Mercedes’ Rosberg storms to first win
SHANGHAI - Agence France-Presse
Mercedes Formula One driver Nico Rosberg stands on his car as he celebrates his win at the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai. AP photoMercedes’ Nico Rosberg claimed an “amazing” first Formula One race victory in 111 attempts as he led from pole position to take the Chinese Grand Prix in style yesterday.
The German’s faultless drive in Shanghai saw him home more than 20 seconds ahead of the McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, for what was also Mercedes’ first victory since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix.
The Red Bull of Mark Webber was fourth and reigning two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel fifth after some frantic jostling for the other podium places.
There was no such trouble for the 26-year-old Rosberg, however.
“Unbelievable. It’s been a long time coming for the team also,” he said.
“It’s finally there. It’s amazing.
“I didn’t expect to be this fast today. I was very happy with the entire race.” After 12th and 13th-placed finishes respectively in the first two grands prix of the season, in Australia and Malaysia, Rosberg said he was delighted his team had managed to turn practice and qualifying speed into genuine race pace.
“We’ve been working very hard. We struggled in the first two races but progressed so quickly.”
Summing up his weekend he said: “It all came together.” Button, the 2009 world champion, was delighted to secure second after that place changed hands repeatedly up until nearly the very end of a compelling race.
“There were some really good battles out there,” said the Briton.
It might have been even better for him but for a chaotic last stop in the pits, but he admitted that he might never have caught the speedy Mercedes.
“I stopped on the markers and had a problem on the rear,” he revealed.
“I got stuck for maybe 10 seconds, but all in all I really enjoyed it.” Rosberg showed no early nerves from pole position and made the perfect start to stay ahead of team-mate Michael Schumacher going into the crucial first corner at an overcast but dry Shanghai International Circuit.
The big loser at the start was Vettel, whose nightmare weekend got slightly worse when he slipped from 11th on the grid to 15th.
With the seven-time champion Schumacher using all his experience to act as a buffer from the chasing pack, Rosberg was able to stretch his lead with 10 of the 56 laps under his belt in relative comfort.
But with a third of the race gone that strategy -- intentional or not -- came undone in amateurish fashion when Schumacher appeared to have been given the all-clear from a pit stop before one of the wheels was properly fastened.
A Mercedes mechanic frantically waved his arms but the 43-year-old was gone, only to slow up and stop shortly afterwards as he was forced to meekly bow out, his chance of a first race win since coming out of retirement over.
Minutes later Mercedes confirmed on Twitter: “Michael’s right front wheel was not fitted properly at the stop leading to his retirement.” At about the same time, Rosberg was in the pit lane so he could switch to intermediate tires, allowing Sergio Perez to briefly head the field, before he pitted, allowing Ferrari’s Felipe Massa to briefly take the lead.
Back in front
But the flying Rosberg was back in front once more when he easily passed Massa’s cumbersome Ferrari, with Button and Hamilton now hot on Rosberg’s heels. They were soon joined by Romain Grosjean, who was to finish sixth.
Rosberg surrendered his lead to Button when he pitted on lap 35, then Webber had a hairy moment when he ran wide on the curb, launching the front of his Red Bull into the air, drawing gasps from a packed crowd.
Rosberg was out in front again when Button stopped for a final time and lingered in the pits, allowing the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen to jump into second, with Vettel’s assault taking him up to third with 42 of the 56 laps gone.
Button’s challenge appeared over, with Rosberg enjoying a more than 22-second lead over second-place Raikkonen with 10 laps to go and on a fresh set of tires. Vettel meanwhile used all his ability to pass Button and move into third.
With eight laps to go, a mistake by Raikkonen saw him plummet down the field, while Vettel, Button and Hamilton dueled over second and third.
Raikkonen finished 14th, while the Ferraris had another difficult afternoon, with Fernando Alonso in ninth and Massa 13th.