Fernando Alonso has stormed to a sensational race victory in a Chinese Grand Prix utterly dominated by Pirelli?s P Zero tyres
Fernando Alonso has stormed to a sensational race victory in a Chinese Grand Prix utterly dominated by Pirelli?s P Zero tyres, which also saw a mesmerising nine lead changes. The Spaniard was followed home by the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, with Lewis Hamilton only just holding on for 3rd ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
At the start the Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa stormed into 2nd and 3rd position respectively, as Kimi Raikkonen fell through the order to 4th through the opening three corners. Lewis Hamilton retained the lead at the front, as the field tightly negotiated the opening lap of the race. Towards the end of the opening lap, the Force India duo collided as Adrian Sutil barged team-mate Paul di Resta onto the grass at Turn 15.
By Lap 3, the DRS device was activated allowing the various drivers within one second of the car in front to utilize to overtaking assist. This greatly assisted the Ferrari duo of Alonso and Massa, who instantly pounced around Lewis Hamilton to progress to 1st and 2nd. Sauber rookie Esteban Gutierrez?s race was short-lived, after the Mexican driver was woefully late on the brakes into Turn 14 and slammed into the rear of the Force India of Adrian Sutil. The two were forced into retirement, as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg pitted together on Lap 6.
Eventually Fernando Alonso pitted on Lap 7 along with the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen, thus handing the lead down to team-mate Felipe Massa. However, the Brazilian driver remained out on the track for too long on the soft tyre compound, and rejoined further down the order after his pit stop on Lap 8. This saw the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg assume the lead of the race, the first time he had led for the Swiss outfit this season. After falling through the order due to his first pit stop, Fernando Alonso gradually began to rise through the order to 4th by Lap 14.
After electing to start the race on the medium tyre compound, Nico Hulkenberg and Sebastian Vettel were one of the last of the front runners to pit on Lap 15. The Sauber mechanics failed to produce a pit stop to match Red Bull, as Vettel leapfrogged his fellow countryman during the stop. Meanwhile the McLaren of Jenson Button assumed the lead, after he too elected to start the race on the medium tyre compound. Sebastian Vettel rejoined the race behind his team-mate of Mark Webber, who had started the race in the pits after his exclusion from qualifying.
Mark Webber?s race weekend went from bad to worse on Lap 15, as the Australian driver collided with Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso at Turn 6. The saw Webber suffer a damaged front wing, and forced both he and Vergne to pit after sustaining damage. Whereas Jean-Eric Vergne pitted and rejoined without incident, Mark Webber immediately slowed after his pit-stop with the right-rear tyre loose on his car. After crawling at a snails pace for the majority of the lap, the Australian?s right-rear tyre eventually flew off of his car as he negotiated Turn 14.
Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen then came together at Turn 6 a lap later, with the Finn sustaining light damage to his front nose. However, Lotus elected not to pit Raikkonen as he continued with visible damage on his car. As much confusion ensued throughout the order, Fernando Alonso caught and overtook Jenson Button for the lead of the race on Lap 21. A lap later Raikkonen and Hamilton pitted together, with the duo now battling for the final podium places. Whereas one Mercedes driver was battling towards the front, the other of Nico Rosberg was forced into a frustrating retirement on Lap 23 with a suspension issue.
Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button pitted on Lap 24, allowing Sebastian Vettel to take the lead of the race for the first time. With Gutierrez and Sutil?s incident earlier in the race occurring in a DRS zone, the device was disabled as the marshals cleared the stricken machines. This saw almost half of the field come under investigation by the stewards for allegedly using the device during the yellow flag zone, including Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Chilton.
After once again dropping through the order after his second pit stop, Fernando Alonso slowly progressed back through the order. Firstly he overtook Nico Hulkenberg for 2nd before storming around Sebastian Vettel for the lead. Throughout the next few laps both Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton pitted for a second time. Fernando Alonso looked uncatchable out in front, and eventually pitted for a third and final time on Lap 41. The Spaniard only momentarily lost the lead to Vettel, and managed to retake it several laps later.
Jenson Button?s gamble of a two-stop strategy failed to pay off, as he began to plummet through the order from 3rd to 5th as both Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton simply breezed around the Briton. The McLaren driver eventually pitted on Lap 50 for the soft tyre compound, which last for only a lap and a half before they began to wear out. Sebastian Vettel became the last of the front runners to pit on Lap 51, as he too switched to the soft tyres.
Unlike Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel managed to make the pace of the soft compound last much longer. As Fernando Alonso simply cruised to his 31st career victory, Vettel began to seriously catch Lewis Hamilton for 3rd. The reigning Champion was a mesmerizing three seconds a lap quicker on the soft tyres, but failed to find a way around the Briton in a frenetic end to a tyre dominated race. Kimi Raikkonen ended the race 2nd, his 20th consecutive race finish in the points.
The Chinese Grand Prix may well have disappointed the purist of Formula 1 fans after being dominated by Pirelli?s tyres and the DRS overtaking device, however it is unquestionable that they combined to create one of the most exciting and memorable races around the Shanghai International Circuit. The excitement is sure to continue next weekend, when the sport reconvenes at Sakhir for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Author: Andy Young
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