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China analysis - have Ferrari joined the hunt?

21 Apr 2014

As Mercedes reasserted their current authority over the season with a third consecutive one-two in Sunday’s 2014 Formula 1 UBS Chinese Grand Prix, the bigger surprise came as Red Bull found themselves beaten to the podium. But with Fernando Alonso’s suberb drive to third contrasting with team mate Kimi Raikkonen’s struggle to eighth, the reality of any Ferrari renaissance is far from clear. We take a team-by-team look back on Sunday’s race in Shanghai…

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, P1

Nico Rosberg, P2

Hamilton drove another perfect race and was simply unbeatable as he closed to within four points of team mate Rosberg, and equalled the 25 Grand Prix victory tallies of Jim Clark and Mercedes boss Niki Lauda. His chosen set-up, selected on Friday evening but untried because it was wet on Saturday, proved just right and he said the car was “perfect.” Rosberg struggled away at the start, hit Bottas, and then fought back from seventh place while coping without telemetry. He was a long way behind Hamilton this time, but managed to retain his championship lead.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, P3

Kimi Raikkonen, P8

Alonso suggested before the race that Ferrari were catching Red Bull, and he proved it with a great race. A strong start saw him battling with the cars from Milton Keynes straight away, and he jumped Vettel at the first pit stop. The F14 T lacked Mercedes’ pace, but was a surprise best of the rest as the Spaniard scored a valuable podium to boost the team’s spirits and welcome new boss Marco Mattiacci. Raikkonen had a much less satisfactory race, struggling home a distant eighth.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, P4

Sebastian Vettel, P5

Once again Ricciardo had the edge over Vettel, who for the second race in a row was obliged to let his team mate past. The Australian then chased after Alonso as Vettel faded. The world champion later said he was mystified about his lack of pace, while Ferrari’s resurgence came as a major surprise to Red Bull.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, P6

Sergio Perez, P9

Once again Hulkenberg was a contender, despite the Shanghai circuit not suiting the VJM07 as much as Bahrain did. The German kept his cool near the end under pressure from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, and was comfortably ahead of team mate Perez, who made it two Force Indias in the top ten.

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, P7

Felipe Massa, P15

This was another ‘what night have been’ race for Williams, as both cars were involved in time-consuming collisions on the run to the first corner. Massa had made a brilliant start and was fighting for third when he collided with Alonso; Bottas had also made progress until a clash with Rosberg. The Finn then battled hard with Hulkenberg and was within half a second of the Force India by the finish, but after a mix-up with both rear wheels in his first stop on Lap 10, Massa fell to last and could only fight back to 15th.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, P10

Jean-Eric Vergne, P12

Both cars made it home, after strong battles with the McLarens, and once again it was the impressive Kvyat who earned the final point following another mature performance.

McLaren

Jenson Button, P11

Kevin Magnussen, P13

Both drivers suffered a lack of downforce and thus grip, and the best they could do was scrap with the Toro Rossos. The depth of their problem was demonstrated by Button finishing 10s behind the final point-scoring position.

Lotus

Pastor Maldonado, P14

Romain Grosjean, retired lap 29, gearbox

Grosjean looked feisty for a while in what was the best race of his and Lotus’s season, and was a contender for the lower points positions before his transmission lost fourth gear. Soon it lost them all and had to retire. Maldonado kept his nose clean, and finished 14th again.

Sauber

Esteban Gutierrez, P16

Adrian Sutil, retired lap 6, powertrain

Sauber had another unhappy race. A three-stop strategy was no help to Gutierrez, while Sutil retired after only five laps running at the back, with a powertrain problem.

Marussia

Jules Bianchi, P17

Max Chilton, P19

Marussia split their strategy, with Bianchi on a two-stop and Chilton on three. That helped the Englishman to the race’s 13th fastest lap, but the Frenchman was struggling at the end and only held on to 17th by virtue of the results being declared on lap 54/56 after the chequered flag was shown early.

Caterham

Kamui Kobayashi, P18

Marcus Ericsson, P20

Kobayashi was in his usual feisty form as Caterham opted for three-stop strategies for both drivers. He even overtook Vettel on one occasion, using fresh tyres as the German was struggling just before making a pit stop. Right at the end he almost squeaked ahead of Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, only to lose it when the result was backdated after the early chequered flag.