• Apr 17, 2011
2011 Chinese Grand Prix – Click above for high-res image gallery

After a solid month's worth of previews, the Shanghai Motor Show will finally open its doors this week. And when it does, it will feature an unprecedented number of world debuts. But as central as the Chinese port city has become to the international auto show circuit, the expo wasn't the only event of worldwide interest occurring there this week.

Shanghai also played host this weekend to the Chinese Grand Prix, the third race in this year's Formula One World Championship. And with rivalries so closely contested, it was still anyone's guess as to how it would unfold. Follow the jump for the full play-by-play.

Red Bull, McLaren, McLaren, Mercedes, Ferrari, Ferrari... a quick glance at the qualifying sheets from Saturday may have revealed few surprises. After all, Sebastian Vettel sat on pole position – the same place he's been every race so far this season and most of the last as well. But finding his wingman – who's usually just a step behind at most – sent the observer scrolling way down the list to 18th place. The Australian was saddled with KERS trouble and poor tire strategy during the first of the three qualifying sessions and never made it to the next round.

Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton opted, in his words, to save the car for the race rather than push it in the third qualifying session. So his team-mate Jenson Button qualified second behind Vettel, Nico Rosberg placed his Mercedes impressively in fourth place, Alonso and Massa seizing fifth and sixth for Ferrari. Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari admirably qualified seventh, his wingman Sebastien Buemi in ninth to sandwich Force India's rookie Paul di Resta solidly in eighth, with Renault's Vitaly Petrov rounding out the top ten. Adrian Sutil (Force India), Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber), Michael Schumacher (suffering from further DRS rear wing issues on his Mercedes), Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Nick Heidfeld (Renault), Pastor Maldonado (Williams), Webber, Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli (Lotus), Jerome d'Ambrosio and Timo Glock (Virgin), and Tonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan (HRT) rounded out the grid.

2011 Chinese Grand Prix

Hamilton's strategy almost came to naught as technical issues put the McLaren mechanics into overtime, finally getting his car up and running just in time for the race start. And what a start it was, as both he and his wingman in front of him passed Vettel, who unfortunately veered right in a failed attempt to block the approach, to take first and second. Rosberg quite nearly made it past his fellow German as well, but Vettel managed to fend him off to hold on to third. Meanwhile Massa squeezed by his teammate to take fifth place as both Schumacher and Webber proceeded to scythe their way through the midfield over the course of the opening laps.

Button now lead the field ahead of his team-mate Hamilton, Vettel following in third, Rosberg in fourth, Massa and Alonso in fifth and sixth, di Resta in seventh, Sutil eighth, Schumacher ninth and Alguersuari tenth. Kobayashi, Petrov, Buemi, Heidfeld, Barrichello, Perez, Webber, Kovalainen, Trulli, Maldonado, Liuzzi, Glock, d'Ambrosio and Karthikeyan followed.

The subsequent laps held little action, Petrov moving past both Kobayashi and Alguersuari for eleventh position, Buemi closing in right behind, as Hamilton and Button traded fastest laps one after the other. Alguersuari made the first pit stop on lap 10, but the Toro Rosso pit crew apparently failed to properly secure the right-rear wheel which subsequently came off on the track, forcing him out of the race in what would, remarkably, be the only retirement of the day.

2011 Chinese Grand Prix2011 Chinese Grand Prix
2011 Chinese Grand Prix2011 Chinese Grand Prix

The ascendant Schumacher and Webber made their pit stops next, while up front they ran in packs: Button, Hamilton and Vettel in close proximity in positions 1, 2 and 3, Rosberg, Massa and Alonso further adrift from the front but close to each other in positions 4, 5 and 6. Rosberg then entered pit lane from fourth place only to re-emerge in tenth, soon after passing Heidfeld for ninth. But all eyes were up at the front as Vettel passed Hamilton, only for Vettel and Button – now running first and second – to head into the pits. Button accidentally went into the Red Bull pit box but quickly advanced to McLaren's just in front, but Vettel emerged ahead out of the pit lane to rejoin in eighth place to Button's ninth.

Next in were Hamilton and Massa, who were now running first and second, re-emerging ninth and seventh, respectively, as the Ferrari pit crew also got the better of McLaren's. Both drivers then passed Heidfeld to further advance, as Alonso pitted from the lead to rejoin in ninth place. Meanwhile Renault's fortunes were further trounced as Vettel took second from Petrov, who then went into the pits, followed by both Schumacher and Alonso who came from opposite sides to overtake Heidfeld, who likewise followed into the pits only to rejoin way down in sixteenth place.

With everyone but a few backmarkers having made their first pit stop by lap 19, it was Nico Rosberg who surprisingly emerged in the lead. Vettel ran second, followed by Button (third), Massa (fourth), Hamilton (fifth), Schumacher (sixth), Alonso (seventh), di Resta (eighth), Sutil (ninth) and Kobayashi (tenth). Webber led the rest of the pack: Petrov, Perez, Heidfeld, Trulli, Kovalainen, Barrichello, Maldonado, d'Ambrosio, Buemi, Karthikeyan, Glock and Liuzzi.

