Nico Rosberg joined the exclusive club of drivers who have converted their first pole position into their first victory with a dominant performance in Shanghai. It was Mercedes first win as a constructor since 1955.
And it meant that team boss Ross Brawn has now won races as a senior manager with four different teams, a unique achievement.
Rosberg produced a faultless drive and it gave him that elusive first win after one-hundred and eleven starts, and the first for the Silver Arrows since 1955. Rosberg completed the race twenty seconds clear of the McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
He was helped by a pit stop blunder on lap 39 by the McLaren team on Button’s car, which cost him five seconds and dropped him into a pack of cars instead of back into second place on Rosberg’s heels. If the stop had been normal, McLaren believe he would have been 12 seconds behind Rosberg with 17 laps to go and tyres that would have been five laps newer. He might have closed the gap, but whether he would have had a genuine chance to win is open to doubt.
The Mercedes had a considerably faster race pace than had been expected and was able to match the McLaren duo on the prime tyres, which were much faster than the softer option tyres even for the cars that opted for a three-stop strategy. Rosberg, much against expectations, made one less stop then the McLarens and looked as though he would be under pressure from Button later in the race were it not for a wheel gun issue during Button’s final pit-stop.
Rosberg pulled away from the line perfectly and was able to open up a six second gap before the first round of pit-stops. Behind him at this time was his team mate Michael Schumacher, himself producing a good first stint before a loose wheel nut forced him to retire from the race following his pit-stop. Jenson Button was able to inherit second place and looked as though he was going to make good use of his three-stop strategy and claim his second victory of the year, however he will still be happy to put McLaren a fair distance ahead in the Constructors Championship.
The race saw a huge amount of overtakes and changes in position as cars constantly found themselves being dropped back in to the pack following their pit-stops. Hamilton and Mark Webber in particular found themselves in this position for much of the race which limited their progress on fresh tyres, with Webber eventually coming home in fourth after passing Sebastian Vettel on the penultimate lap. Vettel had made a poor start from eleventh on the grid and dropped three places, but he was able to make his two-stop strategy work and make his tyres last the distance.
Romain Grosjean also had a strong race to finish his first Grand Prix for Lotus and take sixth place. He managed to make his two-stop strategy work, unlike his team-mate. Kimi Raikkonen drove a very good race and with ten laps remaining he was sat in second position, albeit with increasing pressure from the seven-strong train of cars behind. However, Vettel put him on the marbles around the outside on Turn 7 and from there he dropped back to fourteenth by the chequered flag.
The Williams team once again received a good haul of points with Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado in seventh and eighth place respectively. Similarly to the Malaysian Grand Prix they showed very consistent race pace and kept the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and both Sauber’s at bay in the latter stages. Alonso opted to use a second set of option tyres, against the general trend, after his first pit-stop which lost him a lot of track time on Webber. Kamui Kobayashi claimed the final point for Sauber, but it could have been much different as his team-mate Sergio Perez defended extremely aggressively on the run down to Turn 14.
Behind Perez was Paul Di Resta who had a fairly quiet race and failed to make the most of his two-stop strategy. That was the same story for the majority of cars that chose this strategy, barring Rosberg, as Massa, Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg all struggled home towards the tail of the field.
Toro Rosso will be happy to end a poor weekend with Jean Eric-Vergne heading Daniel Ricciardo home in sixteenth and seventeenth. Behind these two were the Caterham, Marussia and HRT cars with them each finishing in qualifying position apart from Heikki Kovalainen who also had a troubled pit-stop and dropped to last position.
[Additional reporting: Matt Meadows]
CHINESE GRAND PRIX, Shanghai, 56 Laps
1. Rosberg Mercedes 1h36:26.929
2. Button McLaren + 20.626
3. Hamilton McLaren + 26.012
4. Webber Red Bull + 27.924
5. Vettel Red Bull + 30.483
6. Grosjean Lotus + 31.491
7. Senna Williams + 34.597
8. Maldonado Williams + 35.643
9. Alonso Ferrari + 37.256
10. Kobayashi Sauber + 38.720
11. Perez Sauber + 41.066
12. Di Resta Force India + 42.273
13. Massa Ferrari + 42.700
14. Raikkonen Lotus + 50.500
15. Hulkenberg Force India + 51.200
16. Vergne Toro Rosso + 51.700
17. Ricciardo Toro Rosso + 1:03.100
18. Petrov Caterham + 1 lap
19. Glock Marussia + 1 lap
20. Pic Marussia + 1 lap
21. De la Rosa HRT + 1 lap
22. Karthikeyan HRT + 2 laps
23. Kovalainen Caterham + 3 laps