Hamilton beats Vettel to win thrilling Chinese Grand Prix
Hamilton beats Vettel to win thrilling Chinese Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Apr 2011   |  11:02 am GMT  |  288 comments

Lewis Hamilton won the Chinese Grand Prix, breaking Sebastian Vettel’s stranglehold on F1 this season in a thrilling Grand Prix which featured the Holy Grail of a pass for the lead in closing stages of the race.

It was Hamilton’s first win since September last year and the fifteenth of his 74 race career.

And it wasn’t because of the DRS wing, the pass Hamilton pulled on Sebastian Vettel happened in Turn 7, one of the faster corners on the track, when Vettel least expected it and it came about because of differences of strategy.

Hamilton and Button go at it (McLaren)

Hamilton had learned from his problems in Sepang, saving a new set of soft tyres for the race and it played its part, his strategy planning began on Saturday.

Varying strategy and resulting overtakes was the story of the race and what made it such a thriller, as the new style racing really hit its stride. Drivers who went for three stops found that their tyres had life in them in the closing stages and they were able to make up places.

There were complaints after Malaysia that the DRS wing had made overtaking too easy, but here there were many passes which were not in the DRS zone, particularly from Hamilton and Webber, who recovered from 18th on the grid to finish on the podium, proving he is always at his best when chips are down. He might have beaten Vettel if he had not lost so much time in the first stint on hard tyres, where he actually lost a place to Sergio Perez.

KERS played its part in the overtakes, but this race was all about Pirelli tyres creating the spectacle.

Hamilton’s race wasn’t without its dramas. Before the start he had a drama on his car as the engine had flooded. The mechanics managed to get him onto the grid with less than a minute to spare before the pit lane closed. Hamilton was able to put it behind him and settle into the race as normal.

At the start Vettel got away slowly, his revs dropped and he bogged down, allowing Button and Hamilton to pass him. Vettel’s KERS worked fine, but he’d lost momentum. He managed to fight off Rosberg.

Behind them Massa again outperformed Alonso off the start line and got ahead, while the Force India cars again had strong starts, picking up places. Di Resta was 7th at the end of the first lap and Sutil 8th.

Di Resta reported some problems with the rear end of his car and a queue formed behind him.

The Mercedes drivers stopped earlier than their rivals, Rosberg came in on lap 14, indicating a three stop strategy. The leaders bunched up behind Button approaching their stops, Vettel passed Hamilton and then pitted, following Button in. At this point three stops was an option for Vettel. Button made a mistake, driving into the Red Bull pit box, losing around three seconds in the process. The team had expected him in the lap before, but he was a lap late.

So Vettel jumped Button and as they emerged, Vettel had gone from behind the McLarens to in front. But they were all behind Rosberg.

Also making great progress was Felipe Massa who passed Hamilton before the stops and then held fourth position ahead of him. Alonso missed out, being kept out a lap longer and rejoining seventh behind Michael Schumacher. He got separated from Massa at this point.

The pair had a great scrap during the second stint, Alonso finally getting past on lap 25. Schumacher pitted straight afterwards.

Button was the first of the front runners to make a second stop, followed by Rosberg and Hamilton. Vettel stayed out having committed to a two stop plan, which turned out to be the wrong choice. The Ferraris had also committed to two stops, which was a shame for Massa, who had good pace in this race and even passed the race winner at one point. Nevertheless he restored his reputation by finishing 14 seconds ahead of Alonso.

From those second stops onwards it was all about how the differing strategies would play out. Everyone is still learning about the new Pirelli tyres and how best to use them and today showed how finely balanced the decisions are.

There were so many highlights to the race and some sublime overtakes. Hamilton was faster than Button generally during this race and was forced to overtake his team mate on lap 36. Button gave him room, as Hamilton was in a determined mood.

Webber came through the field very rapidly, his team pitting him in order to give him some clear air to push in. Once the third stops were made it was clear that the three stop plan was starting to come into its own. Webber passed Alonso for sixth, then took Massa, Alonso and finally Button.

