After a tremendous effort in qualifying, Jenson Button lined up alongside Vettel for the start of the grand prix and made the most of it – Vettel was unable to even attempt to keep the 2009 champion behind as Button lead the field into the first corner and continued out in front for the opening stint of the grand prix.
From this point on, it looked as though we’d have a different race winner in 2011 and you’d be a brave soul to bet against Jenson ‘kind on his tyres’ Button to relent 1st position, especially with McLaren clearly having the pace to take the fight to the Red Bulls.
It didn’t all quite work out like that – it all went drastically wrong when he headed into the pits, only to park up in the Red Bull garage, before being ushered on by Vettel’s mechanics and into his own pit box. Critically for Red Bull, Vettel was right behind the Brit and it delayed the German, albeit by only a few tenths. The debacle delayed Jenson Button much more and he emerged out of the pitlane behind Sebastian Vettel.
The heart rate from the McLaren pitwall would have gone through the roof around lap 35 when Lewis Hamilton was filing some blinding lap times and quickly getting onto the tail of his team mate. Hamilton being the racey driver that he is pretty much ignored his team’s advice to look after tyres and proceeded to make an attempt at passing Button and then on the first corner of lap 36 Lewis pulled an almighty move on Jenson – so nearly a coming together, but Jenson is a wise driver and managed to avoid contact as Lewis stormed past.
With only 10 laps left to run Button was looking good for 3rd and his second podium finish of the year. He battled and beat Nico Rosberg and also took Felipe Massa who was having a great return to form – until the Ferrari strategy really let him down. At this point though, no once had quite realised just how quick the other Red Bull was – running on a completely different strategy and the freshest tyres of the field, Mark Webber’s stunning second half drive saw him catch and pass Schumacher, Rosberg and finally Jenson to snaffle the final step on the podium.
Button’s Chinese GP really was a sweet and sour experience – the first stint was looking great for victory, the pitstop blunder was just embarrassing and then he was overtaken by his team mate. The podium was still firmly on the cards until the recovering Webber’s claimed his final victim. Jenson’s still in the championship top three, but he’ll be reviewing this race if he’s to stay in the hunt as this season unfolds.