Nico Rosberg takes maiden F1 win in Shanghai
Nico Rosberg has completed a textbook lights-to-flag victory to take home is maiden win in Formula One.
The win also marked Mercedes’ first win as a constructor since Juan Manuel Fangio’s victory at the 1955 Italian Grand Prix.
Rosberg backed up his stunning qualifying lap with a flawless start, ensuring his second-placed teammate Michael Schumacher had no chnace to challenge for the lead.
‘Unbelievable feeling. Very cool, very happy, very excited,’ said a joyous Rosberg. ‘It’s been a long time coming for me and for the team.’
The first-time winner also paid tribute to his Mercedes team.
‘Big thanks to the whole team, because all of the engineers have been working very, very hard on improving the setup. It’s very nice to see how quickly we are progressing.
‘Today it all came good, which is great to see. It’s just fantastic.’
Rosberg controlled the gap between the front and the myriad of drivers that filled second place over the course of the 56 laps. Initially it was his Mercedes teammate Michael Schumacher, who followed Rosberg to his first stop on lap 13.
However, a pit stop error during the older man’s tyre fitting forced him to stop on track with a loose front-right tyre.
Jenson Button did well to improve from his fifth-place grid slot to finish the race on the second step of the podium.
A win was in the frame for the 2009 Champion, who was running a three-stop strategy to counter Rosberg’s two-stop race.
The gamble almost paid off, but the Briton’s final pit stop on lap 40 was slow due to a wheel gun problem, dropping him down to fourth and into heavy traffic, neutralising himself in the process.
‘I think the race pace was good, especially on the harder of the two tyres,’ explained Button. ‘[But] then on the last stop we had a problem with the rear of the car.’
‘It was a pity because when we exited the pits, I had three or four cars in front of me.’
But Jenson remained upbeat about the result.
‘All in all, a lot of fun today. I really enjoyed today, and good to come away with some good points.
‘I’d like to congratulate Nico. I’m sure there’ll be many more [wins] – but hopefully not too many more this year!’ he concluded jokingly.
Lewis Hamilton filled the final place on the podium. He qualified second, but started from P6 after five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
Hamilton spent most of his race battling with Mark Webber, both of whom ran the expected three stop strategy.
The Brit ultimately found himself ahead of Webber in part thanks to his team’s efficient pit stop technique, and his McLaren’s straight-line speed advantage on the long back straight.
‘The team did a great job through the pit stops and with the strategy,’ started Hamilton. ‘I think it was one of the best races so far this season.’
He also congratulated Rosberg – a former karting teammate – on his first Formula One victory.
‘Fantastic job to him, congratulations,’ he added. ‘We knew all weekend they’d be really quick. Fantastic day.’
Mark Webber finished just behind Hamilton, finishing ahead of his two-stopping teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Both Red Bull drivers improved on their grid positions – Webber up from P7 and Vettel from P11 – though Vettel in particular was unhappy with his weekend.
‘Obviously qualifying was poor,’ lamented the reigning World Champion to Sky F1. ‘One of them is the speed on the straights.’
Vettel also pointed that it was his gamble on a two-stop strategy that left him without any life left in his tyres come the final few laps of the race.
‘I struggled to keep position and stay in second, so I had to give way to Jenson,’ he explained.
‘Nevertheless, we have to be happy with fifth.’
Romain Grosjean led home a bittersweet Lotus result. While the Frenchman improved his starting position by four places, his teammate, returning Champion Kimi Raikkonen, came home in P14.
Raikkonen’s name was added to the list of drivers that didn’t maximise the two-stop strategy. The Finn was running as high as P2 on lap 43, but fell all the way to P14 less than 10 laps later as his tyres ‘fell off the cliff’ and lost grip.
Bruno Senna led home Pastor Maldonado for Williams’ first double points finish since Korea 2010, an early birthday present for team principal Frank Williams, who turns 70 tomorrow.
Both drivers drove solid races, confirming the team’s rebound from its worst ever season in 2011.
Fernando Alonso did all he could for Ferrari, bringing back ninth place for the ailing prancing horse, maintaining his qualifying position. Though looking feisty in the opening stage of the race, the F2012’s lack of raw pace relegated him down the order.
The final point of the Grand Prix went home with Kamui Kobayashi and Sauber. The team went into the race with significantly higher expectations, with Kobayashi and Sergio Perez starting from third and eighth respectively.
Difficult middle stints for both drivers thanks to traffic dashed any dream of a repeat of team’s Malaysia heroics, sending them home with a solitary point between them.
Sergio Perez followed home his teammate in P11, with Paul di Resta and Felipe Massa close behind him. A disappointed Kimi Raikkonen could only manage P14, while Nico Hulkenberg struggled with his car, finishing fifteenth and just ahead of the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne.
Daniel Ricciardo finished in P17, ahead of the backmarkers Vitaly Petrov, Timo Glock, Charles Pic, Pedro de la Rosa, Narain Karthikeyan, and Heikki Kovalinen.
Formula One now prepares to head into the Middle East for the controversial 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix next weekend.