Chinese Grand Prix 2012: as it happened

7.45am Hello and welcome to forumula1.com’s live coverage of the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix.

The weather is overcast in Shanghai but there doesn’t look to be much chance of rain. It probably won’t need it to spice it up to be honest, given the grid positions of the top drivers.

Mercdes, whose Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher occupy the front row of the grid, are widely thought to have slower race pace, which could make for a fascinating afternoon. After a five place grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton starts down in seventh, while last time out winner Fernando Alonso is ninth on the grid. Kamui Kobayashi continues Sauber’s run of form by starting third.

The tension is building now as Jake Humphrey on the BBC reminds us that there were 77 overtaking manoeuvres last year in this race. Jean Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso is starting from the pit lane, we’re hearing.

The grandstands are packed full of expectant fans as they head out on the parade lap.

Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and Mark Webber – in fifth, sixth and seventh respectively on the grid – are also in a good position to bag a hatful of points this afternoon. They’re all lining up now, burnouts galore.

Lap 1 And they’re off! Button and Hamilton have had great starts as had Rosberg! Rosberg leads! The Saubers are plummeting down the grid. Schumacher second, Button third, Raikkonen fourth, Hamilton fifth. Webber and Alonso are at it hammer and tongs for eighth.

Lap 2 Vettel had a nightmare. He’s fighting for 14th with Pastor Maldonado. A furious start sees the two Mercedes leading after a great start from Rosberg. We’re now seeing that Bruno Senna clunked into the back of Felipe Massa at the first turn after going in far too hot. The Saubers, as I say, both had bad starts

Lap 3 DRS is now enabled. Sergio Perez is right behind Hamilton in fifth and shadowing him intently. So Perez is sixth with Kobayashi seventh, Alonso eighth, Webber ninth and Massa tenth. The Williams team tell Senna that his front wing is ok after that contact with Massa.

Lap 4 Grosjean, who also had a good off, is close to Massa in 11th.

Lap 5 Vettel is still down in 14th and not seeming to make much progress. Jean Eric Vergne, meanwhile, is already past the HRTs and up to 20th.

Lap 6 Paul di Resta, who is in 13th ahead of Vettel, has a great straight-line speed, meaning Vettel is struggling along that long back straight. He has chugged down behind the Scot twice down, bouncing off the limiter ineffectually. Mark Webber has dived into the pits – an extremely early stop. He’s put on the harder tyre – it is strategic.

Lap 7 It has settled down somewhat. Rosberg has a two second or so lead.

Lap 8 Raikkonen is good, isn’t he. Sitting in fourth, eyeing Jenson Button like a dog eyeing a piece of bacon. Schumacher, Button, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Perez are all very close.

Lap 9 Massa, who started on the harder compound, is being told that it might be starting to degrade a bit. A few teams are waking up to that possibility – Sauber have come out into the pit lane. Kobayashi duly enters from seventh, as does Vettel.

Lap 10 Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India also pitted there. Raikkonen and Hamilton pitting this time round, because they are seeing the rapid times set by Mark Webber. And they’ve come out together! Wheel to wheel in the pit lane! And they come out with Webber in the middle of them!

Lap 11 Wheel to wheel round that tight first complex on this track and Hamilton is away in front with Webber following having bettered Raikkonen. Good work from McLaren there to take Raikkonenn in the pits and great racing.

Lap 12 Worries over Mercedes’ tyre consumption appear to have been unfounded, says David Coulthard, considering they haven’t stopped yet.

Lap 13 Raikkonen hasn’t finished with Webber yet. Schumacher pits, as does Senna, and the maestro comes out behind Button! And Rosberg has gone off momentarily…and Schumacher is off and out! Problem with the wheel gun, an indistinct radio message says.

Lap 14 Perez leads as he hasn’t pitted yet. Massa too – he’s running second. We’re seeing a replay of Schumacher’s stop now – the right front wheel man was unable to put the gun on as Schumacher was released too early. Silly mistake from the pit crew.

