The reverse of Malaysia a couple of weeks before, the Chinese Grand Prix was a race affected brilliantly by the weather. Overtaking left, right and centre and some very good performances to have a look at. Roll on Spain!
- Qualifying: Button
- Race: Button
Another sterling weekend for McLaren. Without being the fastest cars on the grid the team managed to make the race strategy work perfectly to take a well-deserved one-two finish. That said, as ever with a team containing the (newly stupidly bearded) Lewis Hamilton, it wasn’t without a touch of controversy.
The drivers were very close yet again in qualifying, with less than a tenth of a second separating the two. Button, after coming out just on top, started fifth, with Lewis Hamilton slotting himself into sixth. Both professed their disappointment at the places and, having topped a couple of practice sessions and both Q1 and Q2, they surely should have been higher up the grid. During the race, it was Hamilton charging around yet again, overtaking madly (including Vettel into the pit lane) and generally looking very sprightly. If there’s a more natural overtaker in F1, we’d like to see you find him. Button’s race was rather more serene but no less impressive. Having made the right call (again) to stay out with dry tyres when nearly everyone else was pitting for intermediates, he put himself in a strong position by passing Nico Rosberg and managed a second safety car well (barring a crazily slow corner entry), then never really looked back. Both impressive in their different ways, the McLaren team seem to be making the relationship between current and former World Champion work well.
Badger’s best: Button (but only just).
- Qualifying: Rosberg
- Race: Rosberg
“Another good result for Mercedes, and yet another weekend during which Nico Rosberg produced the goods all the way through.” This passage was written after the Malaysian Grand Prix a couple of weeks ago, but still holds just as true in China.
Rosberg is pretty quickly turning into the unsung hero of the season (although we’re singing his praises here, so not completely unsung). Out-qualifying his team mate by five places to start fourth, he’s running at the front and really proving he can mix it with the bigger name drivers. Judging by the drivers’ press conference at the end of the race, he also seems to have one ear that sticks out more than the other, which we find tremendously endearing. Although he was passed by both Hamilton and Button during the race, he drove very well for third place (including holding off Alonso towards the end) and is probably getting more out of the car than it wants to give. Echoing Malaysia,
Badger’s best: Rosberg
- Qualifying: Alonso
- Race: Alonso
Not brilliant, but just about ok is how Ferrari will probably look back on their experience in China. Another large disparity between the drivers will probably have Felipe looking to get his contract tied up sooner rather than later.
Alonso loves giving himself a handicap, doesn’t he? This weekend’s method of choice was the rather retro jump start which put him first into the first corner, but meant he ended up doing five stops. Given he qualified third, then had all the problems, getting back up to fourth is no mean achievement and just goes to show what a good driver he is. Massa, truth be told, had a weekend to forget. He qualified seventh, albeit only a couple of tenths behind Alonso, and then didn’t look very impressive in the wet to come home ninth. He was also completely taken by surprise by Alonso gunning it up his inside into the pit lane which, while cheeky, is completely understandable. Another race stuck behind Massa would not be Alonso’s idea of A Good Time.
Badger’s best: Alonso
- Qualifying: Kubica
- Race: Kubica
Yet another strong race for Renault. How long will it be before we stop thinking of the team as surprising everyone, before we accept they may actually be just this quick?
Kubica had another great drive. Eighth on the grid to finish fifth is a solid performance by most people’s standards, especially after finishing in front of Vettel, Webber and Massa. However, the real story of this weekend was Petrov’s much improved showing. After qualifying fourteenth to continue his run of not challenging Kubica in qualifying, the Russian rookie showed his mettle in the race to finish seventh. Although he had a couple of moments out on the circuit and lost places as the faster cars came past him, he performed admirably. Having doubted whether he had it in him, we’re very happy to be proved wrong. Now, if he can just get a bit closer to Kubica Renault will be loving it. He pays and he’s quick. Magic.
Badger’s best: Kubica
- Qualifying: Vettel
- Race: Vettel
Christian Horner must be wondering what he’s done to deserve this. Fastest car? Check. Pole positions? Check? Race victories? Please try again later.
The weekend went swimmingly for both Webber and Vettel until the race. How many times have we said that this season? A one-two in qualifying, with Vettel three tenths ahead of Webber, meant that they started the race in the best possible way. Webber jumped Vettel into the first corner (quite cathartic, one would imagine), but after both drivers came in for intermediate tyres it all went a bit wrong. Vettel, thanks to being passed by Webber (who damaged his front wing while pitting), had to stack behind him for tyres and then was involved in further pit lane shenanigans with Lewis Hamilton. After that, the drivers fought to get back up the leaderboard, with sixth for Vettel and eighth for Webber. Both admitted after the race that their cars didn’t react well to the conditions. A chink in Red Bull’s amour, perhaps?
Badger’s best: Vettel
- Qualifying: Sutil
- Race: Sutil
A rather disappointing weekend for Force India, although usefully for the purposes of writing this column a rather large distance between the drivers.
