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China analysis - McLaren strike back in Shanghai 18 Apr 2011

race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 17 April 2011 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 17 April 2011 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W02 and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari 150 Italia battle for position. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 17 April 2011 Jaime Alguersuari (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 17 April 2011 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW33 leads Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Team Lotus T128.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 17 April 2011

Saturday in China told a pretty familiar tale, with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel clinching pole yet again. Surely it was just a matter of course that the Australian and Malaysian race winner would strike three-times lucky in Shanghai? Not so. A slow start for Vettel, a flurry of pit stops, an array of tyre strategies and some pretty mean overtakes mixed up the field. Amidst all the drama it was McLaren's Lewis Hamilton who kept his head to secure his first win since last August’s Belgian Grand Prix. An honourable mention must also go to Red Bull’s Mark Webber who transformed the misery of 18th on the grid into a podium triumph. We take a team-by-team look at how a memorable Shanghai race played out...

Lewis Hamilton, P1
Jenson Button, P4

After saving a set of tyres in qualifying, Hamilton was all fired up for the race but nearly didn’t make it when his MP4-26 wouldn’t start in the garage. He made it out to the grid by 30s, chased team mate Button to begin with, then got the hammer down when it mattered in the final stint to reel in Button, Rosberg and Vettel after a superb performance that he rated as one of his top three. McLaren’s turnaround of their pre-season testing performance has been remarkable. Button led away at the start, survived a crazy moment in his first pit stop on Lap 13 when he accidentally stopped in the following Vettel’s pit, but later admitted that he simply didn’t have the pace to hang on for a podium finish.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, P2
Mark Webber, P3

Vettel admitted that his choice of a two-stop race killed his chances, as his tyres simply could not resist the challenge of Hamilton late in the race. He also had problems with his KERS again and with radio communication. Webber, meanwhile cunningly started on the hard Pirellis, stayed patient when he was still only 17th when he switched to soft tyres on Lap 10. He then drove brilliantly on the two fresh sets he’d saved in qualifying to set fastest lap and catch everyone bar Hamilton and Vettel by the flag. Red Bull might not have won, but second and third was still a worryingly strong performance.

Nico Rosberg, P5
Michael Schumacher, P8

Mercedes made a step forward this weekend, no mistake, and Rosberg did an unobtrusively good job to lead twice. Ultimately he didn’t have the pace to stay there or even in the top three, but fifth for him and eighth after a feisty race (especially with Fernando Alonso and Webber) for Schumacher brought a useful number of points.

Felipe Massa, P6
Fernando Alonso, P7

Ferrari looked pretty strong at one stage as Massa led, having completely overshadowed Alonso. The Spaniard reverted to the 150 Italia’s standard spec after being the only one to try it in practice, but got nowhere near his team mate this time. As the race went into its final stages both cars were struggling as, like Red Bull, Ferrari came to realise that a two-stop strategy was not the way to go.

Vitaly Petrov, P9
Nick Heidfeld, P12

Like the Vettel camp and Ferrari, Renault opted for two-stop strategies for Heidfeld and Petrov, but neither was really able to recover from their poor grid positions. Petrov took two more points, but Heidfeld suffered from a combination of running in midfield traffic for much of the race and intermittent KERS problems.

Kamui Kobayashi, P10
Sergio Perez, P17

Another point for Sauber came courtesy of Kobayashi’s usual spirited performance on a two-stop strategy, despite the fact a brush with another (unidentified) car early on put a hole in his C30’s nose. Perez had a less successful day, being penalised down to 17th after clashes with Heidfeld and Sutil.

Force India
Paul di Resta, P11
Adrian Sutil, P15

Yet again Di Resta was on target to score points after another terrific performance in which he comfortably dealt with the challenge of team mate Sutil. Unfortunately, his tyres were so worn by the end that he could not resist Petrov and Kobayashi, and was lucky to make the flag after Heidfeld crashed into his Force India. Sutil was also in the wars, being brutally shoved aside by an errant Perez and dropping to a 15th-place finish.

Rubens Barrichello, P13
Pastor Maldonado, P18

Williams had another disastrous Grand Prix, in which two-stopping Barrichello spent much of his time battling with Kovalainen’s Lotus before finally pulling away. Three-stopping Maldonado kept out of trouble, but made no impression. There are changes afoot here.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, P14
Jaime Alguersuari, retired Lap Nine, lost wheel

Toro Rosso’s great qualifying performance came to nothing, as neither driver made a good start and both were soon swamped. Alguersuari lasted only nine laps before the right-rear wheel fell off his car after his pit stop, and he was later fined for his Gilles Villeneuve-like attempts to three-wheel back to the pits. Buemi soldiered on to an unhappy 14th-place finish, having to make an unscheduled stop for a new front wing after worsening understeer became too much.

Heikki Kovalainen, P16
Jarno Trulli, P19

Two-stopping Team Lotus were delighted with Kovalainen’s performance racing genuinely in the midfield, feeling they had come of age. The Finn went on to claim 16th, with Jarno Trulli underlining the T128’s reliability with 19th.

Jerome D'Ambrosio, P20
Timo Glock, P21

In a race they just wanted to get through prior to the major upgrade for Turkey, Virgin were happy to finish both cars. D’Ambrosio was happy enough with his race, but Glock said a change to a three-stop strategy because of unexpectedly high rear-tyre degradation didn’t work because he encountered so many blue flags.

Vitantonio Liuzzi, P22
Narain Karthikeyan, P23

HRT were very happy with their upgrade this weekend, and even happier to get both cars to the finish which was the overall aim. Liuzzi didn’t make it easy for himself after jumping the start and the resultant drive-through penalty kept him at the back, but a strong drive took him past team mate Karthikeyan on their last lap.

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