Alonso’s Chinese takeaway
Fernando Alonso has stormed home with a perfectly executed pit stop strategy to win the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.Alonso, who retired on lap two of last week’s Malaysian Grand Prix, finished a comfortable 10 seconds ahead of Kimi Räikkönen in a race defined by tyre economy and tactics.“It was definitely a fantastic race for us, from the start to the end,” said the Spaniard. “It’s true we had some pace in the pocket, but it’s difficult to know when to use it based on the state of the tyres.“The tyre degradation was better than expected, so we could manage the pace.“The two races we’ve finished this year – second, and then a victory – the start of the campaign looks very good. We’re optimistic. . It feels great after the retirement in Malaysia.”Alonso started from third on the grid, but he leapt up into second during the first lap and applied pressure to pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton, whose Mercedes had little of the driveability it had during qualifying now it was carrying a full tank of fuel.By the end of lap three, with a little help from the DRS, the Ferrari’s pace became irresistible, Hamilton losing two places to Alonso and teammate Massa in a matter of corners.Kimi Räikkönen’s strategy largely echoed that of Alonso, though his Lotus team opted to pit him earlier during the middle of the race to elongate his final stint when the car would be at its lightest and least damaging to the tyres.“I think in the end it was a pretty okay result. Obviously we wanted to win, but after a bad start we could still fight for second place.The strategy paid off, but a collision on lap 16 with Perez meant he was unable to maximise the car’s potential.“Taking Perez, he pushed me on the kerb and I went on the grass, hit him on the read, and damaged my front. That didn’t help, but it didn’t affect the handling so much.“Without damage, we couldn’t been faster – but good points and we’ll do better next time.”Hamilton eventually finished third, but only after enduring a thrilling run to the finish with Sebastian Vettel.Vettel was the highest-placed finisher to have started the race on the medium, rather than soft, tyre, the thinking being a last moment sprint to the line would catch the others off guard in cruise mode.Vettel made up 14.5 seconds in the final five laps, reaching the one-second DRS zone behind Hamilton as the two scythed through traffic in the final sector.Rounding the final corner, Vettel’s closing speed was immense – but not enough. Hamilton edged him out by 0.2 seconds, and earnt the final step on the podium.“I’m really happy with today’s result,” said Hamilton. “Great result for the team, and very happy with the points.“Unfortunately we didn’t have the pace these guys (Ferrari and Lotus) had, but still great to be on the podium.”Jenson Button was the only driver brave enough to attempt a two-stop strategy in Shanghai, and gained three places in the process.The plan, however, consigned him to an extremely measured race in which he had to confirm with his pit wall whether he ought to be racing certain cars on the track.Nonetheless, it’s his first double-points haul of the season which will come as much relief – though little consolation – for the struggling McLaren.Felipe Massa paid the price for pitting second to Alonso, after which he remained caught behind Button.The revitalised Brazilian finally found his way past when Button made his last stop, but the McLaren steamed back past on fresher tyres, with Massa unable to defend.Daniel Ricciardo finished in a career-high seventh place – maintaining his grid position – with a consistently quick drive during which he mixed with the frontrunners through the middle of the race.Ricciardo, in the process, seized a five-point lead over his teammate Jean-Eric Vergne, who had a messy race including a collision with Mark Webber in the sister Red Bull car.Webber subsequently retired from the race. The Australian was handed a three-place grid penalty for next race for causing the accident.Paul di Resta worked to score as many points as he could for Force India, a team that’s consistently promised much with its pace but as yet delivered little.He brought his car home eighth in the end, just ahead of Romain Grosjean.Grosjean continued to complain of his phantom car troubles – problems in the chassis that appear and disappear at will – and found himself uncompetitive in comparison to his Championship-winning teammate.Finally, Nico Hülkenberg equalled his qualifying place by bringing Sauber the final point of the race – albeit a little disappointingly after leading the race during the early stages.Sergio Perez missed out on points by seven seconds, and trailed behind Button’s race time by almost half a minute.Comparisons between him and Nico Hülkenberg were rife during the race, with many commentators believing McLaren’s choice of drive boiled down to these two after Hamilton left.Jean-Eric Vergne finished twelfth, ahead of lowly Williams pair Valtteri Bottas in P13, and Pastor Maldonado in P14.Jules Bianchi again illustrated he has talent worthy of more than the backmarkers by leading the rest of them home in fifteenth, followed by Charles Pic, Max Chilton, and Giedo van der Garde.Other notable retirements include Nico Rosberg, who returned his Mercedes to the garage with a suspected suspension problem.Mark Webber also retired early in his journey to make the podium from the pit lane. His car required a front wing change after the collision with Vergne, during which his pit crew botched the tyre change by failing to faster the right-rear Pirelli.The tyre broke free on his out lap, leaving him stranded in the same place he stopped his car during qualifying.Adrian Sutil also retired with rear wing damage after Esteban Gutierrez made the rookie mistake of running into the back of him in a braking zone, writing off his Sauber. He received a five-place grid penalty for good measure.Sutil – who returns to the scene of the crime at which he glassed Lotus team owner Eric Lux in the neck two years ago – had irreparable damage to his rear wing, but his car caught fire for good measure while in the pits, confirming his retirement.Formula One returns next weekend for the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix.