Shanghai: Race Day

The Race:

Have you recovered yet? Are you breathing? Did you watch the replay? It’s drama, drama, drama in Shanghai today right from the word go. I spoke about Malaysia being the amuse bouche, what do we make of this race, where does this fit into the 2011 F1 banquet? Examining the content and finish, it’s a snappy little speech that wakes the table up and gets the conversation started, this might not be a simple continuation of the last party. Of course the big story overnight was Mark Webber’s dismal qualifying, but it’s all a big competition and McLaren wanted a piece of headlines too. Minutes from the cut off point to join the grid, all hell breaks loose in Lewis Hamilton’s garage.

It looks like a walkover for Vettel as he lines up for his 18th pole position of his career, but from the start it doesn’t go his way and both McLarens take him easily.Vettel regains the lead soon enough but a strange pit stop (see rookie mistake below) and then Rosberg’s daring occupation of P1 sees his third win of the year slip away. Then he had his dreams stamped on, torn up and set on fire by the might of Lewis Hamilton. Albeit his infinitely more reliable KERS unit helped the eventual winner, it was a truly stunning exhibition of racing that he counts among his top 3.

Where others struggled with tyres, pit strategies today paid dividends for Webber, a tough stint on the primes were succeeded by lap after lap of making the most of his stockpile of options. Which raises the question, on this wide open tracks does qualification matter? Why sacrifice those soft tyres for a good grid position, if you can make more than enough up during the race? Button loses out on the last lap when the fresher tyres of Webber catch him, the Aussie then had Vettel in his sights…if only there were a couple more laps.

Nico Rosberg was another driver who should be pleased with his day, on track for a podium until warning about ‘critical fuel’ levels forced him to take it easier, however he gave Red Bull a shock when he lead Vettel. Fellow Mercedes driver also had a good driver, with flashes of his old form when battling drivers down the straights, closing many a door on attempts to overtake him. Concerns over whether Mercedes had the pace to be competitive today are unfounded, expect more. Felipe Massa had the measure of Fernando Alonso today, he stayed out in front of the Spaniard and fell victim to an inflexible 2 stop strategy. Alonso also had a scare when his DRS opened in an unauthorised area, it seemed to be an intergal fault as no investigation was started by the stewards.

The field was strong today, and the only retirement was due to a pitstop error from the Toro Rosso garage when fitting a rear tyre to Alguersuari’s car. Losing it soon after leaving the pits he only manages 10 laps, shame after such a good day yesterday. Renault’s podium winning team didn’t get a foothold in this race, whereas Williams finally got both of their cars to the finish line. Sergio Perez went out guns blazing today, clouting Heidfeld early on and skimming alongside Sutil, which earned him a drive through. Finally, on an awesome note Team Lotus had a very good day, Heikki Kovalainen finished 16th and Jarno Trulli’s fastest lap was better than anything Alonso put down.

Results:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:36:58.226
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:37:03.424
3 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:37:05.781
Fastest Lap Mark Webber Red Bull 1:38.993

Best Driver:

(Photo credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images Europe)

Mark Webber again takes this honour, a ballsy race overall despite a sticky start, saw him blitz through the field from 18th to a stunning P3 on the podium, without KERS. Strategy might have punished him on Saturday, but that extra set of softer tyres were a gift to the Australian, who had the vultures circling before the race began. He’s got a lot to prove to the world and his team, but he just shows today that when he’s up against it, he can deal with the pressure.

Best Team:

McLaren earned this today, by an immense last minute recovery from a possible race ending fuel leak. It was revealed that Hamilton’s fuel tank had been accidentally overfilled, and the ensuing chaos of draining it could have flummoxed the team and upset the balance. Hamilton remained calm and collected as he waited, while fans went into meltdown, ever the professionals they got the job done and posted the car onto the grid in time. Class act from McLaren today.

Eddie Jordan moment of inappropriateness:

Again this doesn’t go to an incident on the track,  but way off instead. During the BBC F1 Forum @jakehumphreyf1 and David Coulthard spoke to a rear wheel gunner from Red Bull Racing, and rather bravely asked for his opinion on the mistake from Jenson Button (see below…). It remains to be seen if he was joking, but his response was a rather serious accusation of sneaky McLaren tactics and even snuck in the ‘c’ word. Whisper it…cheating.

Rookie Mistake:

Hats off to Jenson Button, had to add this category just for him today! The Brit was looking good across the weekend, but regardless of where he finished today it would his mistake during a pitstop that would be remembered. On lap 15 Button pulled into the pits ahead of Vettel, but obviously had something on his mind…perhaps a seat at Red Bull? Pulling into the Red Bull slot he was rapidly waved on, by Vettel’s front jack man, before finally parking in front of the McLaren garages. Doh!

Rookie of the Race:

Photo credit: Force India

Paul di Resta just missed out on the points with a P11, making him the highest placed rookie today, and also continued his impressive run of finishing ahead of Sutil. Things must be getting a bit uncomfortable for Adrian now, Paul has stepped out of DTM and into single seaters with a flourish.

Banzaiiiii!!!!:

I could give the Banzaiiiii!!!! award to the race itself, yet more crazy levels of overtaking compared to what we saw last season led to another breaktaking race, but this would be a cop out! Not only that, if things continue like this, It will be as boring as Vettel winning all the time…hang on a minute. Webber pretty much took everyone one during his rise through the rankings, he certainly got the best of 7 time champion Schumacher with a dummy move, and ploughed through the field with blistering times on his sets of the option tyre. He’ll share this with Hamilton for his smooth, race winning, overtake of Jenson Button.

The 1000 word picture:

Say what?:

“Beware of Webber.” Red Bull on the charge, Jenson Button recieves a warning…

“I was looking down and when I looked back up I could see I was in the wrong place.” Jenson Button on his brief stint as a Red Bull driver.

“I’m still struggling for words – that really was one of my best races.” Lewis Hamilton on his stunning race.

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