The Chinese Grand Prix first became a tangible prospect when the race was placed on the 1999 Calendar, but China had to wait until 2002 for the Shanghai International Circuit to sign a seven year deal, after the track in Zhuhai, Guangdong failed to obtain FIA approval. This will be the fourth year F1 has returned to the 5.45km circuit since Rubens Barrichello won in 2004.
McLaren s Lewis Hamilton will start from pole for the 56 lap race, with his closest Championship rival three positions (and twelve points) behind. The Brit left his challenge until the final seconds of qualifying to secure a surprising pole position, pushing Raikkonen to second and leaving Alonso to ask quite where he had found his time. Hamilton just needs to finish ahead of Alonso and Raikkonen to win the Drivers World Championship.
Raikkonen lines up alongside Hamilton, with Massa third, Alonso fourth, David Coulthard having his best qualifying in fifty-three races fifth and Ralf Schumacher, a season best, in sixth.
Ahead of the Grand Prix, light showers sweep across the track at fifteen minute intervals, however the heavy rain predicted yesterday, looks to have stayed away. Race Control then predict rain three minutes ahead of the race, leaving teams with a difficult decision over tyre choice for the start of the race in already humid and muggy conditions. The conditions at race start include track temperature of 32 degrees, air temperature of 30 degrees, wind speed of 2.2mps, humidity of 80% and pressure of 1007mBar.
The front runners, including Hamilton, start on intermediate tyres.
Lap 1 Hamilton leads into the first corner. Alonso challenges Massa for fourth, Ralf Schumacher spins at Turn Two, losing the benefit of qualifying sixth.
Lap 2 Hamilton leads Raikkonen by six tenths of a second after lap 1. Rubens Barrichello and Anthony Davidson come together at Turn One, but continue.
Lap 3 Hamilton pulls a two second lead over Raikkonen as the rain falls.
Lap 5 Alonso closes down Massa in third. Liuzzi is up to sixth after passing Nick Heidfeld, meanwhile Kovalainen and Vettel fight over tenth position.
Lap 7 Hamilton sets yet another fastest lap as Sutil pits. A drying line is emerging down the main straight.
Lap 8 Vettel finally passes Kovalainen into the hairpin for tenth. Rosberg passes Sato for fourteenth. Yamamoto pits.
Lap 9 Trulli passes Kovalainen for eleventh.
Lap 10 Drivers move offline to cool their tyres as a drier line appears around the racetrack. However, more rain is expected within three minutes.
Lap 12 Davidson pits, Hamilton leads Raikkonen by a full seven seconds.
Lap 13 Wurz is passed by a recovering Schumacher for fifteenth. Davidson retires on-track.
Lap 14 Rosberg passes Button into the hairpin for thirteenth.
Lap 15 McLaren mechanics pour into the pit lane for Hamilton, he keeps the same intermediate tyres despite a very bald front-left. The Brit rejoins ahead of Coulthard in fifth.
Lap 16 Raikkonen sets the fastest lap of the race on a 1:45.036.
Lap 17 Rosberg passes Kovalainen, as the Finn makes a mistake. Massa pits from second, again like Hamilton, keeping the same tyres. Massa rejoins behind Liuzzi.
Lap 18 Alonso pits and rejoins behind Massa. Ralf Schumacher passes Kovalainen. Raikkonen sets another fastest lap.
Lap 19 Sutil spins but recovers. Raikkonen pits and rejoins behind Hamilton.
Lap 20 – Coulthard also pits, underlining just how incredible his qualifying pace was.
Lap 21 Raikkonen has halved the margin to Hamilton, reducing the gap to four seconds after the first pit stop. Schumacher chases down Rosberg, failing to pass at the hairpin.
Lap 22 Rain expected in ten minutes. Schumacher finally passes Rosberg into the hairpin.
Lap 23 Schumacher collides with Liuzzi and spins. His tyre rolls down the pit lane in subsequent pit stop.
Lap 24 Having switched to dry tyres, Wurz sets a new fastest lap, some four seconds faster than the leaders.
Lap 26 Kubica takes on dry tyres. Other drivers pour into the pit lane.
Lap 27 Massa is passed by Alonso, Massa pits for dry tyres.
Lap 28 Schumacher collides with Sutil, putting both out of the race. Raikkonen closes down Hamilton in the rain.
Lap 29 Rosberg recovers from the gravel. Raikkonen continues to hound Hamilton. Kimi eventually passes Lewis for the lead as he runs wide in Turn Nine.
Lap 30 Hamilton s right rear tyre delaminates, losing seven seconds to Alonso last time round.
Lap 31 Hamilton heads into pits but runs wide in the corner, entering the gravel trap and into retirement.
Lap 32 Raikkonen pits from the lead for soft tyres. Alonso also pits, taking on the harder compound tyres and exiting the pit in front of Massa.
Lap 33 Kubica briefly leads the race, before pulling onto the grass and retiring. Jenson Button is in fourth having just passed Sebastian Vettel in fifth.
Lap 36 Raikkonen and Alonso trade fastest lap times.
Lap 37 Button sets the fastest lap of the race, but has to stop again.
Lap 39 Fisichella passes Liuzzi for seventh.
Lap 40 Fisichella sets the fastest lap of the race. Raikkonen stabilizes the gap back to Alonso.
Lap 43 Button pits from fourth and rejoins in sixth. Vettel is promoted to fourth.
Lap 44 Raikkonen sets the fastest lap of the race, pulling away from Alonso.
Lap 45 Hamilton walks around his garage and shakes hands with his mechanics.
Lap 46 Fisichella pits, promoting Button to fifth. Does Vettel in fourth have to stop again?
Lap 47 Heidfeld battles with Liuzzi for sixth.
Lap 48 Raikkonen sets the fastest lap.
Lap 49 – Kovalainen passes Webber whilst the Australian gesticulated that his team-mate Coulthard was weaving.
Lap 51 Obviously bored, Raikkonen sets fastest lap, after fastest lap. The Finn having lost the white stripe on his front left tyre due to tyre wear.
Lap 52 Massa sets a blisteringly fast lap, leading one to question why he hadn t set such times earlier. Vettel continues around in fourth, having gained thirteen places in the race.
Lap 53 Raikkonen leads Alonso by over ten seconds, with Massa third, 8.3 seconds behind the Spaniard. Vettel is fourth, 27 seconds over Button. Liuzzi is sixth, with Heidfeld close behind in seventh. Coulthard and Kovalainen battle for the final championship point in eighth and ninth respectively.
Lap 55 Vettel asked to save fuel.
Final lap and Raikkonen looks set to considerably improve his championship chances. Raikkonen wins the Chinese Grand Prix ahead of Fernando Alonso, Ferrari s 200th Victory in F1. Massa finishes in third, with Vettel crossing the line in fourth. Button finishes in fifth, with Liuzzi sixth, Heidfeld seventh and Coulthard holding onto eighth position ahead of Kovalainen.
Hamilton still leads the Championship on 107 points, with team-mate Alonso second on 103 and Raikkonen third on 100.