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Shanghai surprises - six unforgettable China moments

12 Apr 2016

Dodgy drain covers! Pit lane mishaps! Pre-race crashes! The Chinese Grand Prix has witnessed all of these shocking moments and more since its arrival on the calendar in 2004…

Drain causes pain for Montoya, 2005

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McLaren went into the 2005 Chinese Grand Prix – the final race of the season – with a chance of winning the constructors’ championship, so you can only imagine Ron Dennis’s dismay when the team’s hope were scuppered by – of all things – a loose drain cover. "The car was working well, but then I came into a corner, went on the kerb and hit a loose manhole cover,” said Juan Pablo Montoya who had been running fourth. The impact was so great that it punched a hole in the floor of the Colombian’s car, damaging the radiator and leading to his eventual retirement.

 

The wheels come off for Sebastien Buemi, 2010

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It’s just what you don’t want when you’re trying to slow your car from 330 to 60km/h for a hairpin bend: you hit the brake pedal and BOOM - both your front tyres spectacularly pop off. That was the fate that befell Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi during FP1 at Shanghai in 2010, though thankfully neither the Swiss driver nor anyone else was injured in the bizarre accident, which was later traced to a dodgy right-hand suspension upright.  "It looked quite spectacular,” said Buemi, “but from inside the car, it was not so big.” Whatever you say, Sebastien…

 

Schumacher trips over Albers on his way to the grid, 2005

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“This weird ending pretty much sums up our season,” said Michael Schumacher after the 2005 Chinese Grand Prix – and you could see where he was coming from. The race hadn’t even started when the German quite literally hit trouble, clumsily drifting into the path of Christijan Albers’ Minardi whilst warming his tyres on his way to the grid. Forced to abandon his car after sustaining massive damage in the ensuing collision, Schumacher - who was reprimanded for the incident - eventually started the race from the pit lane in a spare machine. However, after spinning into the gravel from a lowly 10th place he might have wished he hadn’t bothered…     

 

Webber climbs 15 places, 2011

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If ever Mark Webber proved himself worthy of the nickname ‘Aussie Grit’ it was at China in 2011 when he turned a disastrous qualifying performance into an unlikely podium finish. KERS issues helped consign the Australian battler to 18th on the grid in Shanghai, but an unusual strategy – which saw him use the unfancied prime tyre first – set him on course for a stirring drive in which he picked off his victims at will, only narrowly missing out on overhauling team mate and pole position starter Sebastian Vettel for P2. “To see P17 on your board after 15 laps you think it might not happen,” said Webber, “but suddenly I felt very comfortable with the car. I had a few sets of tyres left from qualifying, so that helped – and maybe that's the way to do it! Miss qualifying and go from there!”

 

Life’s a beach for Lewis Hamilton, 2007

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Has anyone on a pit wall ever looked as anguished as Ron Dennis did as he watched Lewis Hamilton forlornly attempt to coax his beached McLaren out of the gravel during the 2007 race in China? Possibly not, but then again it was a decision from the pit wall to leave the Briton out on heavily worn intermediate tyres that arguably led to his downfall. Who knows, had Hamilton’s rubber not been worn down to the canvas, perhaps he wouldn’t have slithered agonisingly to a halt in the Shanghai pit lane, leaving his championship hopes hanging in the balance…

 

Button gets in a pit stop pickle, 2011

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Of all the embarrassing things an F1 driver can do, pulling into the wrong pit box - as Jenson Button infamously did during the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix - must surely rank near the top of the list. “He is obviously so eager to drive for Red Bull that he wanted to stop there,” joked Red Bull team principal Christian Horner after his squad had waved the McLaren man down the pit lane. But for Button it was less of a laughing matter: “It might look funny from the outside, but there are lots of different things on the steering wheel looking down - it’s not like pulling up to the traffic lights in your road car,” he said, referencing the fact that he’d been distracted on pit lane entry. “I lost about one and a half seconds compared to [Sebastian] Vettel so it wouldn’t have changed my race, but at the time I was all like ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I just did that!’”