Hamilton cruises to third win as Rosberg recovers for another Mercedes one-two

2014 Chinese Grand Prix review

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014Lewis Hamilton took the 25th victory of his Formula One career in the Chinese Grand Prix – and he hasn’t had many wins that were more straightforward.

That might have seemed unlikely two days earlier. Hamilton’s position at the top of the time sheets on Friday flattered to deceive – he was distinctly unhappy with the balance of his Mercedes.

Events swung his way on Saturday during a wet qualifying session – remarkably, the third in the last four races. His championship-leading team mate Nico Rosberg was not comfortable with his brakes and compounded his troubles by mis-reading his dash read out during his final lap.

Under the mistaken impression he was well off the pace when he was actually on course to improve his time, Rosberg spun at the last corner, leaving him only fourth on the grid. Mercedes’ superiority being what it is, even Hamilton had to admit that made him the clear pre-race favourite.

Rosberg slips back at start

Hamilton’s position looked even stronger a few seconds after the red lights went out and Rosberg made a conspicuously poor start.

This was down to sheer bad luck. Rosberg had done his homework, scrutinised the data from his practice starts, and said his last one was “perfect”. But a loss of telemetry as he prepared to take the start for real left him unable to reap the benefit of his labours.

“My engineers couldn’t see what was going on in my car and therefore they couldn’t set up my clutch for the start,” he said. “The clutch was completely on the wrong place, which is why I had a really bad start.”

Then as his rivals swept either side of him at the first corner Rosberg was clipped Valtteri Bottas. “I thought that was it,” said the Mercedes driver.

“Luckily my car wasn’t damaged and in the following laps the pace in the car seemed good, which meant I was able to climb some positions.”

As they rounded the long, looping right-handed turn one Rosberg had fallen to seventh with the two Red Bulls plus Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg separating him from his team mate. He picked off the Force India before lap one was done and by lap four he had demoted Massa for fifth.

Ferrari seize an opportunity

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014The other Williams driver had also tangled with a rival at the start.

Much as in Bahrain, Massa’s getaway was phenomenal, but he arrived at the first corner hemmed in by slower rivals. He attempted to insert his car between Daniel Ricciardo and Alonso, which almost ended in disaster.

The Ferrari driver didn’t realise Massa was there and the pair touched wheels, the Williams briefly jumping into the air. Had Massa lost control in this instant the consequences might have been horrendous.

Massa kept his car pointing forwards but lost momentum and several of the places he had gained. Alonso, however, was not put off his stride and continued in third behind Vettel.

The Red Bull driver was soon in trouble with his tyres. Having initially lost ground to Hamilton at a rate of half a second per lap, from lap six that deficit rose sharply, exceeding one-and-a-half seconds at times.

A four-car train of Vettel, Alonso, Ricciardo and Rosberg formed, each not wanting to get too close to their rivals and risk suffering the loss of downforce that could aggravate their tyre graining on the soft compound rubber.

It presented an opportunity to Ferrari which they seized on lap ten, bringing Alonso in on lap ten. Red Bull reacted with Vettel on the next lap but despite his team getting him out of the pit lane fractionally faster than Alonso his rival was able to use the performance of his new tyre to jump ahead.

Ricciardo, who had run an impressively long stint on the soft tyres during practice on Friday, hung on until lap 15 before coming in. Rosberg pitted two laps before that and easily jumped the Red Bull driver, whose pit stop was not up to Red Bull’s usual standard.

“Tough luck”

Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014Rosberg then demoted Vettel with little difficulty on lap 21, the Red Bull comprehensively outgunned by the Mercedes on Shanghai’s long straight.

Having switched to medium tyres Vettel got further into his second stint before his lap times began to rise. And just as before it presented a problem for Red Bull, as it was costing his team mate time as well.

In a repeat of what happened in Bahrain, Vettel was ordered to let his team mate through. On that occasion they were on distinctly different strategies and Vettel wasted little time in complying. This time he saw things differently.

“Which tyre is he on?” Vettel enquired of race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin. “[Mediums], but he stopped later than you,” Rocquelin replied.

“Tough luck,” was Vettel’s uncompromising response.

Ricciardo had changed tyres four laps later than Vettel so we has certainly the more realistic prospect for the team in terms of achieving a two-stop strategy. Given Vettel’s loss of time, the prospect of switching him to a three-stopper was a realistic one. Now Vettel was told that was the team’s plan:

“Sebastian, Daniel is on a two-stop,” Vettel was told. “Think about boxing,” he replied. But in the event he was able to stay out for a further ten laps after he and Ricciardo changed places.