Meanwhile Hamilton closed on the leader Vettel, who made it as hard for him as he could, particularly in the DRS zone into Turn 14. But Hamilton was an irresistable force and he went past mid way through the following lap, as Vettel struggled for grip on his tyres which were seven laps older than Hamilton’s.

“The strategy we came up with into qualifying seemed to help,” said an emotional Hamilton. “Quite a few things came together; the pit stops, the car felt great. I tried to keep my tyres. The guys at the front had to do quite a bit of overtaking. I wasn’t worried, (about the problem before the start) it was important to stay as calm as possible.”

One final note; Heikki Kovalainen finished 16th for Lotus, ahead of Perez and Maldonado, marking the first time since the team arrived in F1 last season that one of the new teams has battled with established team cars. Trulli’s fastest race lap was only 3/10ths slower than Maldonado’s set in similar circumstances on new tyres in the closing stages.

Vote on what you thought of the race below.

Watch out for my deep dive into the race strategies and explanation of how the strategies contributed to this thrilling GP, coming up on Tuesday

CHINESE GRAND PRIX, Shanghai, 56 laps
1. Hamilton McLaren 1h36:58.226
2. Vettel Red Bull + 5.198
3. Webber Red Bull + 7.555
4. Button McLaren + 10.000
5. Rosberg Mercedes + 13.448
6. Massa Ferrari + 15.840
7. Alonso Ferrari + 30.622
8. Schumacher Mercedes + 31.206
9. Petrov Renault + 57.404
10. Kobayashi Sauber + 1:03.273
11. Di Resta Force India + 1:08.757
12. Heidfeld Renault + 1:12.739
13. Barrichello Williams + 1:30.189
14. Buemi Toro Rosso + 1:30.671
15. Sutil Force India + 1 lap
16. Kovalainen Lotus + 1 lap
17. Perez Sauber + 1 lap
18. Maldonado Williams + 1 lap
19. Trulli Lotus + 1 lap
20. D’Ambrosio Virgin + 2 laps
21. Glock Virgin + 2 laps
22. Karthikeyan HRT + 2 laps
23. Liuzzi HRT + 2 laps

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Hello James! Just from my own observation. Why is Mclaren using it’s tires more during its first stint than Red Bull and Ferrari? Mclaren can’t usually push hard on a heavy fuel load because they have to look out for their tires more than Red Bull & Ferrari during the first stint? But after that, as the fuel load goes down, it seems they could manage their tires and be at par with these teams. It seems if Ferrari can unlock their qualifying pace, they could be a real threat on raceday. I might be wrong tho.

Glory Kodzo Dzramedo

Hello James. I believe Vettel lost out because right at the start he was more concerned with Hamilton as he was more focused on preventing Hamilton from getting past at start which did not work as he was passed by Button and Hamilton. And there after the red bull team were still concerned with Hamilton which forced them to change to a two stop strategy.


I cant believe it. I’m currently in the U.S to watch a wedding and I was so tired I missed the GP though I am not sure my hotel has Speed TV. To cap it off I cant watch the highlights on BBC till I get back home.

Typical Lewis, you stay up nights on end to watch him and he doesn’t then you take a race off and he goes and does this.


watch a wedding? What am I on about. I meant to attend a wedding.


same thing happened to me – only site i could follow the race on was F1Fanatic’s live commentary with very patchy internet connectivity in the middle of where the satelites will NEVER have a footprint and then Lewis goes on and wins


Does any one know what happened with Lewis on lap 14? He started it as a leader but finished it behind Felipe Massa. Did Hamilton make unforced mistake of any kind or simply the Pirrellis reached the cliff on that lap? His previous lap was 2 sec quicker even though it was behind Button’s car. Thanks.


Great race, and the key difference was that the passes were enabled by strategy decisions which were driven by tire choice/wear/grip, not DRS and/or KERS. James, in your pre-season you asked us to say what we thought the story of the season would be, and I said tires, and I hope this race is an indication of things to come.


