“Did you overtake any cars?” asked Lewis jokingly of Nico as they toweled down before the podium ceremonies. All three drivers later sprayed champagne vigorously on Norbert Haug, Chief of Mercedes Motorsport to commemorate a dominant victory for the German manufacturer.
Nico Rosberg led an untroubled start to finish race around the Shanghai circuit while the rest of the field experienced energetic overtaking and position swaps towards the end. His MGP03, another of Ross Brawn’s technological wonders crossed the finish line averaging 189.778kmph over a race distance of 305.66kms.
Rosberg, son of 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg, drove a flawless race and seemed to control everything from degrading tyres to pit stop luck. Something his teammate Michael Schumacher was denied, cruelly. On Lap 13, Schumacher pitted. Less than half a lap later he pulled over and retired from the race. The wheel nut hadn’t been fastened securely, attracting a steward’s investigation for unsafe release in the pits.
At the warm-up lap as the cars weaved around the track generating heat into their tyres, Rosberg threw his weaving Mercedes from corner to corner, confidently. Schumacher was cagey behind him.
When the lights went off, McLaren’s Jenson Button jumped three places right onto the tail of Michael Schumacher. At the end of Lap1 Alonso found his way past Mark Webber. Down the grid Bruno Senna smacked his front wing on Massa’s Ferrari. The Mercedes’ were ahead in the distance, too fast for the chasing pack.
A poor start dropped Kamui Kobayashi four places and World Champion Vettel was in P14 behind the Force India of Paul Di Resta. A pit board from the Mercedes team read ‘stint 1’ ‘7 laps’ to Nico. A strange sight as this much information is normally never disclosed to the rival teams nor the viewing public at large. Button was closing the gap to Schumacher, they were only .9secs apart.
As the 2012 specification Pirelli tyres sank their compounds into the track surface, the cars and drivers seemed to be getting into a processional rhythm. On Lap10 Sebastian Vettel pulled in to the pits. On Lap11 both Raikkonen and Hamilton pitted and drove out of the pit lane side by side! As they exited Mark Webber split them and scrapped for position coming out on tops. A lap later Schumacher had his incident and was out of the race. The only DNF at Shanghai.
Lap 14 saw Button going fastest and it was clear that the race was between McLaren and the lone Mercedes. Meanwhile, Vettel who had a seemingly lone afternoon found himself in the race for a podium finish behind Rosberg. On Lap 29 and 30, team Mercedes were probably hoping the Red Bull would slow McLaren’s progress but it was a short lived hope.
Nico had 18.4secs on Button in P2. Both had a stop left to make.
Jenson was gaining on the Mercedes with the gap being sliced down to just 10.6secs. Behind him Webber and Hamilton were going wheel to wheel. Hamilton briefly won his fight and was now chewing up Sergio Perez’s Sauber. Alonso in turn was gaining on Lewis. As the grip levels came down the race at Shanghai suddenly came to life with out-braking manoeuvres up and down the order.
Perez flat-spotted his front left tyre and headed straight to pits. It was now Alonso versus Hamilton while Nico Rosberg pitted for his final stop. The gap to Button in P1 was 21secs and the German driver had to maintain that.
Button made his crucial pit stop but lost 6secs as there was a problem with the rear jack! McLaren’s chances of a win were looking slim now unless Nico Rosberg made a mistake.
Behind them a train of 11 cars covered the entire length of the straight! It seemed Kimi Raikkonen was holding up this entire train as suddenly on Lap 47 without warning the Lotus’ tyres began to give way. In the space of 2.5 Laps Kimi lost 10 places from P2 to P12! It made for some entertaining viewing. Then it was Sebastian Vettel’s turn to lose grip. Button whizzed past him and Hamilton followed suit. Teammates were at it against each other as Kobayashi overtook Perez and Webber overtook Vettel!
By Lap 56, Jenson Button could see the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg take the chequered flag ahead of him in the distance. Had McLaren lost this Grand Prix for him? Or, had he lost to a car that gave him his own maiden F1 Championship 3 years ago?