Vodafone-McLaren back into the F1 game - Lewis Hamilton puts an end to Vettel's Hat trick series!

17.04.2011 / Shanghai - Dubai - Cairo /

Lewis Hamilton scored a hard-earned victory for his Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team at today's Chinese Grand Prix, after an extra-ordinary drive, catching and taking down Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel on the
52nd of the 56 laps as the reigning world champion's gamble on a two-stop strategy - and a 25-lap run on Pirelli's hard rubber - just failed to pay off.

Behind them, Red Bull's Mark Webber drove a brilliant race from P18 to snatch the last slot on the podium, only seven seconds behind race winner Lewis Hamilton, after catching and overtaking Mercedes' Michael Schumacher and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, then doing the same to Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes and Jenson Button in the second Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in the closing stages.

It was a very entertaining race, which began with both Vodafone McLaren Mercedes drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton leading from Sebastian Vettel, before the Red Bull driver repassed during the first round of pit stops. He passed Lewis Hamilton just before his stop on Lap 13, but admitted he was quite amused when leader Jenson Button initially drove into the Red Bull pit, and expected to have his tired changed there, before frantically being waved through to the McLaren pits next door!

Nico Rosberg had stopped on Lap 12 and led the race for Mercedes from Lap 17 until he stopped again on Lap 25, which put Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel back in the lead until he stopped for the second and last time on Lap 31, whereupon Massa had a spell in front. The Brazilian was right back on form, comfortably outpacing team mate Fernando Alonso this day, and defying all rumors, stating that he will not find back to his top shape after last year's accident during the practice of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The characteristics of the Pirellis proved, that the form of races is not established until the final stints, and by Lap 40 Sebastian Vettel was out front, 3.6s ahead of Felipe Massa with Nico Rosberg third from Lewis Hamilton, who had overtaken Jenson Button. As a matter of fact, It was the Vodafone McLarens Mercedes which were on the move. Lewis Hamilton took Nico Rosberg on Lap 42, Massa two laps later, and then minimized a 3.7s deficit to Sebastian Vettel before forcing his way by in Turn Seven on the 52nd lap.

For a while it seemed that Button might occupy the last place on the podium, Mark Webber had the freshest tires. He ran the primes for the first 10 laps, then switched to the softer options and, to make his final stop on Lap 40, was flying. As Button began to move in on Vettel, having passed Massa and Rosberg, Webber was stalking him and dived by on the penultimate lap to make the podium after a superb effort. Nico Rosberg was informed in the last few laps by his team radio that he has to start to look after the fuel consumption, which dampened his urge to fight with all possible means.

Three-stopping Rosberg was left fifth, ahead of the disillusioned Massa and Alonso for whom two-stop strategies had not worked out, while Schumacher eighth place came after delivering a lot of astonishing duels during the Chinese GP and after starting from a disappointing P14 . Renault's two-stop strategy didn't do the trick either, but Vitaly Petrov took ninth place from Paul di Resta on the 52nd lap, and Kamui Kobayashi pushed the Scottish rookie out of the points for the first time in his short Formula One career soon afterwards. The Japanese driver arrived at the finish-line with a black racing overall, after a lot of dust and dirt entered the cockpit through the hole present in the nose of his Formula 1 car.

By the finish Di Resta was under heavy pressure from Nick Heidfeld Renault too, after the German had had an adventurous race trapped in the midfield. He held off the Renault, however, but was disappointed to miss out on a point after yet again being Force India's faster driver.

Rubens Barrichello was 13th for Williams after a race spent dicing mainly with Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus, while Toro Rosso's promising afternoon was brought back to reality right at the start as Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi dropped back. The Spaniard became the only retirement of the race when he lost the right-rear wheel after his first pit stop, while his Swiss teammate had to be satisfied with 14th after a deeply disappointing afternoon.

The Swiss driver headed home Adrian Sutil, who was involved in a collision for which Sauber's Sergio Perez was given a drive-through penalty. The Mexican finished 17th, behind Kovalainen, and ahead of Williams' Pastor Maldonado and Jarno Trulli in the other Lotus, who had relatively uneventful races. Jerome D'Ambrosio was again Virgin's faster runner, heading home Timo Glock in 20th and 21st places, while Tonio Liuzzi caught and passed HRT team mate Narain Karthikeyan on the final lap after having to make up a lot of ground following a drive-through penalty early on for jumping the start.

As for the driver standings, Sebastian Vettel now has 68 points from Lewis Hamilton's 47, with Jenson Button Button third on 38 from Mark Webber's 37, Fernando Alonso's 26 and Felipe Massa's 24. In the constructors Formula 1 world championship, Red Bull still lead the constructors' championship, with 105 points to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' 85, Ferrari's 50 and Renault's 32 points.


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