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Race - Alonso storms to superb China victory 14 Apr 2013

Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrates on the podium with the champagne.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 14 April 2013 Podium and results:
1st Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari, centre.
2nd Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1, left.
3rd Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1, right.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 14 April 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04 leads from pole position at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 14 April 2013 The start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 14 April 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04 leads at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 14 April 2013 Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari, celebrates with a Ferrari flag in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 14 April 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso celebrates seventh place in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 14 April 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9 at the end of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 14 April 2013 Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 14 April 2013

Fernando Alonso delivered the perfect race for Ferrari in China on Sunday afternoon, to catapult himself back into the title hunt on a day when points-leader Sebastian Vettel could only manage fourth for Red Bull behind runner-up Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus and third-placed Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton led from the start for Mercedes, but could not contain Alonso’s challenge by the fifth lap as first the Spaniard's red car swept by on the left-hand side and then his team mate Felipe Massa's F138 snatched second place on the right-hand side.

The leaders quickly ditched their fragile soft-compound Pirelli tyres - Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on the fifth lap, Alonso and Raikkonen on the sixth, Massa on the seventh. That left all of them to run to the flag on varying sets of mediums, whereas Vettel, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg were amongst those to start on mediums and would thus have to make very late stops to switch to softs.

These out-of-kilter circumstances put Hulkenberg into the lead from laps seven to 14, but when he encountered a delay with the right-rear tyre at his pit stop it put him behind Vettel, who had been chasing the Sauber and had stopped at the same time.

By the 15th lap Button, yet to stop, led Alonso and Sergio Perez in the second McLaren, who also had yet to pit. Hamilton at that stage was fourth under pressure from Raikkonen, with Vettel sixth.

Alonso, however, caught and passed Button on the 21st lap, before pitting again on the 23rd. That temporarily put Vettel back into the lead from Hulkenberg between laps 24 and 28, when Alonso sliced confidently back in front of Vettel to set up his 31st career triumph.

As Vettel stopped for more medium tyres on the 31st lap, Hamilton and Raikkonen moved back into second and third. The Finn had collided with Perez on the 16th lap, sustaining some damage to his front wing, but over the remainder of the race the Lotus had the edge over the Mercedes despite increased understeer, and after Hamilton’s final pit stop on the 37th lap Raikkonen had the advantage.

Out front, Alonso was never really troubled, nursing his tyres yet maintaining a fierce pace. Raikkonen and Hamilton battled to keep Vettel and Button in sight, and moved ahead of them when they duly pitted for their soft tyres. Button did so first, on lap 49, followed by Vettel on 51. The German was ever so slightly delayed, and that cost him his podium chance.

Raikkonen clearly wasn’t going to catch Alonso, but he still had to keep an eye on Hamilton who was still pushing hard even though his tyres were all but finished. But it was Vettel who was really on the move as he slashed the gap mercilessly to Hamilton. It didn’t help that the Mercedes driver came across Caterham backmarker Giedo van der Garde on the last lap, and that enabled Vettel to get right on to the Mercedes’s tail.

Hamilton finally sliced by the Dutchman, but as Vettel also lunged aggressively by he ran wide in the next corner, and that was enough to save Hamilton’s podium position. By the flag he was still just two-tenths of a second ahead of Vettel as Alonso led Raikkonen home by 10.1s with Hamilton a further 2.1s adrift.

Button kept going to take a respectable fifth for McLaren ahead of Massa, who lost his early pace when he got stuck in the midfield after having to make his first stop a lap later than Alonso. Daniel Ricciardo was in the fight for points right from the start, and took his Toro Rosso to an excellent seventh, ahead of a battle between Paul di Resta’s Force India (another to stop late for softs), Romain Grosjean’s Lotus and Hulkenberg. Di Resta was lucky to survive a brush at the end of the first lap with team mate Adrian Sutil, which momentarily pushed him off the track.

Perez was 11th, leading home Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso and the Williams’ of Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado. Jules Bianchi took 15th for Marussia after a race-long fight with Charles Pic, which saw the red and black car finish just two seconds ahead of the Caterham. Further back, Max Chilton beat Van der Garde for 17th.

Sutil was one of four drivers to retire from the race after his Force India was assaulted by Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber under braking for Turn 14 early on, an incident that will see the Mexican rookie drop five places on the grid in Bahrain as a penalty.

Mercedes’ Rosberg retired with a broken rear anti-roll bar, and Mark Webber retired when his Red Bull lost its right-rear wheel as he tried to creep back to the pits - an incident for which Red Bull were fined 5000 Euros.

Webber had started from the pit lane with a heavily readjusted car after his fuelling problem in qualifying, but after a strong showing in the opening laps he was delayed in a clash with Vergne which damaged his front wing.

The stewards investigated several drivers after the race for possible use of DRS under yellow flags - notably Vettel, Webber, Raikkonen, Bottas, Ricciardo and Chilton - but decided not to issue any penalties.

After three rounds, Vettel still leads the title chase with 52 points, from Raikkonen on 49, Alonso on 43, Hamilton on 40, Massa on 30 and Webber on 26. In the constructors’ stakes, Red Bull have 78, Ferrari 73, Lotus 60, Mercedes 52, and McLaren and Force India 14.

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