Lap 15 Rosberg has switched to that harder tyre which appears to be the quicker at this stage. Button a net second, Hamilton a net third at the moment, although we will have to see where Perez can come back into the mix after his stop. Webber, Raikkonen and Alonso are sixth, seventh, and eighth at the moment, but watch that improve as Perez and Massa stop.

Lap 16 The leader Perez pits. He’s a bit slow away from the blocks and he emerges into tenth just ahead of Vettel.

Lap 17 Rosberg has caught the yet-to-stop Massa. He passes him down the back straight. Webber is doing a great job in what is effectively fourth.

Lap 18 Grosjean is ninth and hasn’t crashed into anyone or anything yet. It has been a close run thing, though – he’s just had a mean battle with Perez.

Lap 19 Massa finally pits. He’ll be 14th. Vettel sweeps past Perez for ninth as the Mexican runs inexplicably wide. “Mercedes have genuine race-winning speed,” opines David Coulthard. He refers to Nico Rosberg, who looks comfortable and fast.

Lap 20 So the order is Rosberg, Button, Hamilton, Webber, Raikkonen, Alonso, Kobayashi, Grosjean, Vettel, Perez, Senna, di Resta, Maldonado, Massa and Vergne.

Lap 21 There hasn’t been an awful lot of on-track overtaking so far. Webber pits for the second time. He likes his early stops.

Lap 22 This strategy appears to be working for Webber, who’s doing a good job. McLaren are in the pits for Lewis Hamilton. A clean stop from the Woking men there.

Lap 23 Down the back straight marbles are accruing heavily, except of course for the main racing line. This creates a kind of parting-of-the-Red-Sea effect, prettily, but annoyingly discourages overtaking.

Lap 24 It’s not great entertainment, so far, but it’ll do. Hamilton, after his stop, is behind Felipe Massa, who will be holding him up. His hopes of jumping Button are evaporating – and yes, Button pits and emerges ahead of his team mate.

Lap 25 Button has come out just behind Maldonado, who is not making his life at all easy. Both McLarens have shot themselves in the foot a bit here. Button past Maldonado now, but Lewis is still behind Massa. Webber is in attendance with that latter battle and may have something to add to proceedings. Great stuff.

Lap 26 Hamilton is now past Massa, fairly and squarely and without contact.

Lap 27 Webber gets past Massa too, and Button is past Senna. Meanwhile, Hamilton has managed to get past di Resta a great deal more easily.

Lap 28 Webber passes di Resta too. Raikkonen is yet to make his second stop and is running in second, therefore, behind the determined leader Nico Rosberg. Raikkonen pits this lap. Button passes Perez – wasting no time, that Somerset man.

Lap 29 Massa is being approached by Alonso.

Lap 30 Who is past. As is Button on Vettel, who is yet to make his second stop. Are we losing Heikki Kovalainen in the Caterham? Yes we are – same issue as Schumacher, it turns out.

Lap 31 Vettel pits and comes out into 13th. Not a particularly good day.

Lap 32 Could Button win this race? He’s a lot faster than Rosberg at this stage.

Lap 33 Grosjean, who hadn’t pitted for the second time, now does. He’s looking at 12th or thereabouts…yes, 12th. “We are still in this to win,” McLaren tell Button.

Lap 34 Hamilton is battling Perez. Webber is now challenging Hamilton, who rebuffs him sternly! Where is the old Hamilton, who used to scythe through the field?

Lap 35 Rosberg pits, as does Webber. Perez is locking up left right and centre keeping Hamilton behind him, but doing so…the Sauber is monstrous down the straight. Alonso joins the party now, replacing the pitting Webber behind Hamilton. And Hamilton and Perez are wheel to wheel! And Perez pits.

Lap 36 Button is flying. He has a nine point five second lead over Rosberg, and will need a twelve second margin or so to put the outcome of the race into doubt after he makes his final stop.

Lap 37 Webber just ran over a kerb and nearly took off. Goodness me.

Lap 38 The order is Button, Rosberg, Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Raikkonen, Kobayashi, Vettel and Grosjean. “What times is Rosberg doing?” asks Button. It isn’t good news for the Brit – the German is going faster. The chances of Button winning this race were small and now they’re even smaller.

