Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Alonso Achieves Awesomeness with Win in China

Photo credit: Pirelli Photo Service

Running on the 3.387-mile Shanghai International Circuit, qualifying has set up a very interesting scenario. Seeking to defend their historic race victory, the factory team Mercedes AMG car of Lewis Hamilton acquired the top grid position for the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix. Pole winner of the previous two Formula 1 races Sebastian Vettel was ninth starting the Chinese Grand Prix. Fellow Red Bull-Renault Mark Webber was 14th fastest in qualifying but was excluded when he ran low of gasoline on-track during a Q2 run. Since the team was unable to provide a one-liter fuel sample as required by Formula 1 rules, Webber's time was excluded and he would start the race in China from the pit lane. This is the first grand prix since Vettel's infamous pass on his Red Bull teammate at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

When the lights went out, Lewis Hamilton launched to an early lead. However, Hamilton's front row companion Kimi Raikkonen suffered from excessive wheel spin. For the Ferrari F138 race cars of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Masssa, the slower-moving Raikkonen provided ample opportunity to take improve their positions. Into the first turn, the Mercedes AMG car led while the Ferraris gain pursuit.

Lewis Hamilton had an Initial advantage in the Chinese Grand Prix but would soon fall victim to the second and third place Ferraris. By lap 3, the DRS zones were enabled on the Shanghai International Circuit giving Alonso and Massa an chance to pass the Mercedes. Since Hamilton was unable to build a one-second interval over his challengers, the pair whizzed by the Mercedes on lap 4. Lewis Hamilton was able to fight back on the following lap ahead of early pit stops.

In the early laps of the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix, several incidents of contact on the Shanghai International Circuit. On lap 6, the Sauber-Ferrari driven by Esteban Gutierrez speared Adrian Sutil's Force India-Mercedes. Leaving a shower of carbon fiber debris, Gutierrez's damaged car was parked off-track. Sutil was able to continue to the pit lane but the rear wing structure would not allow the car to stay in the event. A collision with the McLaren of Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus-Renault was a potentially race-defining move. Suffering some noticeable damage to the front nose of the Lotus-Renault race car, Raikkonen and his team would be fortunate not to require a replacement front section.

One lap prior to the Perez-Raikkonen collision, the Red Bull-Renault of Mark Webber and the Toro Rosso-Ferrari piloted by Jean-Eric Vergne made contact. The Red Bull race car attempted to make a late-braking move on the Toro Rosso but Vergne arced in while Webber attempted to pass. Resulting in damage to Mark Webber's front wing, the race would get worse for the Australian. Already experiencing a difficult race weekend based on qualifying, Webber's awful 2013 Chinese Grand Prix ended on the 15th turn when the right rear wheel of his Red Bull-Renault fell off on lap 17, shortly after a pit stop. Mark Webber's retirement concluded an unpleasant weekend for the Red Bull Racing driver.

Photo Credit: Ferrari North America

While many cars started on soft compound Pirelli tires, much of the field opted to stick to medium compound slick tires following their first pit stop. The latter stage of the event was decided with the timing of pit stops. On lap 43 of the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel lost the lead to Fernando Alonso. Vettel was running on tires 10 laps older than the now race-leading Ferrari. Once in the lead, Alonso's Ferrari quickly built up a lead expanding to over five seconds in just four laps. Losing ground to Fernando Alonso, the second-place Red Bull-Renault of Sebastian Vettel came in for the soft compound tires on lap 51.

With Vettel unable to contend with the Ferrari in the late laps, Fernando Alonso sailed to victory with a 10.1-second lead over the Lotus-Renault of Kimi Raikkonen. Prevailing in his first 2013 grand prix, Alonso joins Lewis Hamilton as the only two-time winners of the Formula 1 race at the Shanghai International Circuit. The win is also Alonso's 31st career race victory coming on his 200th grand prix start.

The second and third place finishing race cars for the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix both encountered challenging races. Kimi Raikkonen's uncharacteristically poor launch and early contact were not enough to prevent a podium result for the Lotus F1 Team driver. Raikkonen recaptured his starting spot for his second podium result in the opening three races of the 2013 Formula 1 tour. Worn tires and some lapped traffic in the latter stage of the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix almost cost Lewis Hamilton the final podium spot for Mercedes AMG. After the chaotic scene with his win in Malaysia, Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel recovered from ninth on the starting grid to settled with a fourth place finish in China. Vettel just barely missed the podium as a last lap bobble on one corner cost him the momentum to take third away from Lewis Hamilton.

Photo credit: Pirelli Photo Service

With one exception, the top-10 finishers used three stops over the 56-lap distance of the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix. Having started the race on medium Pirelli slick tires, Jenson Button held on to fifth place as him and his McLaren team opted with a two-stop strategy. Making his first pit stop on lap 23, Button ended the race on soft compound tires. McLaren also tried a two-stop plan with Sergio Perez but it resulted with the Mexican placing outside of the points.

The second Ferrari driven by Felipe Massa finished sixth more than 40 seconds behind Alnoso. Daniel Ricciardo piloting a Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso finished a career-high seventh place. Paul di Resta collected his second eighth place result in 2013 crossing the finish line 2.4 seconds ahead of Romain Grosjean. After a turbulent 2012 season with Lotus F1 Team, Grosjean has collected points on all three races starting off this season. Nico Hulkenberg grabbed the final point available by driving his Sauber-Ferrari to the checkered flag in tenth spot.

Next race on the 2013 Formula 1 racing calendar is the Bahrain Grand Prix on April 21st.

2013 Formula 1
Chinese Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari
2 7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus Renault
3 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
4 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault
5 5 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes-Benz
6 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari Ferrari
7 19 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
8 14 Paul di Resta Force India Mercedes-Benz
9 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault
10 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber Ferrari
11 6 Sergio Perez McLaren Mercedes-Benz
12 18 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
13 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Renault
14 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams F1 Renault
15 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia Cosworth
16 20 Charles Pic Caterham Renault
17 23 Max Chilton Marussia Cosworth
18 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham Renault
19 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
20 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Renault
21 15 Adrian Sutil Force India Mercedes-Benz
22 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber Ferrari

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