China analysis - Mercedes make the breakthrough 16 Apr 2012
When Mercedes took over Brawn - then reigning champions - ahead of the 2010 season, they probably didnt expect to have to wait quite so long for a win. The waiting at last paid off on Sunday, as Nico Rosberg - in his 111th Grand Prix - finally scored the victory everyone knew he was capable of. More encouraging still for Ross Brawns squad, the nature of his triumph suggested that in their innovative W03 car, they may now have a genuine title contender. We take a team-by-team look at the China form book
Nico Rosberg, P1
Michael Schumacher, retired lap 13, loose wheel
You would never have put money on Nico Rosberg and Mercedes winning what was always going to be a tyre race, but they didnt just win but dominated. The German thus became only the second son of a world champion to win a Grand Prix, and scored Mercedes first victory in the teams current form and the Silver Arrows first since Fangio won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza back in 1955. It was a superb and unexpected result that confirmed Ross Brawns claim that they had got to the bottom of their tyre wear issues from Australia and Malaysia.
It was disappointing that Schumacher retired when a wheel was incorrectly fitted in his first pit stop (for which the team were later fined for an unsafe release from the pit lane), as he would have challenged Rosberg strongly in a likely Mercedes 1-2. The success, which owed something to the teams unique DRS front and rear wing system which was declared legal by the FIA over the weekend after a protest from Lotus, might well signal a consistent challenge for the title for the team in 2012.
Jenson Button, P2
Lewis Hamilton, P3
Button was delayed 6.5s in his final stop by a rear-wheel problem, and that put him back out in the middle of the second-place train rather than ahead of it. Its debatable whether he might have been able to close down Rosberg without that. Hamilton rued the gearbox change that dropped him from second on the grid to seventh for the start, and said without that he could have done better than his third place - his third of the year. But his consistency puts him at the top of the drivers points table, two ahead of Button, as McLaren extended their constructors lead.
Mark Webber, P4
Sebastian Vettel, P5
Three races in, and Red Bull have yet to win. Webbers chances looked to have taken a dive when he was the first to stop, as early as the sixth lap, to switch from the soft Pirellis to the mediums, but it was a great strategy. Despite a near-miss repeat of his Valencian backflip of 2010 when he wheelied his RB8 over the Turn 13 kerb on one lap, the Australian made the most of a three-stop strategy to snatch fourth from Vettel on the 54th lap. The world champion went for a two stopper in his RB8, which was of course still equipped with the old exhaust system after his disappointing qualifying, and was running second until the 52nd lap when his tyres just went past their best and he fell prey first to Button, then Hamilton and, finally, Webber.
Romain Grosjean, P6
Kimi Raikkonen, P14
Raikkonen was right in the thick of the fight for the podium and was running second for a long time before his extended final stint took its toll on his tyres and saw him plunge suddenly from the runner-up slot to an unhappy 14th. Grosjean was also right in the fight and brought his E20 home a great sixth to score his first world championship points in style.
Bruno Senna, P7
Pastor Maldonado, P8
On the eve of Sir Frank Williams 70th birthday his drivers put in great performances to take seventh and eighth places right in the thick of the second-place train, and an excellent haul of 10 points. Sennas performance, in particular, underlined his strong run in the previous race in Malaysia, while Maldonado kept his cool for his first points of the year. The Venezuelan also set the fourth-fastest race lap.
Fernando Alonso, P9
Felipe Massa, P13
Ferraris lack of top speed kept Alonso and Massa in the thick of the traffic for the whole race, as both struggled unsuccessfully to break free. That in turn hurt the tyres, so it was a vicious circle. Ninth, behind the Williams, was the best Alonso could do, but while Massa was only 13th there were signs that he was making progress in his personal battle with a confusing car. His best race lap, though only 14th fastest, was only a tenth off Alonsos.
Kamui Kobayashi, P10
Sergio Perez, P11
Sauber had a brutally disappointing day which saw Kobayashi fade immediately from his third place on the grid thanks to a slow launch. He was overtaken by Perez, who led again briefly and looked racey on the soft Pirellis. But both cars lost performance on the mediums, and a clutch problem further delayed the Mexican in each of his two stops.
Paul di Resta, P12
Nico Hulkenberg, P15
Force India had a disappointing race, and Di Resta said he just lacked the sheer pace to get himself into the thick of the fight for points. Hulkenberg made a poor start with too much wheelspin, and picked up some debris damage to his front wing on the opening lap. That gave him massive understeer until the nose was changed at the first stop, and cost him any chance of fighting for a decent result.
Jean-Eric Vergne, P16
Daniel Ricciardo, P17
Vergne started from the pit lane after the team reverted to a Melbourne/Sepang set-up on his car. The French rookie drove like a demon to make up places and to set the second-fastest race lap, but Ricciardo had a tough opening stint and confirmed that here the STR7 basically lacked pace.
Vitaly Petrov, P18
Heikki Kovalainen, P23
Petrov said he got the best from his car and was pleased to avoid being lapped until the very last lap, since it demonstrated the progress the team are making. Kovalainen scrapped enthusiastically with him, but was later delayed by an undisclosed problem with the right rear wheel.
Timo Glock, P19
Charles Pic, P20
The teams third two-car finish of 2012 kept them in 10th place overall, and they were also boosted by another superb performance by rookie Pic who pushed experienced team mate Glock all the way to finish just three-tenths of a second behind. Further underlining the quiet progress being made here, they werent far behind Petrovs Caterham.
Pedro de la Rosa, P21
Narain Karthikeyan, P22
HRT were very happy to finish the race, make progress and have De la Rosa only a lap down in a hard-fought race.
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