After Sebastian Vettel’s victory in the Malaysian GP last fortnight, the issue of tyre-management during the race has suddenly acquired prominence. In season’s third F1 GP at Shanghai, most pre-race debate was focused on the new buzzword of Tyre-Management. Analysts talked about Ferrari’s lighter-tyre strategy employed in the previous race and whether Mercedes drivers could also use the similar approach during pit-stops. In the end, however, better control of tyre-usage and other technical factors helped the talented Briton, Lewis Hamilton to return to where he belonged last season; at the very top of the heap. Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg unhappily took the second spot. It was an apt culmination of their 1-2 positions on the grid during qualifying that saw the Mercedes team finish 1-2 on the podium as well. Although, the four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel took the third place, he couldn’t catch up with the two Mercedes drivers. However, as claimed by a section of the F1 media, the Ferrari revival was not frozen in its tracks. Both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen drove creditably to stay close to the Mercedes duo and ended up at third and fourth places. It was an intelligently won race for Hamilton, who drove just fast enough to keep Ferraris at arm’s length by creating the required stint lengths to effectively nullify the Italian team’s two-stop strategy.
On the previous day, Lewis Hamilton narrowly beat team-mate Nico Rosberg to pole position in the Mercedes dominated qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix. Hamilton had looked unbeatable during the week-end qualifying sessions but in the end, Rosberg closed the gap to just 0.042 seconds on the final run. It was a big achievement for the British driver as he joined such legends as Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio, all of whom could take the pole at a single track on 5 or more occasions. On the grid, Sebastian Vettel was third but his pace was a full second slower. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas of the Williams took fourth and fifth spots, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was sixth, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo seventh, Lotus’ Romain Grosjean eighth while ninth and tenth places were taken by Sauber’s Marcuss Ericsson and Pastor Maldonado.
On Sunday, weather conditions at Shanghai were much cooler than the tropical Malaysia. The packed grandstands showed China’s growing interest in Formula-1. The new theme based on tyre-change-management was followed by Mercedes as well. Mercedes proved it was still the fastest car on the tracks as both its drivers pulled away from the pack with the Ferrari team on their tails. Behind the two leading teams of Mercedes and Ferrari, Williams Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas completed the first six on the track. Behind the three teams, there developed a frenetic midfield battle amongst Lotus, Sauber and Toro Rosso teams. Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado was leading it for much of the race but lost his chances with two spins later in the race. That helped Maldonado’s French team-mate Romain Grosjean to the seventh spot. At the eighth place, the 17-year old Dutchman Max Verstappen was racing creditably. But the young man had to retire later because of a locked rear axle with three laps remaining. The safety car came out and stayed on until the race ended. It was a great disappointment for Verstappen, who had made some very impressive passing moves earlier. The Dutchman’s exit allowed Felipe Nasr of the Sauber to take the eighth place ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull. Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson took the tenth spot when the race ended. Hamilton’s fine victory, his second out of three this season, extended his championship lead to 13 points over Vettel, who lost 4 points to Rosberg at Shanghai. Also, since Italy last September, Hamilton has won 8 out of 10 GPs.