Date: 16th April 2012 at 11:23am
Written by:

Once again Lewis Hamilton had a very quick car in the form of his McLaren Mercedes, but a grid penalty and a Mercedes in the form of Nico Rosberg took the all important race win in China.

Just like in Australia and in Malaysia McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton appeared to be the quickest throughout practice.

On Friday he topped the timing sheets by a whole second in Free Practice 1 ahead of Nico Rosberg and in FP2 he was just 0.172 seconds behind Michael Schumacher who topped Free Practice 2.

On Saturday morning he was top of the timing sheets again, this time slightly ahead of team-mate Jenson Button.

But unlike in Australia and Malaysia, Hamilton was unable to convert his practice pace into a third successive pole position run and with the prospect of a grid penalty for a new gear box, perhaps the McLaren team decided for a different race set-up giving away his raw pace advantage in qualifying.

However even if that wasn’t the case, it’s unlikely that Hamilton would have battled with Nico Rosberg for pole position as the German took his first pole position in his career and the first for the team under the name of Mercedes.

Mercedes appeared to find the ‘sweet spot’ for the tyres, so much so that Rosberg’s time was +0.505 seconds faster than Hamilton, +0.570 faster than team-mate Michael Schumacher and over a second faster than the likes of Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso.

So Hamilton had to settle for second, which in reality was a seventh place qualifying run.

After qualifying Hamilton told formula1.com: ‘Looking at the race, we?ve got a good car but I?m going to have to work my way up through the field.’

‘as long as I move forward in the race, I?ll be happy. I?ve set my car up to be at its strongest in the race. So, although Jenson and I are a little bit further back than we?d like, and we?ve got a bit of work to do, we can still make it. There?s a good group of drivers ahead of us on the grid, but we?re right with them in terms of race pace. This is a track where you can overtake, and we?ve got DRS too ? so I?m massively excited.’

The penalty for having a new gear box of course knocked him down from second on the grid to seventh, which clearly had changed Hamilton’s mind-set for the race the 2008 F1 champ, probably still thought he had the chance to win the race, but a more conservative run saw him take a good point haul away from China with a third place finish.

But a combination of some close racing between virtually all the drivers behind Nico Rosberg, meant that Hamilton dropped back into the pack each time he made a tyre stop, so Hamilton was still forced to pull of a number of overtaking manoeuvres, just to keep on track for his tyre strategy.

But once the teams various different strategies had panned out, Hamilton was on course to fight for a podium place with the Red Bull duo of Webber and Vettel, which Hamilton came out on top of, taking a third successive third position to take the lead of the 2012 Formula One World Championship.

After the race he told the media: ?I had a great race! And, although neither Jenson nor I was sadly able to win, I?m really happy that Nico took his first win today, but I?m also really pleased for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team: both Jenson and I were able to get back on the podium and score some more good points. It was a tough race, though: I?d love to have been able to challenge Nico, and I think maybe I?d have been able to if I?d started on the front row, but we still managed to move forwards from the start I had a lot of fun overtaking people too.

Speaking about his championship lead he added: It?s been a while since I was at the top of the drivers? world championship – but we?ve got to remain focused. I think if I just continue to work as I am then the wins will surely come, and I?ll keep pushing for some better results in the future.?