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Top Gear Philippines

Formula 1 post-race report: Chinese Grand Prix

China was the first dry grand-prix weekend we've had this year, but the racing remained anything but straightforward. The top five finishing positions were occupied by the five world champions on the grid, their performances showing how each of them has been hailed the best in the sport.

A recap of how we're faring with our predictions: 3.5 out of 5 for the Australian GP, and 3 out of 5 for the Malaysian GP. It's a downward-spiraling trend for us; fingers crossed it doesn't hit zero before we make some headway again.

1. The safety car will grace us with its presence. Nope, Bernd Maylander scored a hat trick of sleepy Sundays. And we were so sure of getting this right given that Shanghai's opening sequence of corners practically form a roundabout. Where was the carnage?

2. Watch for pit-lane mayhem. Wrong again. Adrian Sutil's slightly flaming Force India wasn't mayhem enough. And thankfully, the rear-right wheel of Mark Webber's Red Bull came off on the track (more on this later) and not along the row of garages. Maybe our zero for this comes as a result of the first prediction not panning out: With no safety-car period prompting drivers to take advantage of a free tire swap, the pit stops were mostly staggered because of varying tire usage and strategies.

3. Lewis won't have this easy. About time we put a mark on the scoreboard. Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes had qualifying pace but not race pace, and Fernando Alonso was in the lead by the fifth lap. Ferrari had so much extra speed that Alonso and his race engineer had the time to mess with their competitors over the team radio. "No need to push," Andrea Stella told his driver. "I'm not pushing," the Spaniard replied, almost sounding amused.

At least, Hamilton held his nerve when Red Bull unleashed Sebastian Vettel on him in the last four laps with a fresh set of soft tires (they finished 0.2sec apart). For his part, Kimi Raikkonen brought home in second place a Lotus with a fractured nose.

4. The other champions will also be on the move and will improve on their starting positions. A second point. Jenson Button was at his tire-conserving best, pulling off a two-stop strategy to finish fifth. Vettel, who'd been stuck behind Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg in the first stint, went into qualifying mode for the last four laps in his pursuit of Hamilton. He's made the tail end of grands prix a bit more exciting these past couple of races, hasn't he?

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5. Webber will make it to the points. Wrong, as @AussieGrit rammed into Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso shortly after Vettel emerged from the pits right behind, had to stop for a new nose and tires, then retired from the race when his improperly fitted roller came off as he was limping back to the pits. Ironically, the loose tire nearly hit Vettel in its bid for freedom.

Post-race, Red Bull was fined for Webber's unsafe release following the botched stop, and Webber was given a three-place grid penalty for Bahrain for his collision with Vergne. Like us, he can only hope for better results in next week's race.

Total score: 2 out of 5

CHN Starting grid Race results
Pos Driver (Team) Quali (Start Tire) Driver (Team) Time/Gap
1 L. Hamilton (McLaren) 1:34.484 (S) F. Alonso (Ferrari) 1hr 36:26.945
2 K. Raikkonen (Lotus) 1:34.761 (S) K. Raikkonen (Lotus) +10.1
3 F. Alonso (Ferrari) 1:34.788 (S) L. Hamilton (Mercedes) +12.3
4 N. Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:34.861 (S) S. Vettel (Red Bull) +12.5
5 F. Massa (Ferrari) 1:34.933 (S) J. Button (McLaren) +35.2
6 R. Grosjean (Lotus) 1:35.364 (S) F. Massa (Ferrari) +40.8
7 D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) 1:35.998 (S) D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) +42.6
8 J. Button (McLaren) 2:05.673 (M) P. di Resta (Force India) +51.0
9 S. Vettel (Red Bull) no time set (M) R. Grosjean (Lotus) +53.4
10 N. Hulkenberg (Sauber) no time set (M) N. Hulkenberg (Sauber) +56.5
11 P. di Resta (Force India) 1:36.287 (M) S. Perez (McLaren) +1:03.8
12 S. Perez (McLaren) 1:36.314 (M) J. Vergne (Toro Rosso) +1:12.6
13 A. Sutil (Force India) 1:36.405 (S) V. Bottas (Williams) +1:33.8
14 P. Maldonado (Williams) 1:37.139 (S) P. Maldonado (Williams) +1:35.4
15 J. Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1:37.199 (M) J. Bianchi (Marussia) +1 lap
16 V. Bottas (Williams) 1:37.769 (M) C. Pic (Caterham) +1 lap
17 E. Gutierrez (Sauber) 1:37.990 (S) M. Chilton (Marussia) +1 lap
18 J. Bianchi (Marussia) 1:38.780 (S) G. van der Garde (Caterham) +1 lap
19 M. Chilton (Marussia) 1:39.537 (S) N. Rosberg (Mercedes) retired
20 C. Pic (Caterham) 1:39.614 (S) M. Webber (Red Bull) retired
21 G. van der Garde (Caterham) 1:39.660 (S) A. Sutil (Force India) retired
22 M. Webber (Red Bull) pit lane start (S) E. Gutierrez (Sauber) retired

Legend: M—medium compound; S—soft compound Notes: Qualifying laps 16-21 set in Q1, 11-15 in Q2, and 1-10 in Q3. M. Webber (originally P14) was disqualified from Q2 after his car failed to return to the pits under its own power and with a one-liter fuel sample; he opted to start from the pit lane. S. Vettel and N. Hulkenberg did not set Q3 times and had free choice of starting tires for the race.

CHN Championship standings
Pos Driver Points Constructor Points
1 S. Vettel 52 Red Bull 78
2 K. Raikkonen 49 Ferrari 73
3 F. Alonso 43 Lotus 60
4 L. Hamilton 40 Mercedes 52
5 F. Massa 30 McLaren 14
6 M. Webber 26 Force India 14
7 N. Rosberg 12 Toro Rosso 7
8 J. Button 12 Sauber 5
9 R. Grosjean 11    
10 P. di Resta 8    
11 D. Ricciardo 6    
12 A. Sutil 6    
13 N. Hulkenberg 5    
14 S. Perez 2    
15 J. Vergne 1    

Photo from Ferrari

Sharleen Banzon
Contributor
An inveterate Formula 1 geek, Sharleen tips the scales at just 50kg because she starves herself to save up for F1 trips.
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