It was a tale of many strategies today at the Chinese grand prix, making for a tense and, at times, bizarre race.  Like a well-plotted episode of Jonathan Creek, it wasn’t until the very final lap that anyone could be 100% sure of who-won-it.  But it was Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who finally came out on top to take his first win of the 2013 season.

2013 China - Alonso

A poor start from Kimi Raikkonen compromised the first phase of his race, but other than that it was a remarkably clean getaway for the whole field.

The first stint of the grand prix was more of a blink than a stint.  The drivers starting on the soft tyres could barely stomach 4 laps of the race before pitting for the medium compound tyres.  Hamilton and Rosberg even ended up queuing for their first pit stops in the Mercedes garage.  Mark Webber, starting from the pit lane after running out of fuel in qualifying yesterday, made an almost instantaneous return to the pits to rid himself of the soft tyres.

On lap 5 we saw the Ferraris performing some elegant synchronised overtaking to get ahead of pole sitter Lewis Hamilton. The Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez didn’t quite brake in time and went straight into the back of Force India’s Adrian Sutil.  It almost looked as if Sutil could make it back out onto the track, but an impressive brake fire and a fairly mangled back wing meant it was retirement for Sutil.

And then … seemingly out of nowhere … Webber was in the hunt as Raikkonen came back out from his first pit stop just ahead of the Australian.  Massa pitted shortly after and shockingly came out behind Webber.  What’s the point of qualifying again?  To be fair to Massa, he cruised past Webber a few laps later to show everyone that speedy Massa is here to stay.

We saw Webber and Vergne playing dodgems out on track, causing a reasonable bit of damage to both cars.  Webber made it to the pits, but sadly it was yet another catastrophe for the unlucky Australian – his back right tyre casually fell off right in front of team “mate” Sebastian Vettel (no love lost there).

Then it was Raikkonen v Perez, with the Finn losing a chunk of his front wing from the altercation. Never one to disappoint in his communications with the team, Raikkonen complained over the team radio: “What the hell is he doing!?”.

By lap 20 it was Jenson Button leading the race on the medium tyres he had started the race on, but it wasn’t long before he was hunted down and overtaken by dominant Alonso. Rosberg retired on lap 23 after two pitstops in quick succession due to what appeared to be a suspension failure.  Despite finishing in 4th, Vettel showed his critics that he can overtake, making up 2 places on lap 33 alone and another on lap 34.

The order then settled somewhat, with Alonso leading ahead of Vettel and Badger’s pie of possibility favourite Kimi Raikkonen.

Button pitted with only 6 laps of the race to go onto the soft tyres and almost immediately overtook Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.  Vettel pitted one lap later to grab his set of softs, coming out in 4th place, and proceeded to set some scorchingly-quick laps to catch up to the back of Hamilton.  It was a proper nail-biter of a finish for the final place on the podium – Vettel almost had it, but Hamilton hung in there despite heavy traffic and some old flat-spotted tyres.

Provisional Results*

  1. Fernando Alonso
  2. Kimi Räikkönen
  3. Lewis Hamilton
  4. Sebastian Vettel
  5. Jenson Button
  6. Felipe Massa
  7. Daniel Ricciardo
  8. Paul di Resta
  9. Romain Grosjean
  10. Nico Hulkenberg
  11. Sergio Perez
  12. Jean-Eric Vergne
  13. Valtteri Bottas
  14. Pastor Maldonado
  15. Jules Bianchi
  16. Charles Pic
  17. Max Chilton
  18. Giedo van der Garde

Ret      Nico Rosberg
Ret      Mark Webber
Ret      Adrian Sutil
Ret      Esteban Gutierrez

*The stewards were apparently too busy enjoying the race to bother to decide on their investigations during the race, so the results are (for now) provisional.