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China analysis - McLaren throw down the gauntlet 19 Apr 2010

Race winner Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren and 2nd placed Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren celebrate with Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 18 April 2010 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 18 April 2010 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 18 April 2010 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Renault R30; Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM03; Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F10 and Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) BMW Sauber C29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 18 April 2010 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Williams on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Chinese Grand Prix went against the expectations of most, as McLaren turned the tables on Red Bull just when they needed to. We’ll never know whether Button and Hamilton would have threatened the podium had the changeable weather not intervened, but the Woking team - who now lead both championships - made all the right calls and their dominant one-two left front-row starters Vettel and Webber scratching their heads and wondering what might have been. We take a team-by-team look at how the Shanghai race played out...

Jenson Button, P1
Lewis Hamilton, P2

Yet another excellent call on tyre choice won Button the race almost from the start, when he and his crew made the decision to stay out on slicks. Hamilton’s crew, meanwhile, prevaricated and he made a super-late stop to switch to intermediates on Lap Two, only to find that he needed slicks three laps later. Fortunately the field was still running under the safety car, and later a second one wiped out Button’s big lead after Jaime Alguersuari left debris all over the track. Hamilton then lost time fighting with Rosberg, but once he moved into second it became a mano a mano battle between the two McLaren drivers. By the end they had both shot their intermediate tyres, but despite a mistake that lost him a lot of time and tyre temperature, Button held on for the victory as he and McLaren moved into the lead of both world championships.

Mercedes GP
Nico Rosberg, P3
Michael Schumacher, P10

For a while Rosberg looked like a potential winner, staying on slicks like Button, but when his tyres degraded more than the Briton’s he went off the road briefly and surrendered the lead, and later could not keep Hamilton at bay. Nevertheless, another third was a strong result. Schumacher had one of the most difficult races of his career, losing each of his many battles and at times being overtaken by Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Adrian Sutil and Felipe Massa.

Fernando Alonso, P4
Felipe Massa, P9

Alonso apologised for the sole jump start of his career and benefited from the safety car running when he had to take his resultant drive-through penalty. Thereafter he drove superbly to climb back into contention, but caused the fur to fly with his passing move on team mate Massa as they headed for the pits on Lap 38. It will be interesting to monitor their relationship after that, though Massa said he’d lost momentum aquaplaning as they came out of the previous corner. The Brazilian lost a lot of ground waiting for his team mate to be serviced ahead of him, but pulled up to ninth after passing Schumacher at the end.

Robert Kubica, P5
Vitaly Petrov, P7

Renault had another strong race, with Kubica putting in his habitual smooth yet unobtrusive performance. This time he couldn’t hold off Hamilton or Alonso, but felt with better fortune with the safety cars that he could have been on the podium. Petrov was something of a revelation, at times lapping quicker than Kubica. A spin cost him places, but he got himself back together and scored an excellent seventh place, passing Schumacher along the way.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, P6
Mark Webber, P8

Red Bull got a rude awakening after Malaysia. Running second and third behind start-jumping Alonso initially, Vettel and Webber looked good, but then they got the tyre strategy wrong, Vettel got reprimanded for being silly with Hamilton when they both pitted on Lap Five to go back to slicks, and thereafter the message they received was that, this day, they just weren’t quick enough.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, P11
Vitantonio Liuzzi, retired Lap One, accident

Force India lost Liuzzi on the opening lap when his rear brakes grabbed and sent him crashing into Kamui Kobayashi and Sebastien Buemi like a bowling ball scoring a strike. Sutil again drove well, but didn’t have the pace in the conditions to be a points contender once his middle set of intermediate tyres lost their edge and began graining.

Rubens Barrichello, P12
Nico Hulkenberg, P15

Barrichello admitted that the early stop for intermediates was a hard call, and that it pretty much set the tone for his race. The rest of the pit stops calls were good, but by then it was too late to recover. Hulkenberg did a good job avoiding the first lap melee with Liuzzi, Buemi and Kobayashi, but lost ground he could never make up.

Toro Rosso
Jaime Alguersuari, P13
Sebastien Buemi, retired Lap One, accident

Buemi’s luck doesn’t seem to get any better, and being the innocent victim of the Liuzzi accident on the first lap summed up a tough weekend for the Swiss in which he had that spectacular front upright failure on Friday morning and then cousin Natacha Gachnang broke her leg when her Ford GT crashed in the GT1 race meeting at Abu Dhabi. Alguersuari had a much better time and again looked increasingly confident and quick until an off while lapping one of the HRTs damaged his Toro Rosso and his chance of more points.

Heikki Kovalainen, P14
Jarno Trulli, retired Lap 26, hydraulics

Kovalainen was delighted with the mutual decision to stay out on slicks early on and ran strongly for a while until faster cars inevitably caught him, but overall Lotus were very happy to win a nip-and-tuck fight with Hulkenberg’s Williams. Trulli ran into hydraulic problems which seemed cured after a long stop on Lap 18, but when they recurred he was forced out on Lap 26.

Bruno Senna, P16
Karun Chandhok, P17

To their credit the team brought both cars home again, but were mystified why the F110 is so much quicker, in relation to its performance on slicks against the opposition, on intermediate tyres. At times towards the end of the race, Senna and Chandhok were only 2.5 seconds slower than some of their rivals, instead of the usual five.

BMW Sauber
Pedro de la Rosa, retired Lap Eight, engine
Kamui Kobayashi, retired Lap One, accident

Yet another disaster for BMW Sauber saw Kobayashi taken out by Liuzzi on the opening lap, then De la Rosa suffering another engine-related failure when he was running fourth after seven laps. It was a sad way for outgoing technical director Willy Rampf to bid farewell to Formula One racing.

Lucas di Grassi, retired Lap Eight, clutch
Timo Glock, did not start, pneumatics

After the euphoria of completely trouble-free practice and qualifying sessions (apart from a droopy front wing caused by too low a ride height), Virgin were gutted when Glock’s VR-01 had to be pushed off the grid with a problem deep within its engine pneumatics that simply couldn’t be fixed in the time available. Di Grassi’s car already had a clutch problem and was due to start from the pits, which it did several laps late. When the replacement clutch proved troublesome, the Brazilian had to call it quits after the eighth lap.