Several factors were crucial to creating today’s thrilling Chinese Grand Prix: KERS, DRS, Pirelli tyres and of course the drivers themselves were all important ingredients. But what allowed this combination to explode so brilliantly was the first few hundred metres – the start was the key.
Because had Seb held the lead in to turn one he’d have been able to pick his strategy and would likely have scampered off to another comfortable win. A poor launch from him, combined with textbook getaways from both McLaren drivers, left him third in to turn one, battling hard with the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.
But the Red Bull’s loss was the fans’ gain, as his drop to P3 threw the race up in the air, with no one knowing just where it would land. Vettel elected to run a two stop strategy, believing his pace would be sufficient to allow him to leapfrog the McLarens. That did prove to be the case, but going so far on his tyres left the Red Bull a sitting duck in the dying stages of the grand prix.
There were also good starts for Felipe Massa, who once again passed team-mate Fernando Alonso, Paul di Resta and Michael Schumacher, the latter making up five places in the first sequence of corners. Both Felipe and Michael have enjoyed strong starts to all three races this season.
The start can often be the most exciting part of a grand prix, and whilst that definitely wasn’t the case today it was crucial in the fun that was set to unfold. Yes, we’d still have had some great battles and excitement had Vettel led in to turn one – we’d still have seen Webber’s charge through the field – but what made this race so special was that we were never quite sure who was going to win until the final laps. That was thanks to the start.