Race Report: Chinese GP

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Chinese Grand Prix:

The Grid:

It was an interesting qualifying session as rain always make things more…unique. Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole position with banker lap and sublime skill. One could argue that the win in Bahrain and Nico Rosberg’s cooked penultimate lap as well as his spin on the final lap of Q3 qualifying is a sign that the usually unflappable German is, in this case, feeling the pressure of a punishingly consistent Hamilton.

Lewis’s pole made him the new British record holder for pole positions and the 4th on the all-time list. Things were looking up for the champion as long as their dry weather setup for Sunday’s race proved to be effective given Saturday’s wet qualifying session.

The Lights:

Lights out

Another epic start for Felipe Massa in his Mercedes-powered Williams meant that the Brazilian was a moving target for a wheel-bash with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Amazing neither car was seriously damaged and continued the race unfazed. Massa’s teammate faced a similar situation with his good start touching wheels with Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg in a slightly more violent collision but as with his teammate, the Finn and German were able to continue the race.

The Race:

Lewis Hamilton scored his third win in a row—the first time that has happened in his career—and has now equaled the total of Jim Clark and Niki Lauda with 25 victories.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso said his podium finish of 3rd was a bit of a surprise but he wasted no time in dedicating that performance to erstwhile team boss Stefano Domenicali in what could be construed as a nice gesture or a narrative against the rash decision made by Ferrari to replace the affable Italian as team leader. Alonso said:

“Obviously this podium is dedicated to him in a way because probably all the parts from now until July or August are coming from the team working under Stefano, so hopefully we can give some great Sundays at home in front of the TV to Stefano.”

Fair enough. Point taken.

As for Force India, they lost second place in the Constructor’s Championship due to a 6th and 9th place finish for Nico hulkenberg and Sergio Perez respectively but the team still managed to perform well at a track that most likely wasn’t flattering their chassis.

Red Bull seemed to benefit from the wet weather in qualifying but also found pace in the dry. If intra-team battles are roosting at Mercedes between Hamilton and Rosberg, things could be heating up in Red Bull as Sebastian Vettel was, once again, asked to let his quicker teammate by. Vettel complied but not without some reluctance. Daniel Ricciardo has been getting the measure of his 4-time champion teammate since the season began and things may be starting to weigh on the German’s mind.

McLaren were positively throttled this weekend by the competition and it was a sad narrative on the current state of performance for a team who enjoyed such a promising start to the season with two podium finishes in Australia.

Win:

Win

The highlight of the race had to be the resurgence of Ferrari and Red Bull giving some hope that there will be someone to compete with Mercedes for the title. Red Bull’s pace certainly improved and so did Ferrari’s but was it the circuit that flattered the cars? Still, Mercedes was 13mph faster down the straights than both Ferrari and Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton was pulling over 1 second per lap on anyone else in the field.

Lewis’s drive was sublime and his race craft was completely managed and measured. He guarded the car with the right amount of mechanical sympathy and that always helps when you are in such a dominant car. You have time to stretch your legs, run in clean air and measure the performance needed to remain in front. Not to mention his new record as most Poles and 25 victories.

Fail:

Fail

All of those folks castigating F1 critics over the 2014 regulations were making hay in Bahrain but there was a muted silence from those Twitter accounts today as the race produced a rather pedestrian affair. The moral high ground was used to pummel naysayers two weeks ago but silence has been the better part of valor on Sunday in hopes that no one will notice the cars sounded lame and the racing was processional—nothing to see here folks. As we said two weeks ago, the first two races do not a season make and nor does the Bahrain Grand Prix. Time will tell and patience is needed.

Also in the fail category are those who berated Sebastian Vettel for being a marginally talented driver in what is clearly the best car on the grid and that his victories were somewhat hollow affairs given the clear, comprehensive domination of his Red Bull RB..whatever.

At some point this season, you’ll be asked to defend those words when Lewis Hamilton makes chopped liver from the entire field in a car that is twice as dominant as any Red Bull Sebastian ever had. I’m sure somehow things are different now though, right? Somehow this is a true testament to championship driving where Seb’s was just pure luck and a car that nearly drove itself. That old finger of blame always turns upon itself doesn’t it?

WTH?

WTH

The early flag was a real buzz kill as Kamui Kobayashi drove his heart out to put a terrific pass on Jules Bianchi for 17th place only to learn that the race had actually ended two laps ago. No one is asking for a Doctor of Flag-waving but good grief, can we not count to 56?

I was trying to figure out what Lewis was doing on the grid formation lap when he was literally crawling to the start line. I love the idea of getting time and ensuring that his car doesn’t sit on the grid for long while waiting for the Marussia’s to stage but that had to be dangerously close to testing Charlie Whiting’s patience and we know how that goes over these days.

David Hobbs’s tie. Enough said.

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