We’ve named our driver of the race, but what about the rest of the runners and riders from the Chinese Grand Prix? In part one of Hot Rod or Hot Dog we look at the front-runners, better known in these parts as the Top Dogs.

McLaren

  • Qualifying: Button (2nd) Hamilton (3rd)
  • Race: Hamilton (1st) Button (4th)

To be honest, so much stuff happened throughout the race that it would be pointless to try and rehash everything here. So we won’t. Instead, we’ll be focusing a lot more on the battle between the team mates (which is, after all, what Hot Rod is meant to be about).

We at the Sett think it’s probably about time to start conceding that Button’s move to McLaren, whilst definitely the right one, has put him with a team mate who is a) a faster driver than him and b) a more incisive overtaker. That’s not to say Button isn’t fast or isn’t a good overtaker – he’s both. He’s just not quite up to Lewis Hamilton’s level.

hamiltonJenson could still (of course) win the world championship and beat Lewis, but it’s looking like he’ll have to do it through clever strategy and a some mechanical failures, rather than speed alone. That said, that’s all predicated on the fact either of them can beat Vettel.

Lewis’ overtaking move on Button was excellent – committed, clean and capable all in one go. He was consistently more threatening and, it turned out, he also knew in which pit box to stop.

Jenson simply wasn’t fast enough at the right time of the race, although he did manage to get himself back on a fairly even footing towards the end.

As has been noted before, the gain Jenson was expected to accrue through his better-tyre management hasn’t yet materialised. We doubt it ever will. It turns out good drivers can adapt their style to suit conditions. Lewis Hamilton is merely one of those.

Badger’s best: Hamilton

Red Bull

  • Qualifying: Vettel (1st) Webber (18th)
  • Race: Vettel (2nd) Webber (3rd)

Well, not a disaster at all for Red Bull. Yes, it’s the first time this season that they haven’t won the race, but it’s also the first time one of their cars has started 18th and finished third. Which isn’t bad. At all.

vettelVettel did his usual good job – magestically fast in qualifying followed by a bit slower in the race. He even managed to get in a little bit of passing, which was nice to see. He was, however, hamstrung by his two s’s: his start and his strategy, the first of which meant he was stuck in third for the first stint and the second which meant he was nearly always being hunted by those on fresher tyres.

Could this be the start of Webber’s season? After an underwhelming first stint (17th after 15 laps), he really got his mojo back and started scything through the field. With all the fresh sets of soft tyres he’d saved in qualifying, he was able to get himself up to third. A great achievement, and just shows how fast the Red Bull can be.

Overall, Vettel will still be happy – second place and still beating his team mate. Job done.

Badger’s best: Vettel

 

Mercedes

  • Qualifying: Rosberg (4th) Schumacher (14th)
  • Race: Rosberg (5th) Schumacher (8th)

Much more promising. They’re not there yet; in fact, they’re not even within the same time zone as McLaren and Red Bull, but there’s hope.

Rosberg, once again, beat Schumacher handily: fourth vs fourteenth in qualifying and fifth vs eighth in the race. Nico is proving that he’s very much the man to beat in the team, much like last year.

rosbergHe ran first for quite a chunk of the race but, when it came to it,  needed to save fuel and wasn’t able to fight as Hamilton, Button and Webber all surged past. In fact, that was the main theme of the post race team comments, with Rosberg saying “we had issues with the fuel consumption which made it really difficult to fight for position“, and Ross Brawn adding “we need to look into why we suffered so much higher fuel consumption in the race than we had experienced in practice, even allowing for the changes in conditions and grip. There was clearly a problem and it’s very frustrating for Nico and the team.” Indeed.

As an aside, can anyone see Michael staying beyond the end of this season? If he leaves them in a better state than when he found them, then he can chat about how proud he was to help Mercedes establish their own F1 team…yada yada yada.

Badger’s Best: Rosberg

Ferrari

  • Qualifying: Alonso (5th) Massa (6th)
  • Race: Massa (6th) Alonso (7th)

A tale of two drivers (both on two stop races):

Massa’s reaction after the race was to say “it really seems that, from qualifying to the race, we discover another car: yesterday, we were not competitive, today we fought with the leaders right to the end“, whereas Alonso was much more downbeat, saying “aerodynamics is our Achilles Heel at the moment and that’s what we have to work on the most. Eight days ago in Malaysia we had seen some encouraging signs, but that was not the case here: the car has not changed, while others have made progress.” That might have something to do with the fact that he was beaten by Massa. Just guessing.

massaNow, the problem for Massa is that we just can’t see him keeping up the performance. If/when (probably when) Ferrari get their act together, it’s going to be very hard for Massa to keep ahead of Alonso, who is (as much as it pains us to say it) just in a different class.

We honestly can’t say how happy we are that Felipe seems to have found his mojo again though. It’s been a long time coming, but is he about to reward Ferrari for sticking with him when others (us included) were calling for him to be replaced?

Badger’s best: Massa

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