2011 Chinese Grand Prix

The subsequent laps saw heated action between longtime rivals Schumacher and Alonso in sixth and seventh places respectively, as the two-time champion stayed glued to the seven-time champion's tail lap after lap. It would take until lap 26 before the Spaniard would get past the German. By that point Button had stopped a second time, dropping from fifth to seventh, and Rosberg pitted from the lead to rejoin in fifth place. Webber and Schumacher followed for fresh rubber as well.

Lap 29 and 30 saw both Rosberg and Button pass Alonso for third and fourth places, with Vettel soon to pit from the lead and rejoin in sixth place. When Alonso made his second stop on lap 33, he fell from fifth to tenth place, followed by his team-mate Massa who was running in the lead but dropped post-pit to fifth, drifting over the line on exit from pit lane.

By the time the second round of stops was done, 34 laps out of 56 total were completed, and Rosberg was again running in the lead. Button followed second, Hamilton third, Vettel fourth, Massa fifth, Schumacher sixth, Webber seventh, Petrov eighth, Alonso ninth and Perez tenth. Barrichello, di Resta, Kobayashi, Sutil, Heidfeld, Kovalainen, Maldonado, Buemi, Trulli, d'Ambrosio, Glock, Karthikeyan and Liuzzi followed.

2011 Chinese Grand Prix

With less than a second between them lap after lap, Hamilton finally closed in and overtook Button for second place in a hard-fought battle that nearly took them both out of the race. Alonso then overtook Petrov (who had still only stopped once) for eighth and Button started it all over again with his third stop on lap 37, leaving third place to rejoin fifth. Hamilton soon followed suit to leave second for fourth, but not before Webber overtook Schumacher for sixth place.

Rosberg was the next to pit, once again from the lead, rejoining third as Hamilton closed in right behind. A close fight followed for several laps, but Hamilton finally squeezed by on lap 42. Further adrift Heidfeld, Petrov and Perez were running in close formation, leading to the latter rookie Sauber driver to hit the back of Petrov's car only to bust the right side of his front wing. Perez was then faulted with running into Sutil and getting a drive-through penalty. Meanwhile up near the front it was Massa, Button and Rosberg fighting for third, McLaren's Brit finally getting past Ferrari's Brazilian on lap 50, followed by Rosberg's move on Massa to force him off the track heading down the front straight.

With Vettel now in the lead but running on two stops, Hamilton – on fresher tires after his third – overtook for the lead. Meanwhile Webber, who astonishingly fight his way up from 18th place on the grid, passed Rosberg for fourth and then Button for third to land incredibly on the podium.

2011 Chinese Grand Prix2011 Chinese Grand Prix

Across the line it was Hamilton who took the checkered flag, followed by Vettel and Webber in a Red Bull two-three finish. Button emerged fourth, Rosberg fifth, Massa sixth, Alonso seventh, Schumacher eighth, Petrov ninth and Kobayashi tenth. Di Resta, Heidfeld, Barrichello, Buemi, Sutil, Kovalainen, Perez, Maldonado, Trulli, d'Ambrosio, Glock, Liuzzi and Karthikeyan all finished outside the points.

The results still see Vettel and Red Bull at the top of both championship standings, followed by Hamilton and McLaren. Button and Webber stand third and fourth respectively, Alonso and Massa fifth and sixth to land Ferrari third in the constructors' standings. Join us again for the fourth round in Turkey the weekend of May 6-8.

[Images: Paul Gilham, Mark Thompson, Clive Mason/Getty | Andy Wong, Aly Song, Greg Baker, Mark Baker, Raymond Ho, Eugene Hoshiko/AP]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think that it was an interesting race to watch but worry that some of the new introductions this year will make it difficult to attract new audiences to F1. It used to be difficult but possible to predict the actual position and pace of a driver between pit stops. You could look at the board, see they were yet to stop and gauge the window they would come out in. This allows you to follow the race and have a true sense of everyones relative pace. With the introduction of The new Pirelli tires this has become much more difficult. The vast difference in performance between the two Pirelli compounds makes it very difficult to judge the positions and pace of the competitors over the race distance. With drivers taking different strategies with which tires to use and when it has made it difficult to see the performance differences of the car over the performance differences of the tire compounds. Sure there is a lot of passing and it makes the races less predictable but also makes you feel like you just watched a game of chess and not a race. DRS and KERS have made the passing a bit more predictable as well. The tailing drivers have tended to decrease the gap to the lead driver and hold off until the DRS zone to make a pass. The only instances that this really hasn't been the case is in the severe tire degradation phase where a driver is 2-3 seconds off the pace and is passed with ease by the other drivers. This isn't the kind of passing and racing that I expect from Formula 1 caliber drivers. I think that it shows the Aero restrictions have allowed the drivers to race close in the turbulent air. If it were up to me I would delete DRS, Run the two Pirelli compounds that are closer to each other instead of one step apart and keep the KERS. I think we would see much fiercer racing without so much artificial discrepancy.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Thanks RIP, did not yet know that about Alonso's wing!
      • 3 Years Ago
      why am i up this early on a sunday to check who won? Go Hamilton.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I stayed and watch the whole thing. Fell asleep before awards ceremony/interviews. Have it on DVR, will re-watch.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Consistency is good but consistently spelling the past-tense of "to lead", "l-e-a-d" is still wrong, no matter how many times you do it or spell-check passes it for you. It's "l-e-d" and pronounced just like the Pb element, which (in the case of reporting on race results) is really ironic.
      • 3 Years Ago
      A thrilling race (the first real race of the season), and an absolutely phenomenal drive by Mark Webber; I had almost written him off by about the lap 20 stage but then he came storming in.

