Button wins as rain turns Chinese race into a lottery; Hamilton second to make it the first McLaren one-two since 2007; Red Bull fail to make the most of their qualifying performance
Jenson Button once again maximised his race strategy to record his second victory of the season in the Chinese Grand Prix.
The reigning world champion judged the changeable track conditions to perfection, to rocket to the front of the orderas the weather played havok with drivers and strategists alike.
Team-mate Lewis Hamilton was second for the Woking-based team, after a stunning drive through the field. However, the British driver’s race was not without controversy and he could face a penalty for the next round of the championship in Spain.
Nico Rosberg rounded off the final podium position, after leading for much of the race’s opening stages and holding off Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
The race would prove a disaster for Red Bull, with the team unable to capitalise on their qualifying performance. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, both failed to take advantage of their front row grid slots and were forced to settle for sixth and eighth respectively.
Light Rain From The Start
There was an added element to the build up of the start of the race as rain clouds began to form above the Shanghai circuit – forcing the teams to try and judge which tyres would be the best to start on.
Although the majority started on slicks the one exception, Timo Glock’s Virgin, could not make the most of his tyres after being left behind on the grid, stuck on his front jack.
The start itself was just as dramatic, as Fernando Alonso appeared to make a blinder off the line to lead the two Red Bulls into turn one. However, replays quickly showed that the Spaniard had jumped the start and was immediately issued with a drive-through penalty.
The action did not end there on lap one, when the Force India of Tonio Liuzzi lost control under braking and collected the Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi and Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber – forcing Rubens Barrichello to take abrasive action.
The accident proved dangerous enough to require the safety car for the first time of the afternoon, which allowed the drivers the opportunity to switch to intermediate tyres as the rain came down heavier.
However, at the dismay of others, both Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button opted to stay out on slick tyres, in hope that the rain would ease and allow them to lead the pack.
At first it looked as though this decision would not pay off, with the likes of Alonso simply driving around those still on slicks.
Yet this advantage would be shortlived and most of the drivers would be back into the pits with only around five laps of the fifty-six completed.
Hamilton and Vettel dice in the pitlane
Two of those drivers forced to stop again for slick tyres were Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vette ), who had been battling for position on track. Both drivers pitted close together with McLaren appearing to release Hamilton infront of the young German driver as they exited the pits. Both drivers exited the pits side-by-side with Vettel squeezing Hamilton towards the boxes, to conclude this controversial event.
Although neither drivers were penalised during the race, the stewards made it clear that they would investigate the incident after the event.
Following their pitstops Hamilton appeared to be inspired, scything his way past the likes of Michael Schumacher – who struggled all race long with set-up issues.
Button makes his move
Meanwhile at the front, Jenson Button capitalised on a mistake by Nico Rosberg to take the lead into turn fourteen at the end of lap nineteen.
Thereafter the Briton pulled away and built up a healthy advantage over the Mercedes driver. However, no sooner had Button taken the lead that the race was neutralised again. On lap twenty-two the safety car was required again, due to debris from Jaime Alguersuari’s front wing after he had collided with Karun Chandhok (HRT).
The safety car returned to the pits on lap twenty-five, allowing Button to bunch up the entire field into turn fourteen, in an attempt to gain an advantage at the restart. This created a bottleneck on the circuit and, as a result of the new rules allowing drivers to overtake from the pitlane line, Sebastian Vettel moved to capitalised by trying to pass Lewis Hamilton in to the final corner. However, the move backfired and both drivers ran wide – pushing Mark Webber off the circuit and costing him several places.
Hamilton would not be deterred by the incident at the restart, and set off on another charge – making a number of brave moves to climb up to second behind Button.
Thereafter Button and Hamilton were able to bring the cars home to record a perfect result for their team. However, the final stages of the race would not pass smoothly for the British pair as their intermediate tyres quickly burned out.
Nico Rosberg managed to hold off Fernando Alonso for third to record his second successive podium. The latter making yet another comeback drive, despite four tyre stops, to minimize the damage done at the start.
Robert Kubica (Renault) was another driver who was able to take advantage of the changeable conditions to continue his superb start to the 2010 campaign and score another points finish in fifth.
Team-mate Vitaly Petrov also came alive in the final stages of the Grand Prix. The Russian driver scored the first points of his career, after passing both Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher in the last few laps.
McLaren make up for qualifying disappointment
So Jenson Button once again displayed all of his credentials to move to the top of the standings, as the teams head back to Europe for the second leg of the 2010 world championship.
McLaren will also be delighted that Lewis Hamilton was finally rewarded for his stunning drives of late with a credible second place. Although he may yet face a penalty from the race stewards, the 2008 world champion will leave China with his championship chances rejuvenated.
However, while McLaren will celebrate their second victory of the season, Red Bull will be left to question what went wrong. Once again the RB6 proved to be unbeatable in qualifying, but neither Sebastian Vettel or Mark Webber – through a mixture of errors – could translate this in to a dominant race victory.
Formula One leaves China with both championships finely poised, with the rest of the season set to be enthralling.
2010 Formula One World Championship Round 4 of 19: Shanghai, China Pos Driver Team Time 1. Button McLaren 1h44:42.163 2. Hamilton McLaren + 1.530 3. Rosberg Mercedes + 9.484 4. Alonso Ferrari + 11.869 5. Kubica Renault + 22.213 6. Vettel Red Bull + 33.310 7. Petrov Renault + 47.600 8. Webber Red Bull + 52.172 9. Massa Ferrari + 57.796 10. Schumacher Mercedes + 1:01.749 11. Sutil Force India + 1:02.874 12. Barrichello Williams + 1:03.665 13. Alguersuari Toro Rosso + 1:11.416 14. Kovalainen Lotus + 1 lap 15. Hulkenberg Williams + 1 lap 16. Senna HRT + 2 laps 17. Chandhok HRT + 4 laps Ret. Trulli Lotus On Lap 27 Ret. Di Grassi Virgin On Lap 9 Ret. De la Rosa Sauber On Lap 8 Ret. Buemi Toro Rosso On Lap 1 Ret. Kobayashi Sauber On Lap 1 Ret. Liuzzi Force India On Lap 1 Ret. Glock Virgin On Lap 1 Fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton - 1:42.061 World Championship standings after 4 rounds Drivers Championship: 1. Button 60 2. Rosberg 50 3. Alonso 49 4. Hamilton 49 5. Vettel 45 6. Massa 41 7. Kubica 40 8. Webber 28 9. Sutil 10 10. Schumacher 10 11. Liuzzi 8 12. Petrov 6 13. Barrichello 5 14. Alguersuari 2 15. Hulkenberg 1 Constructors Championship: 1. McLaren 109 2. Ferrari 90 3. Red Bull 73 4. Mercedes 60 5. Renault 46 6. Force India 18 7. Williams 6 8. Toro Rosso 2