Sutil managed to get into Q3 for the fourth time in four races, starting tenth. In contrast, Liuzzi had the dubious pleasure of starting eighteenth, going out in Q1 with the new teams. Not one for the scrapbook and doubtless rather a shock for a man used to starting much further up. Sutil’s race is probably best filed under “frustrating”. Although he managed to have a bit of a scrap with Hamilton, Vettel and Massa it wasn’t really his day, as can happen in races with dodgy weather. He finished just over a minute down in eleventh place. Liuzzi’s race is probably best described as “non-existent”, after locking his rear brakes and ploughing into poor Buemi and Kobayashi on the first lap. It was interesting (or predictable, depending on how you look at it) to see Coulthard touting fellow Scot Paul di Resta for Liuzzi’s seat during the weekend’s BBC coverage, which struck us as a bit harsh considering the Italian’s overall performance this year.
Badger’s best: Sutil
- Qualifying: Barrichello
- Race: Barrichello
Not a good weekend for Williams, with the team looking distinctly off the pace throughout. In other news, Sam Michael’s put on some weight, hasn’t he?
Both Williams went out in Q2, with Barrichello starting eleventh and Hulkenburg sixteenth, both their lowest of the season so far. Barrichello’s race was affected, like so many others, by the decision to stop for intermediate tyres early in the race and, in his own words, “it was too late to recover” after that and he finished twelfth. Hulkenburg’s race also rested on tyre choice; he was brought in for some slick tyres at a point in the race when it was still quite wet. Unsurprisingly it didn’t pay off and he was back in fairly sharpish for some new intermediates. Possibly down to that decision, he finished below Kovalainen’s Lotus in fifteenth. Embarrassing.
Badger’s best: Barrichello
- Qualifying: Alguersuari
- Race: Alguersuari
A mixed weekend for Toro Rosso; good in qualifying, less good in the race. Still, you live, you learn, eh?
Qualifying went well for both drivers, with Alguersuari twelfth and Buemi thirteenth, the first time the young Spaniard out qualified his team mate this season. Sadly, that was to be the highlight of the weekend. Buemi pinpointed his problem in the last couple of races perfectly, saying that he simply needed more luck after being booted from behind by Liuzzi’s Force India. Alguersuari had a bit of a mad one, really. He made two extra stops, once after thinking he’d damaged his front wing after the first lap and once when he had actually damaged his front wing while lapping an Hispania car. If not for those issues, he’d probably have finished higher than thirteenth.
Badger’s best: Alguersuari
- Qualifying: Trulli
- Race: Kovalainen
Another weekend of two parts for Lotus, with Kovalainen and Trulli having different luck with the cars.
The Lotus drivers are now at 2-2 in qualifying after Trulli’s performance to start twentieth, one place ahead of Kovalainen. During the race Trulli retired just before half way with more hydraulic problems (it’s always him, isn’t it?), whereas Kovalainen made it to the end in one piece. Kudos to the team and Kovalainen for their decision to stay out on the dry tyres when all around them were pitting for intermediates, a choice which helped propel him, albeit briefly, into the top ten. Let’s see what upgrades they’ve got coming in Barcelona…
Badger’s best: Kovalainen
- Qualifying: Senna
- Race: Senna
Another weekend for the HRT team, another weekend of the drivers scurrying out of the way of pretty much every other car on the circuit. It’s like the anti-overtaking.
Both drivers qualified at the back of the grid, with Chandhok starting from the pit lane thanks to hydraulic problems. During the race, they managed not to get in anyone’s way and just pottered round at the back like your Dad on a Sunday afternoon drive. Both drivers seemed absolutely delighted to finish the race in one piece. Are we the only ones who hope they’ve got some amazing upgrades and pop up the grid? Unlikely, but it’d make a great story.
Badger’s best: Senna
- Qualifying: Glock
- Race: di Grassi
Simply put, it was yet another weekend to forget for the Virgin boys.
Glock did well in qualifying to finish top of the new teams, indicating that while the car may be made of sticky back plastic and coffee pot lids, it’s also got some decent pace. In the other car, di Grassi was busy beating the HRTs but failing to get ahead of the Lotuses (Lotii?). The race was a tale of who went the furthest. We seem to remember Glock being pushed off the grid at the beginning and don’t think he managed to actually turn a wheel in anger. Clutch problems meant that di Grassi only managed eight laps before retirement, bringing to the end a series of decidedly shonky fly away races for both him and the team.
Badger’s best: Glock
- Qualifying: Kobayashi
- Race: de la Rosa
Speaking of decidedly shonky weekends, welcome to the Sauber team everyone.
After qualifying fifteenth and seventeenth, Kobayashi and de la Rosa managed to complete only a combined total of seven laps during the race, so there’s really not too much to say. Kamui was involved in the same first lap accident as Buemi and Liuzzi and de la Rosa was running fourth for a little while before his engine conked out. He described himself as “deeply disappointed”, much as we feel when we have to write about Sauber.
Badger’s best: de la Rosa (purely for those seven laps)
Driver of the weekend
Petrov. Yes, we know he’s raw, but we like him. Not the perfect race performance by any stretch of the imagination, but he got home for his first race finish and a seventh place at that, passing Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber in the process. This is your weekend Vitaly.