F1 Mercedes GP

Nico Rosberg and Mercedes AMG Petronas win Shanghai F1 thriller

Since the start of the 2012 season, the Mercedes AMG Petronas team performance has steadily been improving during the qualifying, to reach the optimum by scoring a hard earned front row during the China 2012 Grand Prix qualifying session. Unfortunately, the team was never able to coin these strong qualifying results into valuable points due to the unusual tire degradation of their cars and thereby challenging their opponents in the Formula 1 constructors' standings.

In China, however all this changed dramatically. Nico Rosberg scored the team's first pole position with 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher beside him, after Lewis Hamilton on Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was moved from P2 to P7 due to an unscheduled gearbox change.
From the start of the race, Nico Rosberg was setting the pace, proving convincingly that Mercedes have apparently solved their former tire degradation issue-which caused them losing a lot of points in the last two seasons-once and for all. As a matter of fact, it was the first Mercedes �works’ victory since Juan Manuel Fangio won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza back in 1955, preceding their withdrawal from the sport.

After the lights went off, Nico Rosberg was chased off the grid by team mate Michael Schumacher, who ran second to his team-mate, losing half a second a lap, until his first pit stop, when the team did not tighten the nut on his right front wheel, which forced the 7 times World Champion into retirement, to minimize the damage caused to his car.
He thus became the race’s sole retirement and after the race his team was fined €5,000 for his unsafe release.

With his team mate Michael Schumacher out on the 12th lap, Nico Rosberg had no-one to protect his back, and create a comfortable buffer zone. With an improved set-up of his car, his tires were treated in a gentler manner in comparison to the previous races.

Sauber’s hopes on the other hand dissolved quickly after Kamui Kobayashi made a lethargic start from third and was easily passed as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ Jenson Button and Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen passed through to third and fourth places, while the other Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driven by Lewis Hamilton quickly slotted into fifth ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Sauber.

As a matter of fact, this afternoon could be summarized as a race of different tire strategies, depending on the tire degradation of the cars racing on the Shanghai circuit. Australian Red Bull driver Mark Webber was the first to ditch Pirelli’s soft tires and to substitute them by the medium ones, on which the most of the race distance would be driven. Once he left the pits, he immediately started to set fastest laps.

Around lap 42, the audience started to feel the tingling adrenalin rush flooding through their arteries, when no fewer than nine cars were running nose to tail, side-by-side, and wheel-to-wheel all over the track, in the fight for the runner-up podium place behind Rosberg in a breath-taking race. It all depended on the individual pit-stop strategy.

All of the following drivers opted for a two stop strategy, namely Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Romain Grosjean, Bruno Senna, Pastor Maldonado, Perez and Raikkonen, whereas Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi selected to follow a three stop strategy. This meant that at different stages of the race some drivers had a momentary tire freshness advantage, whereas others were desperately trying to foster their tires to the finish line after benefiting from its longevity during previous stages of the race.

On the 42nd lap Raikkonen held second for Lotus after an excellent drive, hunted by Vettel, Button, Grosjean, Webber, Hamilton, Senna, Maldonado and Alonso.

For many laps, this was the order behind the black and gold car, but Raikkonen’s tires were nearly finished, and once they hit the cliff, there was a sudden and complete reshuffling of the cars. From second on Lap 47 he fell back within two laps to 12th as the battle now became the one between German Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Jenson Button, with his team mate Lewis Hamilton just fending off Mark Webber.

Then Button’s pass of Vettel initiated the final round of overtaking maneuvers. The race was focused on the second place which was in doubt right up until the moment when Jenson Button slipped ahead of Sebastian Vettel on the 52nd lap, as the two times world champion’s super-long run on the medium Pirellis killed them at the end. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who was also hungry for a spot on the podium, squeezed by the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel two laps later. To make the humiliation perfect for German Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, who had driven an extraordinary race after his disasterous qualifying, he was also overtaken by his teammate on Lap 54.

Grosjean held on for an excellent sixth and his first Formula 1 world championship points for Lotus, while Senna backed up his great run in Malaysia with another respectable run to finish seventh ahead of Maldonado, who got his own back on Fernando Alonso for Melbourne by keeping the Spaniard at distance to the flag. After a spectacular move on his own team mate, Kobayashi recovered something on a disappointing Sunday for Sauber by taking the final point with 10th.

Sergio Perez finished in 11th from Paul di Resta, who had a strong race in a Force India that lacked the speed to keep the pace with the other cars. Felipe Massa had a much better race for Ferrari, but ultimately resulted in only 13th ahead of the Raikkonen, with Nico Hulkenberg 15th infront of the duelling Toro Rossos of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo. The Frenchman set some fastest laps mid-race after a tire stop, but the STR7s, like the two Force Indias, lacked pure pace when it was most important.

Vitaly Petrov impressed once again for Caterham to take 18th, while an impressive drive from Charles Pic saw the rookie finish 20th in his Marussia 0.3s behind team mate Timo Glock. Pedro de la Rosa was HRT’s better runner in 21st ahead of team mate Narain Karthikeyan, with Heikki Kovalainen 23rd and last after his Caterham had a very long pit stop during the final stages of the race.

Thus, after the race of the season, Lewis Hamilton leads the world championship with 45 points to Jenson Button’s 43, with Fernando Alonso third on 37 after a challenging afternoon for the Spanish Ferrari driver.
In the constructors’ standings, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes still leads with 88 points to Red Bull’s 64, Ferrari’s 37, Sauber’s 31, Mercedes’ 26 and Lotus’s 24.

Shanghai - Cairo - Abu Dhabi

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