A great race to watch, but I still think we’re getting slightly ahead of ourselves regarding a Championship battle. Red Bull, despite what Christian Horner said after the race, messed up Vettel’s strategy.

He was ahead of the McLarens after the pitstops, and I know he was behind Rosberg, but he was on much fresher tyres after the later stop, and surely even on a three stopped it would have come back to Vettel near the end of the race (as it did for the McLarens).

I know this is all with the benefit of hindsight, but it strikes me as odd that, once they were ahead, the Red Bull team didn’t just cover of McLaren’s strategy. Especially considering we had already seen Vettel had the pace (he passed Hamilton on the track after all) so you would think they would bet on him to pass Rosberg later on, when, presumably he would have been on fresher tyres.

A great win for Lewis, and he took every opportunity, but really, Vettel lost this race as much as Hamilton won it. No discredit to Hamilton for taking advantage – that’s part of being a great racer – but Red Bull are still, I think a cut above at this stage.


I agree that the RB car is a cut above, but their ability to develop KERS and sometimes their tactics are lacking.

If the rules didn’t limit the KERS system as much as they do and some of the other teams had 10 or 12 seconds of boost per lap we might see RB in trouble.


Maybe I’m a bit harsh but I think Lewis’ drive has been overrated.

Yes, he had a problem just before the race but these are professional drivers and I wouldn’t expect them to be affected by it.

Jenson gave him room to pass into turn 1. Rosberg basically gave Lewis his position once he dived down the inside. The move on Massa was good but Massa was on 2 stops so he had less traction and Vettel was completely defenceless.

Webber was my driver of the day but I feel he could have won.


Yes, and thank you Pirelli for supplying a product that is creating such a great spectacle. And all this despite all the critics bagging you at the beginning of the season. Way to go!


A lot has been said about Vettel’s weaving at the start of the race to defend his line. Now even in the past, there have been instances of lot of movement by the drivers to defend places at the start, to even an off-track excursion by Kimi at Spa,2009 where he kept the place.

Given that, even the “move once to defend” was a gentleman’s agreement between the driver’s before being moved into the Steward’s purview, is there an unwritten agreement that allows more weaving at the start of the race.

James, would like your views on this…


I replied to a similar question last week. It’s impossible for the stewards to look at every sideways weave at the start. The rule about weave once to block works for a racing situation, but cannot be applied at the start with so much going on. That said, if someone makes a habit of it at starts then it would be brought up in FIA drivers briefing on Friday night and dealt with there. I don’t think we’ve seen anything extreme enough to warrant sanctions this season. It is racing, after all


However, Schumacher did it more often than not when on pole, in his 7WC heyday. There was never a penalty, but for a polesitter to lurch across the track to block the P2 car is cynical in the extreme.

When I did Club racing back in the dark ages, I can remember 3 occasions where pole position drivers were penalised 10secs for deliberate blocking.

They used to claim that it was the enormous power of their engine that made the car leave the grid at 45degrees!

The Stewards usually said ‘Bullshit’ !


James, this seems a very contentious issue this year. I don’t think it is clear to anyone what exactly constitutes “weaving”: i) move once to cover and re-join the racing line, or ii) move once to cover and stay put (obviously both followed by turn-in)?


It seems to me that whenever Vettel is on pole his first thought is always to cut straight across the 2nd placed driver and not to focus on getting a good start. It’s backfired on several occasions and I don’t think it’s necessary.

Also, I understand how difficult it would be to police the weaving rule at the start but I think Vettel is the only person doing it. Partly this is because he is starting from pole, but the movements down the field are generally to move out of the path of cars in front rather than into the path of cars behind.

Do you think that someone should have a word with him at least?


Things that made me smile about this race:

1) HAM winning

2) MAS beating ALO

3) WEB driving through the entire field

4) VET not winning another lights to flagger

5) Ted Kravitz recounting the story of BUT pitting in the RB garage

6) Imagining how far Montezemolo’s toys were thrown out the pram as HAM went over the line


DRS overtakes are the most boring overtakes, I’ve ever witnessed on any motorsport… it’s so fake, that it completely puts me off the whole event.

