18/04/2012

Chinese GP, Shanghai- As crazy as it can get


Yet another race in the season where the predictions were just dumped in the bin. The start to 2012 has been one of the best start for the fans. All teams are in the mix of the things and Chinese GP was one more example after Australia & Malaysia of how close the field is. As I have been saying, one mistake and you are tucked down (Kimi will agree after China). Nico Rosberg took his maiden pole and maiden win of his F1 career and Mercedes AMG their first win since return. Button ended at P2 and for the third time Hamilton at P3.

The detailed report of the whole weekend is here:

Practice Session, FP1:


Rain was following everyone from Australia, Malaysia to China as FP1 was mostly washed out due the damp track, drizzle and less running. Teams didn’t venture out much as 16 was the maximum laps done. Hamilton ended at P1 in the rain-effected session, interestingly he was using the damaged gearbox. Rosberg ended at P2 while Schumacher at P3. Jules Bianchi got his first chance in the SFI car as he sat for Di Resta. Hulkenberg finished at P14 while Bianchi ended at P20, they run just 13 and 8 laps respectively. Karthikeyan ended at P23, as the HRT tried few upgrades on the car.


FP2:


The second session was better to start off as there was no rain and the track was dry enough for some valuable run. Though there were few spins from many drivers including Di Resta at T16. So much so that Glock skidded of at T1 and hit the tyre wall, ending his run. Schumacher took Mercedes to P1 while Hamilton ended at P2 and Vettel in his Red Bull at P3. A better session for SFI as Di Resta at P8 and Hulkenberg at P9 and they did some good amount laps. Both were satisfied with the car post session. Karthikeyan ended at P24 but did some solid laps in the new HRT.


FP3:


Saturday morning, the session remained dry as no rain was expected. The final session before qualifying, the teams ran their qualifying specs based on one lap performance. McLaren ended up 1-2 in the end with Hamilton at P1 and Button at P2, Hamilton was running with the new gearbox. A slight slip in SFI performance as Hulkenberg finished at P11 and Di Resta at P13, he was looking to improve but a small mistake in his best lap cost him valuable time. Karthikeyan ended at P23 ahead of his team-mate, well inside the 107% time.

The practice session went as expected as we saw McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bulls staying mostly at top. Lotus seemed to have problems while Ferrari were in a bit of trouble. It was up and down sessions for SFI as they did will in FP2 but struggled a bit in FP1 and FP3, largely down to some tyre issues. I was still hopeful of one car in Q3 as the pace was lacking slightly for both cars in Q3.


Qualifying, Q1:


There was no sign of rain but the air was misty, foggy largely due to the industries surrounding the tracks. We could hardly see the sun with all the polluted air, so to say. Q1 was all about the usual suspects going out as everyone expected it to happen. Both the Caterham, Marussia & HRT went out. Karthikeyan qualified at P24 but under the 107% time. Both the SFI made it to Q2 comfortably. Perez ended up as P1 after he bumped Alonso towards the end, no real dramas in the session. Vergne also went out in Q1 for the second race in succession.


Q2:


I have to say that, no one was expecting such dramas in Q2 as we saw in the session. When most of the front runners came out for a second run on soft tyres, it was clear that it was very close to get into Q3 or miss out the bus. Webber ended at P1 in the end in the session which saw his team mate Vettel bowing out for the first time in many races. Yes, double world champion Vettel ended at just P11 along with Massa at P12. Both SFI had a difficult time, Paul ended at P15 while Hulkenberg at P16. It was close yet again with not much covering the drivers. Still, I think the team does lack a bit off pace few tenths and it will do.



Q3:


Final session, history was in the making as Mercedes were the best bet to get the pole. But who? Rosberg finally? Or Schumacher? The temperature dropped, it was a bit cooler than other sessions. Rosberg set the early pace and that was enough for him to clinch his maiden pole with Mercedes getting their first since return, it was some lap really. What about confidence and risk, after setting the time Rosberg jumped out of his car and went to the FIA room to watch the rest of the qualifying. Hamilton originally qualified at P2 but was due to start at P7. Effectively, it was Mercedes 1-2 then as Suchmacher qualified at P3 (went up to P2), with Kobayashi at P4 (P3) giving Sauber a great qualifying run.

