The Chinese GP is becoming the most likely F1 race to be affected by rain. This was the 6th Chinese GP and the third wet one … The 6th Chinese GP also produced the 6th winner after Barrichello, Alonso, Schumacher, Raikkonen and Hamilton. But let’s have a look who were the other winners and losers in Shanghai.
This does not need much explanation. The car worked very well for them in dry, it worked great in the wet. They had some technical issues with a “5 EURO” part of their gearbox (part that can be changed without penalty) but managed to sort it out and went on to dominate the weekend. Their race strategy was aggressive with short first stint. It was probably planned for dry race (with a short super soft tyre first stint) but worked for them nicely on Sunday as well. This may not be the last word from Red Bull this season with Adrian Newey working on major diffuser related upgrades of the Red Bull car.
This was the maiden race win for Red Bull Racing and they did in the same 1-2 fashion as BMW Sauber in Montreal last year.
Although their winning streak has ended they must be reasonably satisfied with the result of the race. As Ross Brawn said – “Being disappointed with 3rd and 4th says it all” . Other than the tricky surface the one critical point was the safety car after Trulli – Kubica accident that could have ruined Button’s race. He was yet to pit at that stage. But he made his pit stop right away, while the gaps between the cars were still big but all cars already moving slowly (to observe the safety car speed limit). He returned back behind Vettel, in the position he would probably have anyway after first pit stop should there be no safety car. Barrichello lost a bit more at that stage but problems of other drivers helped him to get back to 4th place. Barrichello also recorded the fastest lap of the race, the first one for Brawn this season.
McLaren as a team must be happy with how the things turned out for them in China. Both cars in points when perhaps only Hamilton had the pace to get there under normal racing conditions. At the same time however Hamilton must be pulling his hair. For him this race was the opportunity lost. He would not be too far from podium places if not for his spins. It was very different Hamilton than the one who dominated wet Silverstone last year…
Sebastien Buemi finished in points again after solid performance. He was running in the points for big part of the race but lost few positions after his pit stop. At the end he benefited from Sutil’s misfortune but as the saying goes, to finish first (in this case in points), first you have to finish. Buemi had one close call when he hit Vettel behind the safety car but luckily for both the Fuji 07 scenario did not repeat itself in Shanghai 2009.
Now the losers:
Williams have one of the fastest cars out there, they should be fighting for podiums at least. But after three races all they have are 3.5 points … Only Ferrari and Force India have less (zero). They have to stop making those wrong calls, their current technical advantage over Ferrari, Renault, McLaren, Toro Rosso may not last for too long …
The whole weekend was only going from bad to worse for Robert Kubica. The fruitless KERS experiment on Friday, Q1 elimination on Saturday, the climb over Trulli’s Toyota on Sunday … Nick Heidfeld was at least running near and at the points scoring positions most of the time. But then he hit some debris left on track by Adrian Sutil, damaged the car, lost some pace and few positions. Zero points for the team …
Timo Glock picked up 2 points for the team but that must be very disappointing result for one of the pre-race favourites. It was impressive performance from Glock, climbing from the back of the grid to 7th place. But the team with such a strong package as Toyota has at the moment should be leaving races with much more than 2 points … Jarno Trulli had a race to forget. He kept loosing positions from the start. Then he found himself just ahead of Robert Kubica and soon just under Robert Kubica. His rear wing and big chunk of the shark fin was gone, Trulli’s race over …
Fernando Alonso keeps praising the progress the team made with the R29. But it was very obvious that the front row on the grid was only result of super light fuel load. It may have worked for him in normal conditions but the race started behind the safety car and before the proper racing began Alonso had to pit for fuel. That relegated him to the back of the grid and ruined his race. He did get back to the points on lap 28 but lost few places after a spin later on. Nelson Piquet is not making his life in F1 any easier. Flavio Briatore’s face on the pit wall was not too happy after Piquet’s crash out of the race.
Two weeks ago we talked about the worst start to the season by Ferrari since 1992. Now we need to go almost a further decade back to find 3 pointless races at the start of the season for Ferrari. Last time that happened was in 1980 (Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve) and 1981 (Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi). The points however were well within the reach for the Maranello team in Shanghai. Massa drove excellent race. He was on one stop strategy, running heavy but making his way up. He was running in 3rd place when his car came to a stop. Kimi Raikkonen was on one stop strategy as well. He spent his first stint safely within the point scoring positions but dropped deep back after his pitstop a never recovered the lost ground. The only consolation for the team must be that thanks to Sutil’s crash they are not the only pointless team …
Only 6 laps separated Force India from their first ever F1 points but then Adrian Sutil spun off the track, hit the wall and the dream was over. To Sutil’s defence it has to be said that he had to push the car to the limit as there was a chasing pack right there behind him. Taking it easy was not an option for him if his goal were the points. At the end he lost it … But considering how much off the pace the Force India cars were on Saturday his race performance was impressive.
Photo: Bridgestone Motorsports