Less aero and current tires are the only way to go. Kers and DRS are best left in the trash can.


Yes, but the point is that a lot of the overtakes were not DRS yesterday.


So maybe they should withdraw DRS and leave whatever was responsible for the overtakes. Interestingly Hamilton who was arguably the best overtaker last season has made very few DRS passes – in both Melbourne and Malaysia his DRS just couldn’t do the job for him – found that such a paradox.


Thank you Lewis, Seb, Mark, Jenson, Michael, the FIA, Pirelli, Nico, Felipe, Fernando… and a huge pat on the back to the brilliant combination of Martin and David in the commentary box bringing the race to life and making it so clear and exciting. I loved every minute of it. I’m not prone to blowing sunshine up the proverbial, but today was outstanding in every way and I’m properly grateful to you all for an amazing race. I love F1 through and through. Roll on the rest of the season! Thank you very much gentlemen for some top quality entertainment 🙂


james, you didn’t put up my comment! [mod]


No, because we’ve had enough of stuff which isn’t constructive and yours was just empty negativity. It’s got nothing to do with whether it’s anti Alonso, Vettel, Schumacher, Hamilton etc, I don’t care who it is, I’m just not going to accept cheap shots and pointless negativity about drivers or anyone else for that matter. If you don’t like it start your own website and fill it with that kind of stuff. Or there are plenty of other F1 sites where you can go.


Thank you Sir,

Finally a site that is willing to dump the negativity some seem to feel the need to constantly spout.

These drivers and teams work incredibly hard, even HRT, and I doubt that any of us could come close to competing with them at this level.


Horner said on a two stop they missed it by 5s, I was just thinking Seb could have gone faster by a 2 tenths each lap to be on the safe side rather than crusing up front. Tyres wernt all that bad after his second stop. And whats going on with RB’s KERS ? Its seems to malfuction midway through every race.


maybe ferrai was on 2 stop strategy bc they used one pair of softs in q1.all other big teams were on hard in q1..


Fantastic race – the credit goes to Pirelli who appear to have produced tires that have added to the sport. This makes one wonder what will happen in Monte Carlo with the super soft tires that are only supposed to be able to last 6 laps on a full tank of fuel. Top drives by Hamilton and Webber.

I also think the DRS has added to the sport. It makes it less likely that a slower car on a conservative strategy can hold up a quicker car on a more aggressive strategy. In years past the Ferraris would have held the field up for much of the race which would have played right into Vettel’s hands. The ability of quicker cars to get past them allowed for a fair fight between the 2 and 3 stop strategies. Purists should be pleased with this.


[mod] There’s no shame though in admitting you prefer a fireworks show to a pure sporting contest.

Rubinho's Keyfob

Forget about “driver of the day”, what about “mechanics of the day”?

Seriously, that was some outstanding work done by the McLaren garage today, under huge time pressure. To have swabbed out a flooded engine in the garage with seconds to spare, sending the car to the grid with the gearbox covers missing and then patching it up while on the grid – and then for the car to go on to win the GP, well, credit where credit’s due, those guys did an amazing job.

To have done anything less would have robbed us of many exciting moments in a thrilling race (the first corner and the HAM move on BUT alone were wonderful moments) – so thanks to the guys at the back of the garage for their hard work today 🙂


Here’s what I love about this season:

To win you need to have the best combination of: overall car, kers, strategy, flexibility, driver quality, pit stop times, qualifying strategy.

It makes every choice interesting. It rewards overall excellence and severly punishes mistakes.


Are the people complaining about DRS the same ones complaining about boring races last 4 or 5 years ago? Which do you want? DRS is no more artificial than any other component, in fact it is only there to correct a flaw in the design of modern F1 cars – dirty air.

