From Schumacher’s last win to F1’s 1000th race – Six unforgettable Chinese Grand Prix moments

Staff Writer

Mike Seymour

Formula 1 makes a welcome return to the Shanghai International Circuit this weekend for the first Chinese Grand Prix since 2019. To mark the occasion, we’ve rolled back the years and picked out some of the most memorable moments in the event’s history since it made its debut on the calendar in 2004…

2005: Schumacher caught out in pre-race crash

A seven-time world champion and with an array of records behind him, Michael Schumacher’s first two visits to China fell well below his lofty expectations.

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Having spun out of qualifying and failed to score a point in the 2004 race, the Ferrari driver faced an even bigger issue the following year when he was involved in a bizarre clash with Minardi’s Christijan Albers on the way to the grid.

Schumacher had been slowly making his way from Turn 4 to the Turn 5 kink when he moved across the track and into the path of the fast-approaching Albers, causing all sorts of damage to both cars and forcing them to take their spares.

It went from bad to worse for Schumacher during the race, with the stewards reprimanding him for his actions before he spun into the gravel behind the Safety Car.

Shanghai moments 2005 SCHUMACHER - ALBERS

2006: Schumacher’s last Formula 1 victory

It proved to be third time lucky for Schumacher in 2006 when, amid a fierce title battle with Renault rival Fernando Alonso, he scored a statement Shanghai win.

Fresh from slashing Alonso’s points lead with his triumph and the Spaniard’s retirement at Monza, Schumacher was determined to keep the momentum going and tip the title race in his favour ahead of the final two rounds in Japan and Brazil.

READ MORE: ‘Today was a little present to myself’ – The story of Michael Schumacher’s 91st and final F1 win

It initially looked as though Alonso would get the job done on race day, with wet conditions at the start suiting the Michelin rather than Bridgestone runners, but as the weather improved and the track dried up, the encounter came back to Schumacher.

At the end of it all, Schumacher led Alonso home by just over three seconds in what would prove to be his 91st and final F1 victory, with the young Spaniard pipping the retiring German veteran to that year’s crown.

Michael Schumacher's 91st win at the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix

2007: Drama for Hamilton in his rookie season

There would more drama in China a year later as rookie Lewis Hamilton arrived looking to defend his championship advantage over McLaren team mate Alonso – who had made the switch from Renault – and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton wowed throughout his debut season, scoring a hatful of pole positions, wins and podiums, but that year’s penultimate round flipped the title race on its head with one of the most dramatic moments in Chinese Grand Prix history.

READ MORE: Do you remember… Hamilton’s rookie title bid hitting the rocks in China

The race had started well for Hamilton as he led away from pole position in the wet and looked set to extend his points lead, only for his tyres to suffer as the rain stopped and the track dried up – the rear-right eventually wearing down to the canvas.

Hamilton was eventually called into the pits for a fresh set of tyres, but disaster struck when he went too deep at the entry, slid into the gravel trap and ended his race there and then. It effectively handed the win to Raikkonen, who also went on to snatch the title.

Shanghai moments 2007 HAMILTON

2009: Red Bull’s maiden pole, win and one-two

An all-new set of technical regulations for the 2009 season saw Brawn GP – who had taken over the cancelled Honda works effort – emerge as the class of the field with a design spearheaded by their clever double diffuser innovation.

It meant the Brackley operation and Jenson Button romped to victory at six of the opening seven races, with Rubens Barrichello backing up the Briton for one-two finishes on three of those weekends.

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The blip came at the Shanghai International Circuit, where Red Bull charged their way to first and third on the grid with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in the dry and made that a breakthrough one-two ahead of Button amid heavy rain on race day.

It marked the first of Red Bull’s 99 poles and 116 wins to date and, while they narrowly missed out on championship glory that year after piling the pressure on Brawn, their first titles were just around the corner – a run of four successive doubles coming from 2010 to 2013.

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2012: First win of Mercedes’ trophy-filled new era

Following on from Red Bull well and truly marking their F1 arrival in China in 2009, it was Mercedes’ turn to do so at the 2012 event via an emphatic display from Nico Rosberg.

Mercedes had previously competed in F1 across the 1950s, winning plenty of races and a pair of drivers’ titles with Juan Manuel Fangio, only to withdraw from motorsport in the wake of the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans disaster.

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Fast forward to 2010 and, having already returned to F1 as an engine supplier, Mercedes decided the time was right to make a full-scale comeback, taking over the aforementioned Brawn entry and signing an all-German line-up of returning world champion Schumacher and rising star Rosberg.

A couple of years into that return, Rosberg mastered the Pirelli tyres at Shanghai to deliver a sensational pole lap and then double up with a commanding victory a day later – giving the Silver Arrows the first pole and win of their return.

Much more, as we now know, would follow for Mercedes when F1’s turbo-hybrid era got under way in 2014…

F1 Vault: Rosberg takes Mercedes' first win since 1955

2019: Formula 1’s 1000th Grand Prix

F1 celebrated a milestone occasion at the 2019 running of the Chinese Grand Prix, with the country playing host to the 1000th race in the sport’s grand history.

It came just under 69 years on from the first-ever encounter at Silverstone in 1950, a year that hosted seven rounds (most held in Europe) compared to the 21 staged around the world through 2019 – highlighting how much the calendar has expanded and diversified over the years.

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It was a straight fight between Mercedes team mates Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas across the weekend, starting with the Finn claiming pole by just 0.023s before the Briton pounced at the start and never looked back to take the chequered flag by six-and-a-half seconds.

Now, after a five-year absence, China and the popular Shanghai venue return to the F1 roster for what promises to be another action-packed Sprint weekend.

RACE HIGHLIGHTS: 2019 Chinese Grand Prix


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