      I'm also finding it curious how his car has been suffering constant reliability problems (especially with KERS) while Vettel's car has been running without a hitch so far...
        • 3 Years Ago
        Kers has been horribke for both drivers. It was off for both in the first race and on the second race it was all broken for Mark and for Vettel it was off half of the race.

        I mean Raikkonen at his prime when he was the quickest guy out there had his McLaren brake every other race while Montoya just had couple brokedowns. Life is a bitch rather than going for easy rote and thinking there's a conspiracy. ;)
      • 3 Years Ago
      Finally someone knocked Vettel off the top, Should be an exciting battle between Red Bull and McLaren the rest of the season.

      Checkout out this F1 Drivers guide
      • 3 Years Ago
      Does anyone else wonder why Alonso didn't get a penalty for using DRS while trying to pass Schumacher while not in the DRS zone? The SPEED commentators noticed it, so I find it hard to believe the stewards were not aware.
        • 3 Years Ago
        The Alonso wing-thing was a malfunction. His wing calibration zone came earlier than other drivers. Not only did he not gain from the wing opening in a turn, but it activated causing him a loss of grip in a turn.

        That's why he wasn't fined.
      Jonathan Arena
      • 3 Years Ago
      Great comments, guys... it's so refreshing to hear actual motorsport fans discussing F1...
      • 3 Years Ago
      Fantastic run for Hamilton and Webber, great race, this season so far is the best i've seen in a while.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Yeah, Lewis tried getting by in the DRS zone but the guys in front... Vettel especially... kept parking it on the racing line into the hairpin. (I'm beginning to think that's the only way Vettel knows how to defend. He does it every weekend from pole too: run down to turn one, park on the apex & back up traffic, then run off into the distance.) Thank goodness they put up a good fight though because we got to see Lewis at his best: taking Alonso, Button, Rosberg, Massa & Vettel without using DRS. His move down the inside of Button, & the one on Vettel through turn 7 were sublime. The rest of the race was pretty damn awesome too... action everywhere. I'm a McLaren fan through & through, but I confess to cheering quite loudly when Webber made it past Button for the podium. Gotta respect him... it was a truly awesome comeback. Strategy had a lot to do with it, but that's what a competitive race weekend is all about: getting everything to come together when it matters. So happy finger boy's hat-rick was foiled. Besides the fact he's not my favorite (putting it mildly), I don't want any one team running away early this season.
      • 3 Years Ago
      IMHO Webber gets driver of the race for his commanding surge from 18th to the podium without KERS! He was only a few secs off Vettel. Way to go Mark!
        • 3 Years Ago
        Commanding drive by Lewis as well. If you saw the pre-race he had a problem and made to the grid with only 45 sec to spare! Other wise he would've had to start from the pitlane!
      Ward Paterson
      • 3 Years Ago
      Webber, you fkin legend!!!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Great race for both Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton, ok race for Vettel.

      I have to wonder how much longer Button would have held the lead of the race after a brilliant start, had he not pulled into the WRONG pit? I was really looking for a direct head to head comparison between those teams' pit stops in the heat of battle (with a Red Bull not in the lead) but, to no avail and Vettel without a mistake or delay, took advantage.

      Is the engineer who made the wrong tire choice for Webber's Q1 qualifying the same person responsible in aiding Mark's commanding charge toward the podium after the first pit stop? What if they would have called him in a bit sooner for the first stop?

      I am surprised by Ferrari no where near contending at the finish and as for activating the DRS when not in the zone and getting away with it, I can only surmise that two people with the last name Todt are the reason NO ONE official has yet complained. Who knows, they may add 2 to 5 seconds to Alonso's race time if all of the other teams unanimously call them out on it? But doubt it.

      Such a great race, that I am already looking forward to the Turkish Grand Prix on May 8.
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