Some people could do with remembering what GPs from 60s-80s were actually like. Huge gaps between teams, unreliable cars and substantial differences in the driving characteristics of each car did more to confuse people’s assessment of the driver’s quality than DRS and Kers could ever do.


Well said!! It seems that people forget easily, or haven’t really followed F1 for more than 5-6 years….However, i think that they will start to understand and appreciate this sport as time goes by.

Markin Brundell

Today we saw how DRS makes racing a movie(not a film!), but kills racing. Why should “the drivers that did everything correctly” be punished, is still beyond me. Take Vettel for example. He made a bad start, but that gives him “wings” after 2 laps. Lewis made a good start, but basically, was punished for that. Ridiculous. Why it is not time limited like KERS? I my opinion, it would make its usage tactical and fair too(not artificial, if you like).

About weaving and changing the line more than once. I think we saw it today. But didnt see penalties. When Lewis was given a penalty week ago, I thought “finally”. If the rules are set, they should be forced every and every race, not dependant on how the wind currently blows.

The Alonso case…

I think disqualification for Alonso should be way to go, provided they really broke the rules.

Doesnt matter whether it was because the driver clicked too early or the system malfunctioned. Opening up the rear wing gives you an advantage. It was very tight between Alonso and Schuey at the end. Maybe it was that tiny gain which enabled Alonso to close the door in time during the last lap? Probably not. But if such thing is tolerated, we might well see it happen again in a more decisive battle.

Sigh. This race makes me wonder, why there is so much effort to make races exciting, while principal, primary issues to ensure credibility to racing and to the results, are not only unsolved but also sidelined.

Funny. Everyone else except me seems to have a real party here. But I have not lost hope yet. One day we will see racing again in f1.


You must have missed the Michael-Alonso, Lewis-Jenson and Webber-Kobayashi battles then, they were real racing at its finest. hell, Rosbergs move on Massa into the last corner was incredible.

Just because people were on different strategies doesn’t make it false racing; with that logic Schumacher’s win at hungary 98 was a joke too. The DRS was perfect today, all it did was negate the ‘dirty air’ effect; we saw plenty of cars not being to overtake easily due to it and even when some guys did get a good run in, good defending kept them the position.

Have to say james, Michael’s defending was sublime today.


The DRS is limited to one straight I don’t get your point. I wish KERS was unlimited.

I didn’t see the weaving you are referring to today sorry. I am a Hamilton fan but the video evidence shows he changed direction a few to many times.


DQ Alonso? That is not going to happen, but it should have been issued and investigation for a potential safety concern.

Would you prefer the effort put into F1 to make dull boring races and if all the drivers race in the same regulations then why does todays result lack the credit it deserves?

Unless this message is a deliberate wind up it makes no sense, has no credibility and lacks sufficient background to be considered honest.

Markin Brundell

“The DRS is limited to one straight I don’t get your point.”

That one straight has a meaning too. It is still the same, only the car behind can use it. This is where the problem lies for me.

“Would you prefer the effort put into F1 to make dull boring races and if all the drivers race in the same regulations then why does todays result lack the credit it deserves?”

Indeed, the rules are same for everybody. My whine was more triggered by personal views, of how I would like to see DRS implemented. Just like you came up with an idea of unlimited KERS or suggestion of playing on safety card with Alonsos case. That was emotional(insufficient backround?) too I would say, but Im not going to tell your opinion has no credibility at all or was made to wind up something.

By credibility thing I meant waterproof regulations in combination with waterproof stewarding. I really think it should come first, before thinking of setting up a show. If you find a way to quarantee cases like Massa overshooting his starting box at Spa(and getting away with that) or somebodys wing playing a trick never happen again, I cant see how it could make races dull-boring.


Don’t understand your DRS point. The passes were not all DRS enabled, it was a really varied race

Markin Brundell

Im not from english speaking country(far from that)and not a journalist either. Forgive me if I failed to express myself clearly. I tried to give an example, what makes me think that DRS is not a good idea. I try again. Currently, nobody is giving 25 points for the last place and zero for the winner. That is right and sounds logic I guess? But DRS is something like that absurd scoring system I came up with, helping weak and disarming strong drivers.

