Picking 3 memorable Chinese Grand Prix shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, there have only been 6, meaning we didn’t have to delve too deep in to the Badger archives to find our ‘chosen ones’. Read on to see what we’ve gone for…
(Chinese Year of the Ox)
Red Bull arrived in China last season none too happy about the FIA’s ruling that Brawn’s double diffuser was legal. But they didn’t let that distract them in qualifying, where Sebastian Vettel took pole- the team’s first in the sport- 2 tenths clear of Fernando Alonso, with teammate Mark Webber lining-up 3rd.
After a dry qualifying the rain came on Sunday, heavy rain that would persist throughout the grand prix. With the track becoming less race circuit and more swimming pool by the minute the race was started behind the safety car.
But Vettel never looked troubled by the conditions. When the safety car departed he controlled the race, demonstrating a coolness we’ve become familiar with in the past 12 months. He did get a scare, as Sebastien Buemi whacked him from behind during another safety car period, but it didn’t dent his pace one bit.
Whilst Vettel controlled the race there was a great dabble going on for 2nd position between Jenson Button and Mark Webber. Jenson had been holding the position, but went wide at turn 1, handing 2nd to Webber. Then Mark returned the favour, allowing Jenson back past by sliding off in the wet conditions. But Webber didn’t give up, and put a great move on Button to ensure himself runner-up spot.
Out front Vettel was doing his own thing. He was the first of the front-runners to make his pitstop and exited not far behind Button. Before Jenson had even had a chance to stop Vettel passed him on track, a demonstration of his total dominance of the race.
On the Red Bull pitwall Christian Horner’s leg was jiggling madly, as the win came within touching distance. But there was no need for nerves. Vettel was faultless, and claimed the Red Bull team’s first victory in F1. He came home ahead of Webber, with Button 3rd, over 40 seconds behind the winner.
So China 2009 was one to remember both for a brilliant drive from Vettel and the first win for the Red Bull team. Can Seb become the first man to claim two Chinese GP victories this weekend? We know he’s got the ability, and the car’s certainly got the speed, but will Red Bull enjoy another trouble free race?
(Chinese Year of the Boar)
Lewis Hamilton fans look away now- the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix was the scene of one of Lewis’ worst moments behind the wheel of an F1 car.
In ’07 China was the penultimate race of the season. Lewis entered it with a 12-point championship lead over teammate Fernando Alonso and a great chance of sealing the title. His prospects looked even brighter when he took pole, narrowly beating the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn was no real threat to Lewis’ title challenge, sitting 17 points behind him with just 20 left to fight for.
The race began with rain, and the front runners went with wet tyres. Hamilton got a good start and began to pull away from his rivals. He was the first to pit, and stuck with his now-worn wets in anticipation of more rain. 4 laps later Kimi followed suit, also sticking with the tyres he’s started on, and exited the pits behind Hamilton.
But Kimi was now much quicker than Lewis. The Finn reeled the McLaren in, hassled him for a few laps and then pounced on lap 29 when Lewis made a mistake on the slippery track. Still, with Kimi so far behind in the standings this wasn’t too big a deal. Even if the Ferrari driver won Lewis only had to finish 5th to eliminate him from the title race.
He had more pressing concerns over his wet tyres. They were now all but destroyed, and with the track drying a pitstop was badly overdue- and that’s where it all went wrong. Heading on to pit road on lap 31 Lewis lost the car and slid helplessly in to the gravel. His McLaren was beached. The Brit waved his arms, begging the marshals for help to get out of the gravel, but it was no use. Lewis was out, his first retirement of the season.
Raikkonen continued on to take a vital victory, cutting Lewis’ lead to 7 points, whilst Alonso finished second, meaning he headed for the title decider just 4 points shy of Lewis. The stage was set for a titanic battle in Brazil, where Kimi would win again to take a world championship that had looked almost impossible pre-China.
So the 2007 Chinese GP was all about Lewis and his very public mistake. In 2010 he’s a more complete driver- can he create some happy memories of the Shanghai circuit?
(Chinese Year of the Dog)
What’s so memorable about China 2006? Why, it’s Michael Schumacher’s most recent F1 win of course! In fact until a few months ago we thought it was his last ever win. But, whilst he doesn’t look like tasting victory any time soon, his F1 return means that this race might not always be known as the site of Schumi’s last triumph.
In qualifying Renault’s Fernando Alonso took pole, with teammate Giancarlo Fisichella 2nd. A morning of showers resulted in a wet track at the start of the race and the field started on intermediate tyres.
Alonso led away from pole, followed by Fisichella and Kimi Raikonnen at the end of the first lap. Schumacher’s Ferrari ran 6th, but he wasn’t going to be content with that.
Alonso began building a big lead over his fellow Renault driver, and by lap 7 was almost 8 seconds clear. On lap 13 Kimi passed Fisichella for 2nd, but found himself 16 seconds adrift of Alonso. Schumacher meanwhile had made his way up to 4th.
Alonso continued to have a pretty easy time of it. Raikonnen’s McLaren succumbed to technical problems on lap 19, handing Fisichella 2nd place ahead of Schumacher.
But the pitstops were to change everything. Whilst Schumacher and Fisichella stuck with the same tyres they’d started on Alonso changed his fronts, concerned about how they were holding up. This seemed to do more harm than good, as Fisichella and Schumacher quickly canceled out his advantage. Fisichella took the lead on lap 30 and began to pull away, with Schumacher also passing Alonso a lap later.
The track was drying, and Alonso was the first of the leaders to pit for dry tyres. Fisichella and Schumacher held out at the front, eventually making the switch on lap 41. Fisichella came out ahead, but struggled on his new tyres and soon lost the lead to Schumacher. By now Alonso was back on the pace, and caught his teammate quickly. With the title in the balance the Italian moved over and let Alonso through, but Schumacher was already too far up the road. Though Fernando would put in some great laps he couldn’t catch the Ferrari, and took the chequered flag 3 seconds behind his rival. That result tied Alonso and Schumacher on points with 2 races to go.
We didn’t know it at the time but that was to be Michael’s 91st and last race win in Formula One. We also couldn’t have predicted that he’d return after a 3-year absence, nor that he’d be beaten convincingly by Nico Rosberg upon doing so. Can Michael finally kick-off his comeback with a strong performance in Shanghai this weekend?