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Winners and Losers - China

13 Apr 2015

Lewis Hamilton wasn't the only man celebrating in China - just as team mate Nico Rosberg wasn't the only driver to come away frustrated. Max Verstappen once again impressed before cruel luck struck; Pastor Maldonado could only lament a rather unique pit lane entry; Kimi Raikkonen rued the intervention of a late safety car; and Sauber's 2015 transformation continued in style. We take a look at the highs and lows of Shanghai...

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, P1
Nico Rosberg, P2

Mercedes scored an easy one-two in retrospect, once the spectre of a Ferrari challenge had faded in the last stint. But much of their race was a matter of sucking it and seeing.

Hamilton controlled his pace as the team switched from an intended soft-medium-medium strategy to soft-soft-medium after their experience of the softer tyre proved better than expected in the first stint. Since they hadn't gone longer than eight laps on the soft tyre in pre-race runs this was a case of learning by doing, and Hamilton was necessarily cautious as the leader in case the tyres reached their drop-off point suddenly. This frustrated Rosberg, who felt he was being backed up into an aggressive Vettel, and created bad feeling afterwards. Nevertheless, Mercedes came away back on top, and with another maximum result and 43 valuable points in the bag.

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel, P3
Kimi Raikkonen, P4

Ferrari's hopes of victory were effectively dashed when Mercedes opted for exactly the same soft-soft-medium tyre strategy. They tried pitting Vettel early each time, and he became a nuisance to Rosberg as the latter seemingly found himself backed up by his own team mate in the mid-stage of the race. But Ferrari didn't have the pace in the latter stages, and the two reds slipped out of contention. 

Even so, Vettel's strong third, and a feisty drive to fourth from the rejuvenated Raikkonen, once again confirmed that Ferrari are a serious challenger who will keep the Silver Arrows honest all season. But for the safety car, Raikkonen might have challenged Vettel's podium slot, but the intervention left that as one of the race's most frustrating unanswered questions.

Williams

Felipe Massa, P5
Valtteri Bottas, P6

The writing was on the wall for Williams' race pace the moment Raikkonen passed both FW37s in the opening few corners and pulled away. The cars' qualifying pace had flattered, but the race demonstrated that they have lost a lot of ground not only to Mercedes, whom they were challenging in Abu Dhabi last year, but also Ferrari, whom they had overshadowed.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, P7
Pastor Maldonado, Retired lap 49, damage

In a welcome upturn in fortune, Lotus should have come away with seventh and eighth, but Maldonado's unique pit lane entry on lap 33 ruined that and set him up for the collision with Button which would put him out. Grosjean, however, pushed hard to claim seventh and the team's first points of the year as the E23 Hybrid continues to demonstrate improvement.

Sauber

Felipe Nasr, P8
Marcus Ericsson, P10

Sauber had a productive afternoon which yielded another five points and helped to put 2014 further in the rearview mirrors. Nasr showed that Malaysia really had been a blip due to differential and brake problems, while Ericsson stayed in the fight to claim the final point. The haul pulled them further clear of Toro Rosso, and keeps them ahead of Red Bull.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, P9
Daniil Kvyat, Retired lap 16, engine

Ninth place showed just how troubled things are for Red Bull right now. Ricciardo thought the anti-stall kicked in at the start, though the team suggested it might have been his own error; either way, that gave him a mountain to climb for the rest of the afternoon, and a typically gritty and forceful recovery drive was surely worth more than two points. The Australian also thought their strategy might have been better; he'd wanted to switch from soft tyres to mediums, but was told that staying on softs was better for his second stint.

Kvyat, meanwhile, battled his team mate and Verstappen, but succumbed to engine failure after 16 laps.

Force India

Sergio Perez, P11
Nico Hulkenberg, Retired lap 10, gearbox

An enforced switch to a three-stop strategy meant Perez spent much of the race inside the top ten, but he still couldn't quite muster enough pace to fight for the final point. Hulkenberg was in 12th place when his gearbox broke after only 10 laps.

McLaren

Fernando Alonso, P12
Jenson Button, P14

McLaren had another disappointing race down at the back of the midfield, but that didn't stop Button and Alonso from giving it their all during a pitched battle with Maldonado's delayed Lotus. This ended badly when Button tail-ended Maldonado's Lotus in Turn 1 on the 49th lap, earning himself a five-second penalty that dropped him from 13th to 14th, and gave Alonso an anxious moment as he squeezed by the spinning E23 Hybrid.

The Spaniard ran a different strategy to the Englishman, switching to the medium for his second stint, then fighting back on soft tyres at the end after a delay during a pit stop to have debris removed from his rear wing.

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz, P13
Max Verstappen, Retired lap 53, engine 

Toro Rosso had a bruising race, which began to go wrong when medium-shod Sainz spun in Turn 1 on the second lap. That ruined his afternoon, and it was further hampered by an intermittent gearbox problem that lost him further ground. His fastest lap of 1m 42.652s was third overall, however, and though set relatively late in the race indicated perhaps the STR10's latent potential. 

By contrast Verstappen was right in the thick of things, fighting with the likes of Ricciardo and the Saubers, and was set for a strong eighth when his engine broke on the pit straight on the 53rd lap.

Marussia

Will Stevens, P15
Roberto Merhi, P16

Marussia brought both cars home, two laps down but underlining their reliability. Both drivers thus completed their second Grands Prix, but Merhi's had a small sting in the tail when he was penalised five seconds on his race time for failing to stay above the minimum time mandated by governing body the FIA while running behind the safety car.