Lap 39 Hamilton and Alonso pit together and…emerge together in that order.

Lap 40 The leader Button stops and it is mighty slow. That has put paid to it all. In fact, he has come out behind Grosjean. Problem with the left rear. Why is this happening today? Button has taken Grosjean, to show that he hasn’t given up. But the race win has gone out the window.

Lap 41 Rosberg “can almost taste the champagne,” remarks David Coulthard.

Lap 42 Raikkonen, Vettel, Button and Grosjean are all very close as they fight for second on track. In fact, a lot of them will have to pit again, or ‘run into trouble’ tyre-wise, as Ciaron Pilbeam tells Mark Webber, who is watching it all like a cat watching mice.

Lap 43 Alonso is forced wide by Maldonado! And he’s off, but can rejoin *squeak* just behind Kobayashi.

Lap 44 This train of cars is great, but rather misleading, as they are not all in the same stint. The important point is that Rosberg is going to win this race, bar mishap.

Lap 45 Grosjean, in defending from Webber, does the same as Alonso! And he’s back on in front of Maldonado – or is he? And they are side by side – they touch! And are very close coming down the straight, and Perez is threatening too! What racing! Grosjean stays ahead of Maldonado and Perez is behind.

Lap 46 Wow, that was fun. Alonso, as if to show them how it’s done, promptly sweeps regally past Perez and Maldonado.

Lap 47 Raikkonen and Vettel maintain second and third right now, with Button fourth and Webber fifth, and Hamilton sixth.

Lap 48 And it’s kicking off! Raikkonen runs wide and is losing out…Webber is also on the grass…and Hamilton is past Webber! And it’s all side by side!! Raikkonen is tumbling! What fantastic entertainment!!

Lap 49 Raikkonen’s tyres have fallen off the proverbial cliff and he is down down down here. He still isn’t pitting! Why the hell don’t you pit , Kimi? Perez and Kobayashi are fighting in the Saubers and down the straight Perez pushes his team mate very wide – was that fair?!

Lap 50 Whew! Exhausting stuff, and I totally have not done it justice at all above. Frenetic. Sorry for saying it wasn’t very interesting, gods of racing. I eat my words.

Lap 51 Hamilton is faster than Button now, meaning he could close on him by the end of the race. The order, after all that chaos, is Rosberg, Vettel, Button, Hamilton, Webber, Grosjean, Senna, Maldonado, Alonso and Kobayashi. But Vettel is being challenged late into the hairpin by Button! And he is through!!

Lap 52 Hamilton is next to challenge Vettel. Raikkonen has fallen to 14th after not pitting when his tyres were shot.

Lap 53 Webber is not forgetting about Hamilton – those two have been acquaintances all race. Vettel is backing Hamilton into Webber, though.

Lap 54 And Alonso and Maldonado are at it hammer and tongs! Alonso is sideways but holds the position! But Maldonado gets through down the pit straight on the inside! And now Hamilton is pushed very wide by Vettel down the back straight…takes Vettel…but is slow out and will have to defend down the pit straight…and does – legally? It was mighty close!

Lap 55 Webber passes the ailing Vettel too – not without a fight!

Lap 56 And Rosberg is on course for the win – as he has been all race! His lead is more than twenty seconds.

NICO ROSBERG WINS THE CHINESE GRAND PRIX

What a wonderful performance from the German for his maiden win. Truly deserved and merited with a confident and dominant showing here in China. A fantastic race sees Button second, with Hamilton third. Webber is fourth with his team mate Vettel fifth. Grosjean is sixth with Senna a good seventh and Maldonado eighth, Alonso ninth, and Kamui Kobayashi taking the final point. Perez is 11th, di Resta 12th, Massa 13th, Raikkonen 14th, Hulkenberg 15th, Vergne 16th, Ricciardo 17th, Petrov 18th, Glock 19th, Pic 20th, de la Rosa 21st, Karthikeyan 22nd, and Kovalainen limping home in 23rd the last of the finishers.

And that’s all from me, thanks for following.