F Features

Chinese GP: Alonso caps strong Ferrari weekend with victory

 R6T2400

Fernando Alonso capped off a strong weekend for Ferrari in Shanghai, taking his first victory of the year and 31st of his career.

It was a spoiler to Lewis Hamilton, who was searching for his first Mercedes victory after claiming his first pole with the German manufacturer. Hamilton finished in third place (+12.3 seconds) behind the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen (+10.1 seconds)

The Scuderia team went into Sunday after dominating the practice sessions and qualifying both cars in the top five. After a slow start by Raikkonen, the Ferrari duo of Alonso and Felipe Massa quickly slotted behind Hamilton for second and third.

By lap five, the Ferraris quickly passed by Hamilton for the lead. Near the back of the field, Esteban Gutierrez ran into the back of Adrian Sutil (Force India), knocking both drivers out of the race.

 R6T1615The majority of the field started with the Pirelli soft option tire with the exception of Jenson Button (McLaren), Sergio Perez (McLaren), Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber), Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), Paul Di Resta (Force India), Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) and Valtteri Bottas (Williams). Driving on the medium compounds, they took advantage of a longer first stint after cars pitted on lap six and seven for fresh rubber.

Button was able to drive an incredible 26 laps on the medium compounds to jump up to third from eighth position. Vettel moved from 10th to second, while Hulkenberg led from lap eight to lap 15, until he was passed by Vettel in the pits.

CHI-Race-3320 copyVettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber was plagued with issues throughout the weekend. Starting from the back of the grid after running out of fuel and failing to provide a sample in qualifying, the Aussie’s bad luck continued when he collided with Vergne on lap 16. After installing a new front wing, Webber retired soon after when his right rear tire fell off.

Raikkonen was also involved in an early incident with Sergio Perez, when the Finnish driver attempted to overtake on the outside of turn five on lap 15. Forced to run off-track, Raikkonen suffered damage to his front nose cone after brushing the McLaren, but continued to climb through the field without a repair to regain second place. While a new front wing would have cost the team crucial seconds in the pits, it might have helped Raikkonen's for a victory. After the race, Lotus confirmed the damage slowed the car as much as 0.25 seconds per lap.

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Soon after, Mercedes driver and previous Chinese winner Nico Rosberg drove into the pits and retired with suspension complications.

 89P8422Alonso dominated the field throughout the race, with fastest times on lap 45 and 46. With just six laps to go, the Ferrari driver had a healthy lead over Vettel, who was still scheduled for a final stop for the required set of soft tires.

Vettel jumped into the pits on lap 52 and dropped down to fourth, behind Raikkonen and Hamilton. With four laps remaining, the goal was to take advantage of the faster, fresher tires.

Vettel posted lap times as much as three seconds quicker than Hamilton, and appeared on the hunt for the final podium position. On the final lap, Vettel closed to within a second of Hamilton, but missed him at the finish by just 0.2 seconds.

podium2Alonso’s victory put him third in the drivers standings with 43 points, ahead of Hamilton (40 points). Raikkonen retains his second position with 49 points, and Vettel’s fourth place keeps him in the lead with 52 points.

In the constructors championship, Red Bull remains on top with 78 points, but Ferraris strong finish puts them in second, just five points back. Lotus sits in third (60 points), Mercedes is fourth (52 points), while McLaren sits tied with Force India with just 14 points each.

Round four continues next week at the 5.412 km Bahrain International Circuit, where Vettel claimed pole and the victory in 2012, ahead of Raikkonen and his Lotus teammate, Romain Grosjean.

 Final Results

Pos

#

Driver

Team

Laps

Time/Retired

Grid

Pts

1

3

Fernando Alonso

Ferrari

56

1:36:26.945

3

25

2

7

Kimi Räikkönen

Lotus-Renault

56

+10.1 secs

2

18

3

10

Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes

56

+12.3 secs

1

15

4

1

Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull Racing-Renault

56

+12.5 secs

9

12

5

5

Jenson Button

McLaren-Mercedes

56

+35.2 secs

8

10

6

4

Felipe Massa

Ferrari

56

+40.8 secs

5

8

7

19

Daniel Ricciardo

STR-Ferrari

56

+42.6 secs

7

6

8

14

Paul di Resta

Force India-Mercedes

56

+51.0 secs

11

4

9

8

Romain Grosjean

Lotus-Renault

56

+53.4 secs

6

2

10

11

Nico Hulkenberg

Sauber-Ferrari

56

+56.5 secs

10

1

11

6

Sergio Perez

McLaren-Mercedes

56

+63.8 secs

12

 

12

18

Jean-Eric Vergne

STR-Ferrari

56

+72.6 secs

15

 

13

17

Valtteri Bottas

Williams-Renault

56

+93.8 secs

16

 

14

16

Pastor Maldonado

Williams-Renault

56

+95.4 secs

14

 

15

22

Jules Bianchi

Marussia-Cosworth

55

+1 Lap

18

 

16

20

Charles Pic

Caterham-Renault

55

+1 Lap

20

 

17

23

Max Chilton

Marussia-Cosworth

55

+1 Lap

19

 

18

21

Giedo van der Garde

Caterham-Renault

55

+1 Lap

21

 

Ret

9

Nico Rosberg

Mercedes

21

Suspension

4

 

Ret

2

Mark Webber

Red Bull Racing-Renault

15

Wheel

22

 

Ret

15

Adrian Sutil

Force India-Mercedes

5

Accident

13

 

Ret

12

Esteban Gutierrez

Sauber-Ferrari

4

Accident

17

 

Note - Webber originally qualified 14th but moved to the back of the grid for failing to provide a one-litre fuel sample after qualifying

Photos: Alastair Staley/LAT, Charles Coates/LAT, Steve Etherington/LAT, Glenn Dunbar/LAT, Lotus F1

 

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