2011 Chinese GP – Race Analysis

Lewis Hamilton put the brakes on Vettel’s golden run, beating the Red Bull driver in the Chinese Grand Prix, but more importantly, the former world champion won the race on merit and not because it was handed to him on a platter. Red Bull admittedly didn’t get their KERS working as well as the other teams, but then after Sebastian’s domination in all the practice sessions and qualifying, a McLaren victory was hardly expected.

It was certainly one of the best races in recent years, with every driver fighting tooth and nail to the chequered flag, producing some fantastic wheel-to-wheel racing all the way to the backmarkers. The cars are quite closely bunched up in 2011, with hardly a few tenths in performance separating the top and bottom of the midfield pack. Add to that the KERS and DRS this year, and what we have is a tremendous increase in overtaking action – it appears as though Formula 1 has finally found a way to keep the racing real and also spectacular.

At the start, Button and Hamilton got away cleanly, while Sebastian stuttered for a moment – and the result was a McLaren 1-2 at the end of the opening lap. Among the others, Fernando Alonso and Vitaly Petrov didn’t get good starts, while Michael Schumacher, Adrian Sutil and di Resta got away brilliantly. Mark Webber didn’t make any progress when the lights went out and by the time he finished his stint on the hard tyres, he was still fighting to stay in the top 15.

But the real masterstroke in the first stint was one of Ross Brawn’s typically brilliant pitstop strategies – bringing in Rosberg very early for his first stop, giving him a clear track to stretch his legs while the leading cars were squabbling among each other. The result was that the Mercedes led most of the middle part of the race, and had a real chance of challenging for the win. But his car was not as quick as the others in the final stint, and he fell to fifth. But given their woeful start to the season, the Mercedes team will be relieved to have extracted the full potential of the car over a weekend finally. Michael Schumacher drove impressively to 8th, and had some fantastic battles with Fernando Alonso and the Force Indias along the way.

The race came alive when Vettel overtook Hamilton before his pitstop, and then of all people, Button drove through the Red Bull pit area, slowing his pitstop and handing the place over to Vettel once again. It seemed as though lady luck was on Seb’s side, firmly. What Vettel didn’t expect was Felipe Massa to fight him strongly, and it was a great improvement from the Brazilian, who remained in contention for the win until Ferrari chose a 2 stop strategy, and lost a mountain of places to the faster cars on fresher tyres. Alonso was quite disappointing, losing a place at the start, and it was a strange decision to stay on a two stop strategy when the Ferrari was quite slower compared to the McLarens.

Driver of the day was unquestionably Mark Webber, who drove a scintillating race from 18th to 3rd at the flag. Having saved three sets of soft tyres after being ousted in Q1, Webber endured the first stint on uncompetitive rubber, but from then on, he set the track alight, overtaking everyone in sight and catching Button on the penultimate lap. It was a magnificent fightback from the Aussie who had been having a disastrous weekend till then. Despite a complete failure of his KERS, the Red Bull driver was unstoppable especially after bolting on soft tyres in the last stint, when everyone else was on the harder compound tyre.

Toro Rosso flattered to deceive, with their cars slipping down the order as the race progressed, and Jaime Alguersuari was the sole retirement of the race, when a wheel fell off his car after coming out of the pits. Lotus had their most competitive showing ever, beating a Sauber and Williams on the way to 16th and 19th at the end, with Kovalainen ahead of Trulli. Even the HRT cars put up a good performance, being lapped only twice in the race. In fact the Lotus cars were lapped only once, which points to a solid improvement from the team, and it is only a matter of time till they start fighting with Williams and Toro Rosso.

At the front, Vettel’s 2 stopper proved to be a mistake, with Lewis Hamilton catching up to him with a three stop strategy and passing him with ease. It was a clever move by Lewis to conserve his soft tyres for the race, despite the chance of losing out in qualifying. It proved to be a great decision, and ultimately allowed him to win the race. Sebastian will have take notice of this cunning bit of planning – it is clear that strategical brilliance like this will make a big difference to the 2011 championship fight.

Overall, the Shanghai International Circuit has proved to be one of the best tracks ever to be added to the burgeoning F1 calendar, giving us some truly phenomenal motor racing over the years. And as the teams leave China, Red Bull will be fully aware that McLaren has a car capable of beating the RB7 in a straight race. And in Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, the team arguably the ideal driver line up in Formula 1 right now. Will Mercedes turn up the wick from Turkey onwards or was this a flash in the pan? Can Ferrari improve the car fast enough to get back in the title race? There is a three week break from now till the Turkish GP, but make no mistake, every team will be working flat out to improve the car and hit the ground running when the European leg of the season commences. Ciao until then.


One Response to “2011 Chinese GP – Race Analysis”

  1. Hello your site has what i was looking for . Excellent work with your blog by the way .

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