Vettel later claimed he let Ricciardo by voluntarily once this had been explained to him. If so, he had a sudden change of heart between the turn 14 hairpin, where he defended the inside line from Ricciardo at the end of lap 25, and two corners later, where Ricciardo got by.

It was an ambiguous move by Vettel, who ran slightly wide at the first corner. That allowed Ricciardo through – but was it because Vettel had permitted it?

Early finish

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014Had it not been for the handful of laps Ricciardo spent behind Vettel it’s possible he would have been able to catch Alonso and put him under pressure.

But there is no way the Red Bull would have been able to motor past the Ferrari with the same ease Rosberg did on lap 42. Even without DRS that move would have been a slam dunk, Rosberg enjoying a 15kph straight-line speed advantage.

Ricicardo’s car was no faster through the speed trap than Alonso’s. But as he ended the race two-tenths of a second away from getting to use DRS against the Ferrari, it would have been understandable for him to feel his team mate had cost him a chance of finishing on the podium.

In a bizarre twist, Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi did have someone to blame for losing the 17th place he took from Jules Bianchi on the last lap. The culprit was the person who waved the chequered flag at Hamilton a lap early, as under the rules if that happens the race result is declared based on the standings at the end of the previous lap.

As far as Hamilton was concerned it would have made no difference if the chequer had come out at the end of lap one. He never looked in danger of losing the lead, Rosberg having taken most of the race to get back to the second place he should have started from.

Both McLarens lapped

Sixth-placed Hulkenberg was beginning to come under pressure from Bottas as the race ended. The other Williams dropped out of contention after a shambolic first pit stop.

Kimi Raikkonen’s miserable weekend continued with a quiet run to eighth, the Ferrari driver having to back off in the final laps as the team were concerned about his rate of fuel consumption.

Behind him Sergio Perez recovered from a poor qualifying session to take points for ninth place. Rookie Daniil Kvyat was 24 seconds behind and not on the lead lap but nonetheless finished in the top ten for the third time in four races.

McLaren endured a continuation of a weekend when both drivers had complained of a shortage of downforce and consequent lack of grip. Jenson Button was 11th, Kevin Magnussen 13th after once again damaging his front wing at the start of the race.

Lotus got one car home with Pastor Maldonado but Romain Grosjean’s car dropped out mid-race after he lost fourth gear, the beginning of a more serious failure within the gearbox. He had been running inside the points.

Rosberg clings to points lead

With his third win at the Shanghai International Circuit, Hamilton has now scored more wins at the track than any other driver. It’s some recompense for his infamous retirement from his first race at the track in the pit lane gravel trap.

That was the beginning of the end of his 2007 championship bid. Seven years on, a second world title is looking an ever more distinct possibility, even if his team mate retains a slender four-point advantage in the standings.

But Rosberg will know he needs to start beating his team mate on days when both of them finish in order to stay ahead of Hamilton.

2014 Chinese Grand Prix

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52 comments on Hamilton cruises to third win as Rosberg recovers for another Mercedes one-two

  1. Neel Jani (@neelv27) said on 20th April 2014, 18:45

    A few opinions

    Mercedes:
    As I’d mentioned yesterday, Nico lacks the champion’s mentality and needs more of a methodical approach and some luck to beat Lewis to the title. He finished second but that was the minimum he could’ve achieved considering Mercedes’ pace. Interesting to see how he reacts in Spain.

    Also behind the podium, I saw a bit more ‘coldness’ between the two drivers. Post Bahrain battle discussions maybe? Still it’s good that they are very cordial but Nico is rattled, which is obvious so watch this space.

    Ferrari:
    Great drive from Alonso but I really feel sorry for him. He seems trapped as Merc and RBR won’t be changing drivers anytime soon so Ferrari seems to best option for him. Let’s hope the Ferrari Horse Prances again.

    McLaren:
    Since Ron’s arrival at the helm of the team, McLaren are making changes but these changes take time to have an effect but it shows again that McLaren failed to produce a good car relative to the other top teams. That podium in Australia seems distant and a bit unrealistic.

    Williams:
    Simply blowing their chances. It seems like Felipe was right. Their chance of getting on the podium looks slimmer by the race.

    • Traverse (@) said on 20th April 2014, 19:48

      I noticed the cold tense atmosphere post race/podium interview. Nico’s not a happy bunny, but on the other hand he can always take solace in his vastly superior intelligence… -_-

      As for Ferrari, I think for the good of his career, Alonso should leave them at the end of this season. This will be his 5th year with the Prancing Horse Bungling Horse and it hasn’t worked out as planned. One can argue that loyalty pays off in the end but I just don’t see it happening for Alonso.

