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Motorsport | Formula 1

Chinese GP: Exclusive Race Report

The Chinese GP, won by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, was one of the most exciting races in years with passing and changes of the lead throughout.

It was even doubtful that Hamilton would start the race at all as a fuel spillage in the McLaren garage minutes before the start of the race compromised him leaving for the grid. Although he dropped back down the order during several pit stops for tyres, he drove with great pace to pass the cars ahead and canter away to an easy win over the last few laps.

Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) finished second after and eventful race that saw him lose his pole position to both McLarens in the run down to the first corner. Third place went to his team mate Mark Webber who started from 18th on the grid but overcame that handicap to surge through the field and finish on the podium.

Jenson Button (McLaren) finished fourth, followed Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) and Vitaly Petrov (Renault).

"I think today the strategy we came up with definitely helped," said Hamilton . "It was a few things that came together: the pit stops were fantastic and the car felt right. It was one of the best races if have experienced. It feels amazing to be able to bring the car home with a victory.

"I think we still have along way ahead of us. In qualifying we still have a lot of work to do, but I am very proud and extremely grateful for all the work the team put into it."

"I think the start was not the best we have had this year," said Vettel in an understatement. "It was about being patient. I could have stayed out on the softs on the first stint but there was no point. After the first stop I came out in front. I saw Lewis coming closer and closer and tried to defend but he found his way past. Still, I got second so I am very happy with that. Congratulations to Lewis and to McLaren. I think it was a good race for us and we learned a lot today we. We had a problem with (radio) communications. I asked a lot of questions but didn't get many answers."

"It was an interesting GP," said Webber. "I decided to start on prime (hard tyres) but everyone was using the DRS at the same time so it wasn't easy. To see P17 on your pit board after 15 laps wasn't fun. Congratulations to Lewis - we're all here together fighting for victory."

At the start of the race, Jenson Button (McLaren-Mercedes) and team mate Lewis Hamilton both got to the first corner ahead of pole man Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) at the start of the Chinese Grand Prix.

Vettel appeared hesitant off the start line and defended hard against Button and then pushed Hamilton wide as he dived from side to side trying to defend his lead, but both McLarens got to the first corner ahead of the Red Bull.

Even Nico Rosberg, who started from fourth, was able to get the nose of his Mercedes ahead of the reigning world champion before being pushed wide and having to abort his attack. The top four were followed by Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Paul di Resta (Force India-Mercedes) and Adrian Sutil (Force India-Mercedes).

At the end of the first lap, Button had a lead of 1.3 sec but Hamilton pegged that at about a second over the next few laps, with Vettel 0.6 behind Hamilton.

Hamilton had a bit of a scare before the race even began as he only just made it out of his garage with just 35 seconds to spare to take up his third place on the grid. Once there, the engine covers came off as mechanics went to work once again. Fuel had flooded the engine in the garage and wet the air filter which had to be replaced.

The track temperature was 29°C on a mild day, but the race was taking place in typical Chinese heavy industrial air pollution that made it impossible to clearly see down the length of the main straight at the Shanghai track.

Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault) had started from 18th place on the grid after a terrible Saturday afternoon, but fortunately the KERS system which was faulty in Malaysia last weekend was apparently fully operational once again in the Australian's car. He only made up one position on the opening lap but then began to gradually make up a place a lap.

On lap 7, Hamilton set a 1'43.928 while further back Nick Heidfeld (Renault) was down in 14th place and battling to make his way through the backmarkers after qualifying 16th.

Meanwhile Sergio Perez (Sauber-Ferrari) caught and passed Webber who went backwards to 16th and the Australian dropped another place as Rubens Barrichello (Williams-Cosworth) got past him as the right rear wheel came off Jaime Alguersuari's Toro Rosso-Ferrari and he retired.

Webber pitted on lap 10 for fresh tyres, dropping to 20th.

Lap 10 Positions

1 Button
2 Hamilton +1.2
3 Vettel +1.8
4 Rosberg +4.9
5 Massa +5.4
6 Alonso +6.9
7 Di Resta +14.0
8 Sutil +14.5
9 Schumacher +15.4
10 Kobayashi +16.0

Hamilton closed to within 0.9 sec of Button, bringing him into the zone for operation of the Drag Reduction System, with Vettel even closer, just 0.3 sec behind Hamilton. The top three cars were covered by just 0.9 sec with their first pit stops imminent.

Hamilton came under pressure from Vettel and had to start defending, giving Button a chance to get away. Vettel used his DRS and got past Hamilton into second.

Button and Vettel pitted together and Button made a crucial error, stopping in the Red Bull pit instead of the McLaren one. He pulled ahead to the correct lane, but the delay cost him a couple of seconds and allowed Vettel to get ahead of him in the running order as Alonso took the lead from Massa who got ahead of Hamilton in their pit stops.

Alonso pitted next out of the lead promoting Rosberg to the top position. He was followed by Vettel +5.0, Button +6.6, Massa +7.3 and Hamilton +7.8.

Button set a new fastest lap of 1'42.612 as he worked at the 1.4 sec gap between himself and Vettel ahead in second place

Lap 20 Positions

1 Rosberg
2 Vettel +4.7
3 Button +6.2
4 Massa +7.3
5 Hamilton +7.8
6 Schumacher +12.9
7 Alonso +13.3
8 Di Resta +18.4
10 Kobayashi +24.4 

Double world champion Alonso was trying hard to find a way around seven-times world champion Schumacher  in sixth place but he was unable to make a clean pass. 

