Rosberg wins in China, but Hamilton and Button lead the championship
By Andy Darley
Sunday, April 15th, 2012
McLaren’s Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton served as bridesmaids on Nico Rosberg’s big day as the Mercedes driver finally broke his duck and handed the Silver Arrows their first win since the days of Fangio.
Rosberg gave a demonstration of how, for this race at least, Mercedes had solved its problems with tyre wear by securing a commanding victory with a two-stop strategy against rivals who mostly used three.
A possible one-two finish for the team was lost when Michael Schumacher was sent out from his pit stop with a wheel not properly attached, forcing a retirement before the lap was out.
Behind Rosberg the battle for second was fierce with, at one point, eight cars in a train contesting the place. Kimi Raikkonen looked good for most of the race but, late on, his own attempt at a two-stop collapsed when his tyres suddenly degraded on him and he lost 10 places in a lap.
Sebastian Vettel, who had qualified a poor 11th and dropped further back at the start, used strategy to work through the field and inherit second, but his tyres too faded and he was taken by Button, Hamilton and his team-mate Mark Webber.
In the end, it was the McLaren drivers who filled the minor podium places – both of them with regrets at not having been able to challenge for the win. Hamilton had suffered five-place starting penalty for a gearbox change, while Button endured a slow pitstop that brought him out in traffic and prevented a late charge.
The consolation for the pair was that they now lead the drivers’ championship, with Hamilton on 45 points, Button on 43 and previous leader Fernando Alonso on 37.
Rosberg said: “It’s an unbelievable feeling: very, very cool. I’m very happy, very excited. It’s been a long time coming for me, and for the team as well over the past two years and a bit. Now, it’s finally here. It’s just amazing and it’s just nice to see how quickly we are now progressing. I didn’t expect to be that fast today.”
Button said: “I had some really good battles out there and then, in my last stop, I stopped on the marks and we had a problem with the rear of the car, so I was stuck there for nine or ten seconds I think it was. It was a pity because when I exited the pits I had four cars in front of me; cars that I wouldn’t have been racing, and I would have had a nice clear track to hopefully hunt down Nico.”
Hamilton added: “I had my work cut out today. It was a fantastic race, I really enjoyed it. I just wanted to see if I could move forwards: a good start, good pit stops, good strategy, but what an incredible race with so many World Champions and so many of the great drivers all in a train, just fighting each other.”