Another fantastic qualifying session, all sorts of things happened with teams coming out for second run during Q2 which is an unusual scene. Mercedes with their F-ducted DRS and strong straight line speed got their maiden pole as did Rosberg. Red Bull and Ferrari were quite down. SFI had an off day, though times were close but they could have done a bit better but then again Nico & Paul gave their best. Anything could have happened in the race and so points were always possible in the race which I was hoping for.


Raceday:


A win for Mercedes or Rosberg was in no one’s mind after what happened to them in Australia & Malaysia and the amount of tyre wear they have from any other team but for once and perhaps for all Mercedes silenced their critics clinching their maiden win since return and first career win for Rosberg, his dad Keke Rosberg must be proud. It was not a sunny day, but no rain was expected either. It was certainly an interesting field, anything could have happened at the start. Rosberg had a great start and took the lead immediately as his team-mate followed him behind. Button & Hamilton made a quick start while Kobayashi fell behind. Vettel had a poor start at the back. Paul had a great start to be running ahead of Vettel at one point but Hulkenberg had a slightly slow start and thus falling behind, plus he had to change for a new front wing as some debris had damaged it. Karthikeyan had a good start as well as he moved up to P21 at one point.

Once Schumacher retired, it was easy for Rosberg as he took a comfortable lead and the improved Mercedes was doing some good laps. Behind him it was all for everyone as fight was on between McLaren’s, Kimi, Webber. Ferrari were having a tough time though Alonso was fighting it out hard there as always but their straight line speed was just wasn’t enough. Williams picked up in the middle stint while Sauber’s dropped down slowly. STR’s were fighting it out among themselves behind the SFI’s. Karthikeyan was running behind his team-mate in P22 as Heikki fell out due to pit-stop problems. Towards the end, due to different strategies there were as many as 10 cars behind one another with Button, Hamilton, Webber, Vettel, Grosjean, Senna, Maldanado, Alonso, Kimi all vying to finish in the Top 10. The biggest loser was Kimi who from P2 went to P14 in the end as his tyres were just finished and hitting the marbles off-line didn’t help.

The SFI cars had a mixed start but they were always in the mix. Di Resta was running among points at one stage but that was down to strategies from different teams. Di Resta was ahead of Vettel at the start but he lost out during the pit stop. He was then chasing the Williams and towards the end the Sauber’s to get himself among points. He stayed comfortably ahead of Massa and in the end Kimi who lost a big chunk. As for Hulkenberg, it was salvaging game because of the start he got. He was comfortably ahead of the STR’s, Vergne in particular who was always close to him. Towards the end he was very close to push Kimi below and he also caught with Massa who was ahead of Kimi. Di Resta ended at P12 while Hulkenberg at P15. Karthikeyan managed to finish the race at P22, once again HRT doing a good job in the reliability department.

Rosberg deserved the victory in the end he was ahead of Button by 20.6 seconds. The real mayhem was behind Rosberg as it was very-very close between the other drivers. The move from Webber over Vettel to get the P4 position on the last lap was one of the great move and it was good to see, there was no team orders involved. Williams completed a double point finish race while Sauber’s looking good missed out on any point. Kimi will surely feeling the pinch after dropping from P2 to P14 but Lotus would be happy Grosjean finished a good P6. As for SFI, though they didn’t finished among points, there pace was encouraging and the pit stop times were ever impressive. We now move on to Bahrain, it will be a dusty track for sure not many high speed corners. The race perhaps will be over-shadowed due to protests but our main focus will be the race and everyone’s safety. My thoughts that now the race is on, we should just get along and hope for a safe race rather than bashing up everyone for the decision made. Till Bahrain, drive safely and live safely!!

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