      Ron Dennis taking charge once again is a step backwards. It’s effectively McLaren admitting that they haven’t a clue what they’re doing and out of sheer fear have decided to run back to daddy and beg for help (it would be like Man U reappointing Fergie) . It’s also worth mentioning that for a man who supposedly lacks intelligence relative to his team-mate, Hamilton sure did make a genius decision to move from McLaren to Mercedes! He must’ve stolen Mystic Meg’s crystal ball…because a “gansta” steals stuff and such.

      I agree with Massa’a view that Williams have missed good (not great) opportunities to bag a podium but, quite frankly, Felipe should count his blessing that he’s in a relatively competitive car considering that his reputation had taken a huge blow in recent years. He could very easily have found himself sitting where Maldonado is right now. On a positive note, I am loving this somewhat revitalised Massa.

      • tmax (@tmax) said on 21st April 2014, 2:32

        @hellotraverse I agree regarding the Bungling Horse Comment.

        I find it difficult now to compare the 4 WDC winless years of Schumi from 1996 to 2000 to the 5 WDC winless years of Alonso from 2010 to 2014. The Ferrari made consistent progress from 1996 to 1999 . 1996 was a terrrible car, 1997 the car was improved WDC was decided in final race, 1998 further improvement WDC decided in Final race, 1999 if not for broken leg possible WDC (irvine took the WDC to last race ) . There was consisent improvement of the Ferrari from 96 to 2000.

        On the Contrary 2010 Ferrari had a good Car , 2011 it was nowhere , 2012 Very bad car but Alonso took it to title decider , 2013 again nowhere near redbull and 2014 the race is to get to the second place. From 2010 Ferrari has been racing to the bottom.

        Feel really sorry for Alonso. No light in sight !!!!!!

        • TMF (@tmf42) said on 21st April 2014, 9:46

          @tmax – Ferrari’s problem was the testing ban. Before they could design and manufacture parts like no other – go outside and take it for a spin – they also perfected their processes to work this way. Ever since in-season testing was banned and the amount of CFD and wind tunnel time restricted they are struggling. And basically have to change their entire development process, which takes time – even more than taking the team out of the slump in the 90s because the resources you can throw on it are somewhat limited. How long it will take remains to be seen but the only thing I’m certain of is that they will become the team to beat sooner or later.

          • Neel Jani (@neelv27) said on 21st April 2014, 10:38

            Half a decade is more than enough to get things in place. Out of which, two years were such were the rules were changing drastically so two opportunities for everybody to start on a clean slate.

            I really feel that it was Bryne-Brawn-Todt-Schumacher-FIA-Bridgestone-Lobbying era that worked best for Ferrari. Prior to that they had struggles and post the era they’re struggling as well. It’s more talk and less performance.

          • tmax (@tmax) said on 21st April 2014, 22:10

            @tmf42 I agree that the in season testing has been their problem, but then 10 years is a good enough time to change and adapt to the new regulations. Needless to say others also have the same rules and regulations out there but those teams adapted very well. They cannot keep whining that the rules have changed and nothing can be done about it !!!!

    • Corrado (@corrado-dub) said on 21st April 2014, 12:59

      I don’t think Alonso had serious options besides Ferrari for the 2010-2014 period, in my opinion.

      McLaren: McLaren was already a deja-vu option for the 2010-2012 period, while in 2013, when Lewis left them, the car was even worse, overall, than Ferrari. 2014 seems to be just like 2013: worse than Ferrari. So, going to McLaren would have been a bad move in my opinion. Maybe things will change for them in 2015 when Honda will arrive, but their problem seems to be the car, and not the engine. They have the best engine right now, but it’s not reflected by the results.

      RBR: RBR already had Vettel, then they seem to prefer more a no.1 + no.2 status for the team, like Ferrari. Vettel is really good indeed, so I don’t think Alonso would have dominated him much enough to make Horner give Alonso no.1 status. So, going to RBR would have meant for Alonso the same situation he experienced at McLaren in 2007. Plus, RBR seems to have their own “drivers school” and want to promote them to F1, so it’s another reason not hire Alonso.

      Mercedes: Can’t tell much about his chances to get a Mercedes drive, but there was no chance to drive for them ’til 2013. 1st, because Ferrari had a better car, then I think MSchumacher had a word to say when Mercedes chose the driver to replace him and I don’t think MSchumacher recommended Alonso.

      So, in my opinion, Ferrari was like the best option for Alonso between 2010-2014. Not the best, but the best from the rest for sure. He finished 2nd in 3 out of 4 possibilities.

  2. I can’t believe that for a short time I got perfect predictions, I will never again do any last minute updates.

  3. Raveendhana (@raveendhana) said on 20th April 2014, 19:38

    someway or the other williams seems to squander their chances, So williams loss is Force indias gain.

