Nico Rosberg has won the Chinese Grand Prix in dominant fashion, leading almost the entire race from pole position. Any doubts about the race pace of the Mercedes have now been decisively put to rest. Team-mate Michael Schumacher retired from the race with a loose wheel, preventing what could easily have been a one-two for Mercedes.
After taking his career first pole position yesterday, Rosberg kept his head at the start of the race to lead Schumacher off the line. From there on, he was untouchable, easily pulling away from the rest of the field. Only Jenson Button looked like he could challenge the Mercedes for pace. Button was on a three-stop strategy to Rosberg’s two-stop, which meant Button was much quicker leading up to Rosberg’s second stop. An error by the McLaren pit-crew ended Button’s challenge, which meant Rosberg could just bring the car home for a comfortable 20-second victory.
Behind Rosberg, the racing was surprisingly close. It is unusual to see 12 cars separated by only 22 seconds at the end of a Grand Prix, but that was the gap between Button in second and Massa in 13th place. A train of 5 or more cars fighting for second place is more commonly seen in Formula Ford than in Formula One, but that is how close the racing was today. Seven different teams featured in the top 10, underlining just how competitive the season has been so far.
McLaren, despite the disappointment of Button’s slow pitstop, performed well to finish second (Button) and third (Hamilton), after starting fifth and seventh respectively. The pace of the McLaren remains evident, but they are certainly not as dominant as suggested by their pace in Australia. The Red Bull pair of Vettel and Webber were able to fight with the McLarens, as were Lotus drivers Raikkonen and Grosjean. Raikkonen was running second towards the end of the race before his tyres ran out of grip. He ended up 14th, but Grosjean finished a strong sixth. Williams continued their impressive season with Senna seventh and Maldonado eighth. Ferrari struggled as expected, Alonso only managing ninth and Massa thirteenth. Massa had his strongest weekend of the season so far, finishing only five seconds behind team-leader Alonso.
Formula One in 2012 continues to produce close, exciting racing. Three races have been won by three different drivers. Six drivers have appeared on the podium. Only Lewis Hamilton has featured on the podium in all three races, showing just how competitive the field is. The big story of the weekend, however, is Mercedes’ return to the front of the grid. The car is quick and the drivers are performing. Rosberg has shown he can win. It surely can’t be long before Schumacher joins him on the podium.