Webber was up to 11th place but he received the same radio message as in Malaysia: "No KERS" as the reliability problem reared its head again.

Button pitted from third to rejoin fifth, 1.7 sec behind Hamilton and 6.7 sec a head of Schumacher. Race leader Rosberg responded to Button's pit stop as did Hamilton and Webber.

Vettel did not make a pit stop and emerged in the lead again, followed by Massa and Alonso who also had not made their second stops. Alonso got past Schumacher who then immediately stopped for his next set of tyres.

Button's first lap out on his fresh tyres yielded a 1'41.536 to set the fastest lap of the race, but Webber went faster still - 1'41.200.

Rosberg made a cheeky move up the inside of Massa for third in the last corner and powered away from the Ferrari up the pit straight.

Button came up behind Alonso on the straight and as the Spaniard defended one way, the Brit went the other and took fourth place.

Hamilton was next to set the quickest lap - 1'40.736 - as he breezed past former team mate Alonso and closed on current team mate Button just over a second ahead.

Vettel pitted on lap 31 to release Massa into the lead, the only front-runner not yet to make a second stop for tyres. The Brazilian was followed by Rosberg +6.2, Button +8.2, Hamilton +9.1 and Vettel +20.5.

Race leader Massa pitted on lap 33 while Webber was pushing hard to try and pass Schumacher for sixth. Schumacher got past Petrov but Webber was unable to follow him past and had to wait his chance to get past the Renault.

So on lap 34, Rosberg was leading from Button +1.7 who was followed by Hamilton +2.5, Vettel +16.0 and Massa +17.9.

On lap 35, Hamilton pulled a nice slipstream tow down the pit straight (with no DRS allowed) and got ahead of his team mate into the first corner to take a crucial second place 2.6 sec behind Rosberg but lapping 0.4 sec a lap quicker.

Button pitted for the third time on lap 37 for a set of brand new hard tyres and he dropped from third to sixth fifth ahead of the Schumacher/Webber battle.

Hamilton pitted on the next lap and was followed a lap later by race leader Rosberg. The German emerged just ahead of the 2008 champion and they began a very spirited battle for third place.

Second-place Massa was being caught by the Rosberg/Hamilton battle. As they came up to some backmarkers, Hamilton was able to dive up the inside of Rosberg and into third place, a second behind Massa with race leader Vettel a further four seconds ahead.

Further back, never-say-die Webber set a new fastest lap of 1'38.993 in seventh place, 1.6 sec behind Alonso.

Hamilton's pace carried him forward to muscle his way past Massa with 11 laps to go. Vettel was 4.6 sec a head of Hamilton, but the McLaren was lapping nearly a second faster than the Red Bull.

Button was also flying and was looking for a way past Massa in third.

Vettel set his personal best lap with nine laps remaining, but even still Hamilton took another four tenths out of his 3.3 sec lead.

Sutil damaged his front wing in an altercation with Perez and had to return to the pits. Perez was given a drive-through penalty for his indiscretion.

Hamilton continued to take chunks out of Vettel's lead and with seven lap remaining, the lead was down to 1.6 seconds with the McLaren lapping 0.7 a sec quicker than the Red Bull.

Rosberg was putting pressure on Massa for fourth place as Webber, driving like a man possessed, closed up on the five cars ahead of him.

Hamilton got alongside race leader Vettel down the main straight, but the German closed the door on him. Hamilton shadowed him for another lap, looking for a way past.

But Hamilton's pace and determination were unstoppable and he surged past into the lead on lap 51.

Further behind, Rosberg and then Webber got past Massa and Webber now had fourth-placed Rosberg in his sights.

Webber, on fresh, soft tyres, caught and passed Rosberg and with two laps remaining he had Button 3.6 ahead of him in the final podium position. Webber ate away the gap in just a lap and then he used his DRS system to get past Button into third place.

Hamilton won the Chinese GP from Vettel and a rapidly closing Webber who went from 18th on the grid to the podium.

2011 Chinese Grand Prix Race Results
Pos Driver Nat Team Time

1 Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren
2 Sebastian Vettel GER Red Bull +5.1
3 Mark Webber AUS Red Bull +7.5
4 Jenson Button GBR McLaren +10.0
5 Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes +13.4
6 Felipe Massa BRA Ferrari +15.8
7 Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari +30.6
8 Michael Schumacher GER Mercedes +31.0
9 Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault +57.4
10 Kamui Kobayashi JAP Sauber +63.2
11 Paul di Resta GBR Force India +68.7
12 Nick Heidfeld GER Renault +72.7
13 Rubens Barrichello BRA Williams +90.1
14 Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso +90.6
15 Adrian Sutil GER Force India +1 lap
16 Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus +1 lap
17 Sergio Perez MEX Sauber +1 lap
18 Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams +1 lap
19 Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus +1 lap
20 Jerome d'Ambrosio BEL Virgin +2 laps
21 Timo Glock GER Virgin +2 laps
22 Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA Hispania +2 laps
23 Narain Karthikeyan IND Hispania +2 laps
DNF Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso DNF


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