Luckily most of the DRS passes were done at the very end of the straight and generally, the best car/team combinations still come on top. But the signal that you can gain by imperfections during some stage of the event(lets say, qualification), sounds strange or even destructive.

Never said the passes were all DRS enabled. But even if drivers don´t gain a place with DRS, they gain time. And this influences the outcome of the race, one way or another.


Thank you Pirelli for transforming Formula 1! In 20 years of watching Formula 1 that’s probably the best race I’ve ever seen. Regardless of whether it’s too easy to overtake or not, you can’t ignore the fact that with about 20 laps to go any one of 5 drivers looked to have a genuine chance of victory.

In previous seasons, the cynics would say the only part of a race worth watching was the first lap, because after that, the positions wouldn’t change. Certainly even the harshest critic couldn’t say that now! If the races continue like this, with the closing laps being the most critical part, then we are in for a sensational season!


Awesome race,long live to F1!!!


Relatively few complaints about KERS, DRS and Pirelli this time. Is this because of who won the race?


You make a fair point. As a fan of Mclaren i’m pleased that they won today, but fans complaining about KERS & DRS because their favourite driver or team is not winning is unhelpfull. The next race in Turkey should produce its own overtaking without the DRS, but I suspect the complaints will start again after the Spanish GP, a place where overtaking was never great. No prizes for guessing where they put the DRS Zone either.


From James’s april article


My reply to comment 43

“To me it looks like these new tyres don’t reheat very well, meaning it costs 1.5-2 seconds for a second stint on the refries. Surly all the teams will notice this and all the top teams will only do 1 flying lap in Q1 and Q2 thus saving virgin tyres.”

Apparently McLaren and RBR noticed, Webber trying to save soft tyres in Q1 cost him the win as his 3 stop strategy, which he planned all weekend, was far superior to Vettel’s 2 stop.

Congrats to Lewis and McLaren, but Lap 11

Webber was 25 seconds and 12 places behind Vettel. The difference between 2 and 3 stops was this much! How do RBR’s Vettel, Ferrari and Renault justify the two stop strategy?

Mark’s comments in the post race “I might as well skip qualifying and save Tyres” is pretty interesting. I think the teams can only afford to use 3 sets of tyres in qualifying otherwise the refry effect will cost them dearly in the race.


Agree. I think FIA will have to change the rules for Q3 at least so an extra set of options is made available for use just in Q3 itself, say, otherwise the final qualifying is going to be an anticlimax. There were already signs of this happening this time round.


I must admit, that was a very good race! The positioning of the DRS was judged perfectly: It didn’t make overtaking overly easy, but it allowed the cars to stick close to each other.

Fantastic drives from the McLaren and Red Bull drivers, Nico Rosberg as well. Not only was the fight for the lead great to watch, but it was extremely nice to see Seb defend and react maturely to Lewis’s pass – he didn’t panic by throwing his car at him (Hamilton); a probable sign that since winning the championship, he really has matured a great deal.

I’m an Alonso supporter, but boy was he anonymous in this race today and man, did Massa give him one heck of an a** kicking! Seriously, the most complete driver in F1 needs to re-work his starts (a similar problem for Schumacher in his early years) and his overtaking. I believe the latter is an area he hasn’t excelled in since 2007 and it looks to be something he’s wary of, by playing it too safe. So kudos for Felipe for maximizing his opportunities today.


I am not an Alonso supporter, he is normally worth 0.4 s/lap over most drivers including Massa. There is a little evidence his car was set up differently to Massa who was generally faster in all sections all race. Alonso’s sector 3 speed trap was faster than Massa’s but Massa’s was faster in traps 1 and 2. Plus everyone is focusing on Alonso’s DRS, I hope there is an investigation, not to penalize but to find out how and prevent it, because as James mentioned above this can be very dangerous and is a safety issue.

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