I agree entirely, I have recently been using a “Kindle” for reading and have noticed that unlike a book I only have to think about turning the page and I have pressed the button a line and a half too early and have to go back to make sense of the top line on the page in front of me, when this first started happening I was reminded of Massa trailing the fuel rig down pitrow.

  10. caci99 (@caci99) said on 15th April 2012, 18:47

    Schumacher’s slower pace did not seem to be a case of Mercedes tactics to give Rosberg a bigger lead

    Given the Mercedes poor race pace on the previous races, I thought for a moment yesterday that may be Mercedes were going for this kind of strategy, one driver blocking the others while the other would have flied away increasing the gap as much as he could have. It sounds crazy such a gamble, but, who knows. A reminiscence of Malaysia 1999.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 16th April 2012, 15:29

      When they postulated at the start of the race as to the possiblity of MS holding back the field for NR, my immediate thought was…no way…MS has been outpointed two seasons in a row by NR…now the car is much better and MS has much more of a handle on it vs. the last two seasons. MS is not here this season to back NR. He is doing everything he can to outpoint NR for a change. Anyway, it was obvious before long that JB wasn’t really knocking on MS’s door initially anyway. ie. it’s not like JB was right on MS’s butt and MS was needing to take extreme measure to keep a parade behind him for NR’s benefit. I believe there is true racing going on between MS and NR, as this weekend showed there is between MW and SV, and JB and LH…thank goodness.

  11. alexf1man (@alexf1man) said on 15th April 2012, 19:39

    The last 50 races (Webber’s first win to Rosberg’s):

    Vettel: 18 wins (JPN 09, ABU 09, MAL 10, EUR 10, JPN 10, BRA & ABU 10, AUS & MAL 11, TUR-MON 11 (3), EUR 11, BEL – SIN 11 (3), KOR & IND 11)
    Hamilton: 8 wins (HUN 09, SIN 09, TUR & CAN 10, BEL 10, CHN 11, GER 11, ABU 11)
    Webber: 7 wins (GER 09, BRA 09, SPN & MON 10, GBR 10, HUN 10, BRA 11)
    Alonso: 7 wins (BAH 10, GER 10, ITA & SIN 10, KOR 10, GBR 11, MAL 12)
    Button: 6 wins (AUS 10, CHN 10, CAN 11, HUN 11, JPN 11, AUS 12)
    Barrichello: 2 wins (EUR & ITA 09)
    Raikkonen: 1 win (BEL 09)
    Rosberg: 1 win (CHN 12)

  12. schooner (@schooner) said on 16th April 2012, 1:58

    Well, that was pretty entertaining. Lots of stuff going on! Interesting that not only did Mercedes get their first modern era win, they were also the only team to have a car drop out. It would have been cool to see where MS could have wound up without that mistake in the pits, but so it goes. Also, and I don’t know if it’s been mentioned elsewhere on the site, but I had to laugh at a comment made by Will Buxton on the Speed Channel here in the US. He suggested that conspiracy theorists might opine that the Mercedes top brass could have ordered Button’s slow pit stop, thus helping to ease the way for Nico’s win. Highly doubtful, methinks!

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 16th April 2012, 2:49

      Beyond doubtful and definitely ridiculous.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 16th April 2012, 15:43

        Doesn’t say much for what Buxton thinks of Mercedes’ integrity. After all, a JB win would have been a win for Mercedes too. Just not a factory win of the kind they are comparing to 1955. Does he not think the Merc top brass are into racing, and duking it out on the track, but prefer to ‘win’ through politics and phone calls? And Buxton is also suggesting then that Merc must not have much faith in NR. I think it would take quite a paranoid conspiracy theorist of the extreme to try to pull off that argument, and Buxton must just be searching for media ‘market share’ of his own with such a silly suggestion.

        • schooner (@schooner) said on 16th April 2012, 23:05

          Buxton was definitely grasping at straws with that comment, and I wouldn’t doubt that he regrets making it. Bob Varsha pretty much laughed it off, and no more was said.

  13. HoHum (@hohum) said on 16th April 2012, 3:00

    Talking about Pit stops, Lewis’ pass on Kimi in the pits was even more significant than noted, in my opinion. Had Lewis been released a nano second later he would have been not only behind Kimi but Webber would have been ahead of Kimi, Webber got past Kimi but could not get back onto the clean track because Hamilton was there. That’s the way I saw it was I wrong ? With clean track ahead it could have reversed the Webber/Hamilton finish, how nano seconds make a huge difference.

  14. HoHum (@hohum) said on 16th April 2012, 3:51

    Talking about Webber I was watching via a stop/start internet link and was unclear as to what happened to MW at the start, I think MW started OK but was boxed in behind KK who was going backward faster than MW all last year. Any one confirm or otherwise?

  15. Tayyib (@m0nzaman) said on 16th April 2012, 11:33

    Yes Nico Yes! You are finally a race winner, you controlled the race really well and showed dominant pace and the tyres worked in your favour and made the 2 stop work which some of the others couldn’t get it to work namely kimi. I’m still unsure about the tyre wear in hotter conditions specifically Bahrain, that is where the acid test is with spain and monaco coming the Mercs need to fix that problem at the warmer tracks, china’s track temp was cooler but hopefully for his sake they are sorted so he can challenge for the WDC and for us someone new in the mix.

    It was a very good race with all the tactics and strategy building to an explosive ending with it all kicking it was a shame for kimi but it gave us an all action ending with Webber pulling a class pass on Seb and they both did well to come through the field, Grosjean, Maldonado and Bruno Senna drove very good races, as did Perez and Kobayashi although the 3 stop was quicker for Kamui than the 2 stop was for Checco. Force India and STR struggled and the less said about my beloved Ferrari the better.

    All in All a great race!

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