  4. nidzovski said on 20th April 2014, 20:01

    Lewis is not an inteligent guy and he doesn’t know how to save fuel and tires. And also this new F1 rules are making drivers drive like taxi drivers. What a load of bull…

    • Traverse (@) said on 20th April 2014, 20:07

      You’re right, Lewis is not intelligent. I met him once and I asked him what 2+2 equals, and his reply (this is absolutely true) was “Um, BISCUITS!! Gimme biscuit, I big boy now!”.

    • James (@iamjamm) said on 20th April 2014, 20:11

      Really? I guess him using less fuel than the rest of the top 10 and running longest on the soft tyres in the first stint was all just make-believe?

      • Kodongo (@kodongo) said on 20th April 2014, 21:01

        We really need a new set of quote-marks so everyone can see when someone is being sarcastic.

        Something like:


        (sarc) Lewis is not an inteligent guy and he doesn’t know how to save fuel and tires. And also this new F1 rules are making drivers drive like taxi drivers. What a load of bull… (/sarc)

  5. trotter said on 20th April 2014, 20:02

    Williams really seem to be wasting their chances. They should have never had Red Bull and Ferrari in front of them in the championship at this point of the season. Red Bull and Ferrari are only going to get stronger with every race, especially when you consider that the next two circuits are all about downforce and grip, much less than power. Force India outscored both Williams and McLaren, second race in a row, while Hulkenberg finished in front of all of them in every race so far except Melbourne. One thing they can perhaps look forward to, is the fact that FI is often faster on low downforce circuits, so they might do better compared to FI in Spain and Monaco. But as I said above, that also means that Ferrari and Red Bull will be much less handicapped by power and will probably even look at beating one or both Mercs.

  6. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 20th April 2014, 20:57

    Any report on why the checkered flag was shown before the end of the race? what happened there?

  7. Carlos Furtado das Neves said on 20th April 2014, 22:00

    Did anyone notice the comments of the start of the race from SkyF1?
    It’s incredible how professional (?) journalists can be so wrong. They “swapped” the Red Bull drivers! Ricciardo made a poor start, and the guy was shouting: Hamilton, from Ricciardo, Alonso, and Vettel is loosing places…
    And then, by a trick of magic… Vettel is behind Hamilton at the end of lap 1.
    Come on, we know they want Hamilton to be the next WDC, but please be serious!

  8. spoutnik (@spoutnik) said on 20th April 2014, 23:11

    Did anyone noticed the fuel consumption indicator of Bottas? He just showed 0 all the time, I wonder if his sensor was dead?

  9. Does anyone still get dodgy readings from the F1 app from time to time? For something were paying good money for an app, and something we have to renew yearly, it sure is a horrible performing one.

    I had Chilton fourth all of a sudden sometime in the last laps

  10. mark p said on 21st April 2014, 7:23

    Just a thought. Was Alonso at Spain 2013 the last non RedBull or Mercedes car to win a race? If so this is 18 or so races in a row and as all RedBull wins in this time were for Vettel and he is German and Merc are German this means the German anthem has been played on every podium for a year. Is this a record?

  11. Hamilfan (@hamilfan) said on 21st April 2014, 9:10

    Even without DRS that move would have been a slam dunk, Rosberg enjoying a 15kph straight-line speed advantage.

    NBC Influence , eh , @keithcollantine ;-)

  12. TMF (@tmf42) said on 21st April 2014, 9:57

    I hope ROS ups his game a bit. so far Bahrain has been the exception of an otherwise boring season – I’m fine with 1 team or 1 driver dominating but the rule changes also increased the gaps in the field and it’s more likely that we see close battles between team-mates than battles between different teams this year (at least until the summer break).

  13. niedsche said on 21st April 2014, 10:40

    Its just a theory but whenever Red Bull lose their on track speed advantage, Vettel struggles more against his team mate – be that Ricciardo now or Mark Webber previously. I think when Red Bull have a clearly faster car they have the luxury of picking winners – and Vettel has always been the chosen one at Red Bull. But they don’t have that luxury right now and we see Apples against Apples. I hope Daniel can keep his edge if and when Red Bull close the speed gap to the Mercedes.

  14. nidzovski said on 21st April 2014, 11:03

    Rocky to Vettel: “Think about boxing”.
    This what was Vettel thinking at that moment: Grudge Match (2013) – IMDb

  15. Sam (@) said on 21st April 2014, 11:45

    I said it before and I’ll say it again. I doubt Rosberg will be a proper challenger to Hamilton. He’ll have to learn to be happy with those second places and a win when Hamiloton is struck by bad fortune.

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