The smog covered 2008 Chinese GP was a boring affair that brought us back to the dull F1 reality. The quickest car started from the pole position and bar some mishap it never looked like anybody was going to challenge Lewis Hamilton. There is very little to say here. Hamilton was simply the best for the whole weekend and he won the race. He extended his championship lead to 7 points. This is the same lead he had last year ahead of the final race of the season and so same as last year it is now Hamilton’s title to throw away.
His team mate Heikki Kovalainen had again all the bad luck. First the tyre failure then retirement. But, again, as often this year, even without the bad luck he was disappointing. While Hamilton in the same car was pulling away from everybody Kovalainen was clearly outpaced by both Ferraris and even Fernando Alonso’s Renault. I am wondering if the 1 year extension of his contract with Mclaren is not just a stop gap before Nico Rosberg’s contract with Williams is up …
Ferraris had trouble to match Hamilton’s pace since Friday. Many people suspected that they are simply sandbagging. But then came qualifying and it became clear that this may not be Ferrari’s weekend. They kept experimenting for the whole weekend with the set up of their cars, even putting the shark fins on and off. The fact that Massa drove the race with very differently looking car than Raikkonen suggests that they simply could not figure out what does and what does not work for them in Shanghai. At the end they did the best they could – the perfect damage limitation. Kimi Raikkonen stepped aside and allowed Felipe Massa to finish 2nd. Sure there will be those saying that these were blatant team orders. But frankly, did anybody expect that Kimi would take 2 points away from Massa ?
Renault now do seem to be the third fastest team on the grid. Fernando Alonso had no problems to overtake Heikki Kovalainen and later even managed to match the race pace of Ferraris. His fourth place in China alone means that the teams target – 4th place in constructors table – has been achieved. Nelson Piquet added his bit with a point for the 8th place. It sure did help him that Bourdais and Trulli took each other out at the start but it is the points that count. He did not do his F1 future career any harm in China but whether this is enough for Flavio to keep him is another question.
BMW Sauber continues to have difficulties with setting up their cars. After Heidfeld’s qualifying failure in Japan it was Kubica’s turn in Shanghai. Starting from P11 was not the best position to keep his title hopes alive. He gained several places in the race but finishing 6th meant Kubica’s elimination from the drivers title fight. This was the weekend when all worked better for Nick Heidfeld. He outqualified Robert Kubica and finished one place ahead of him in 5th. Another solid point haul for BMW Sauber but they are now also out of the constructors title race. Nick Heidfeld still holds his 100% finishing record this season.
Toyota probably hoped for more. Two points by Timo Glock were not enough to keep the team in the race for the 4th place in Constructors Championship. These 2 points however elevated Glock into top 10 of the drivers table. Jarno Trulli’s race ended after he got hit by Sebastien Bourdais and so we lost the chance to see the Trulli train this time.
It has been a while since Toro Rosso left empty handed. It looked good for them after qualifying with both cars again in Q3. But Sebastien Bourdais destroyed his race right at the start with that not exactly smart move into Trulli’s rear. Sebastian Vettel was doing OK during his first stint but his car was not the same in the second one (team blames it on graining). But his race was ruined even before that when his front wheel got stuck during the pit stop loosing Vettel valuable time. Still, Toro Rosso again finished ahead of Red Bull Racing and they are well set for the 6th place in constructors table.
The only highlight for Honda was Barrichello making it into Q2 but this not an achievement a team like Honda should be celebrating … Williams had weekend to forget. Force India seems destined to finish the season with zero points but Sutil would probably not mind to actually finish some races … Chinese GP was his 11th retirement of the season …
Bring on Brazil !
Photos: Daimler Media, Shell Motorsport, Renault/LAT, BMW Motorsports