Today’s 2012 Formula 1 UBS Chinese Grand Prix gave us two firsts and an edge of the seat nail biting race. Nico Rosberg was on fire all weekend long with his first career pole qualifying result and the first career victory.
Although Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren took second qualifying position, he dropped back five spots to seventh due a gear box change penalty. The regulations state that a gear box must last at least five Grand Prix weekends. Hamilton’s penalty allowed Michael Schumacher to start the race on the front row along his Mercedes teammate. This was also the first time since 1955 Italian Grand Prix that Mercedes factory “silver arrow” cars locked out the front row.
Saturday’s qualifying day was not without surprises.
The biggest of which was Sebastian Vettel’s decision to deny the latest aero design changes and revert to parts he used in a previous race. This drastic decision did not help him as he qualified outside the top ten in eleventh position. The other out of norm qualifying performance came from Jenson Button when he qualified sixth. On the positive side, Kamui Kobayashi and Kimi Raikkonen showed great pace and qualified forth and fifth respectively. The Lotus and Sauber teams continued the season with strong qualifying results, while the Ferrari factory team continues to struggle. Fernando Alonzo managed a ninth qualifying spot, while Felipe Massa improved somewhat but still started the race in twelfth. The Mercedes factory cars continued their strong qualifying performances this year thanks to their DRS duct aero trickery, and cooler ambient temperatures. According to Nico – the cooler temperatures subdued Mercedes’ tire punishing character and allowed for faster and more consistent pace.
Nico launched his car like he was shot out of the gun and never really looked back all race long. He had a comfortable cushion for most of the race and finished more than 20 sec ahead of second place Jenson Button. The rain never materialized during the race, but it did not diminish the exciting wheel to wheel racing as the drivers fought for the remaining top ten finishes. The pit crews caused some problems this weekend. Mercedes crew forced Michael to retire from the race after the first pit stop when the front right wheel was not secured correctly. Coincidentally, Michael’s car was the only one that did not see the checkered flag. Jenson also had some pit stop trouble. He was running in second and positioned well enough to mount a challenge on the leading Rosberg. However, he lost a few seconds during his third and last stop as the left rear tire change did not go as it should. As a result, he dropped back a few spots and had to claw his way up to a second place finish.
The latter part of the race was especially intense as about a dozen drivers were in a train together, often separated by less than half a second between each other. Kimi was leading this train with about ten laps left in the race. Then the “Iceman” found himself in a nightmare scenario as his degrading tires caused him to drop ten positions in just two laps. He eventually hobbled in at fourteenth. Vettel met nearly the same fate, although his decline was not as catastrophic. He went from passing Kimi for second to finishing fifth behind his teammate Webber.
It was very exciting to watch these top notch drivers sparring in wheel to wheel duals. Speaking of teammate racing. Certainly Sauber, Lotus, and Red Bull teams collectively skipped heartbeats when watching their teammates tangling on track in the closing laps. Kamui mounted a daring pass on teammate Sergio and Webber showed great nerve going wheel to wheel against Vettel.
This season is measuring up to all the hype and is very entertaining to watch. Three different manufacturers took wins in as many races, and championship leaders continue to swap. Here is to many more action packed races!
Click HERE for complete race results.
Andre Smirnov is a Software Engineer by trade and a life-long automotive enthusiast. On the weekends – you may find him at a car show, an auction, watching a race, or tinkering in the garage. When not working or spending time with the family – he often scours the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.