Button leads McLaren one-two in China

Jenson Button took his second victory of the season in a dramatic and rain-affected Chinese Grand Prix.

The reigning world champion once again made the right call on tyres and in this instance, Button staying out on slicks in the rain while the others pitted for intermediates and showed his class again from the front.

Even when a safety car period eradicated his lead, Button’s tyre gamble paid off and he remained calm in the tricky conditions to take the chequered flag in Shanghai. Jenson now leads the world championship standings’ with 60 points.

McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished in second giving the team its first one-two result since Monza 2007, while Nico Rosberg continues to impress with another podium result for Mercedes GP.

After jumping the start and serving a drive-through penalty, plus making five pitstops in switching tyres, Fernando Alonso finished in fourth for Ferrari ahead of Robert Kubica’s Renault and Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.

It was a disappointing race for Vettel as taking pole position doesn’t guarantee a victory so far this season. The German had a tense battle with rival Lewis Hamilton that even took place in the pits, with the pair racing wheel-to-wheel in the pitlane in an incident that will be investigated later by the race stewards.

Renault’s Vitaly Petrov did a solid job to finish in seventh, just managing to fend off the faster Red Bull of Mark Webber, while Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher complete the top ten for Ferrari and Mercedes.

The expected rain shower made its presence at the Shanghai International Circuit and once again the weather played havoc with Formula One.

The drama started early when Vitantonio Liuzzi lost control of his Force India under braking, spun and collected Sebastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso and the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi.

Adrian Sutil, Jaime Alguersuari and Rubens Barrichello were also involved and headed for repairs in the pits, while Nico Hulkenberg did well to pick his way through unscathed.

But the safety car was still required, prompting the Red Bulls, the Ferraris, Hamilton and Michael Schumacher to gamble on changing to intermediate tyres.

Initially, it looked like the right call as Fernando Alonso charged past cars still on slicks. But Nico Rosberg and Button, up front having stayed out on the dry Bridgestone tyre, were lapping faster just one lap later as the intermediates burnt out quickly with the track not quite wet enough for them.

Within a couple of laps, all the drivers who made the initial switch to intermediates dived back to the pits for slicks, leaving Rosberg, Button, Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov well ahead of the rest.

The pitstops included Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel racing each other into the pitlane and leaving side-by-side too, an incident that will be investigated later. This incident might cost Hamilton the second position and if McLaren do receive a penalty it would be likely to take the form of a 25-second penalty that would drop him to fifth behind Robert Kubica. Or Lewis may get a grid penalty for the next race at Catalunya.

No sooner had the likes of Hamilton and Vettel fought their way back up the race order the heavens opened again, this time at a heavier rate. Leader Rosberg was caught out and a brief off-track excursion allowed Button to take the lead, and soon after everyone was in the pits to get intermediates back on.

The rain gifted Button, Rosberg and the Renaults a free pitstop, so the leaders 50-second advantage remained. But the safety car was back out after Alguersuari clipped the back of an HRT car and left front wing debris scattered on the track.

Button bunched the pack right up for the restart and, with the new rule about overtaking from the pitlane line, rather than the start/finish line, Vettel tried to take advantage to pass Hamilton into the last corner. But it backfired for his Red Bull team as he only succeeded in forcing Hamilton wide and shoving Webber off the track on the outside!

Hamilton once again had to fight his way back to the front and his progress included an entertaining battle with Schumacher. The seven-time world champion defended with great composure despite struggling for traction in his Silver Arrows. But eventually Hamilton made it by with an opportunistic dive between Turns 8 and 9.

Lewis then caught and passed Rosberg for second, just before the field descended on the pitlane once again for a final fresh set of intermediate tyres.

The race eventually settled down for the last 20 laps, as Button kept Hamilton at a safe distance. There was just a brief scare for the race leader as four laps from home Jenson overshot the final hairpin, but his McLaren team-mate was also struggling to keep his car on the road with fast-balding intermediates.

Rosberg was unable to mount a challenge for victory as he fended off Fernando Alonso for third in the closing stages of the Grand Prix. The Spaniard recovered well despite five pitstops, including a drive-through for jumping the start.

Kubica continued Renault’s good form, taking advantage on his early decision to stay on slicks to hold onto fifth, with Vettel taking a disappointing sixth for Red Bull.

It was another day of missed opportunities for Mark Webber. He was unable to make a rapid progress through the race compared to the likes of Hamilton or Vettel, and struggling with wore-out tyres at the end, the Australian lost out his seventh place finish to Petrov two laps from the chequered flag.

Heikki Kovalainen became the first driver for a new team to beat a driver from the established teams with P14. It helped that the Lotus driver made only two pitstops while Hülkenberg came in six times.

Behind them were the two Hispanias of Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok, the latter suffering a spin in the wet conditions.

So, a frantic race in China that resulted in a McLaren one-two thanks to the wet weather. Button now leads the drivers’ championship with 60 points, followed by Rosberg on 50, Alonso and Hamilton on 49, Vettel on 46, Massa on 41 and Kubica on 40. While the McLaren-Mercedes team head the constructors’ championship with 109 points to Ferrari’s 90, Red Bull’s 73, Mercedes GP’s 60 and Renault’s 46.

Race results from Shanghai, 56 laps:

1.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           1h44:42.163
2.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +1.530
3.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +9.484
4.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +11.869
5.  Kubica        Renault                    +22.213
6.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +33.310
7.  Petrov        Renault                    +47.600
8.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +52.172
9.  Massa         Ferrari                    +57.796
10. Schumacher    Mercedes                   +1:01.749
11. Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +1:02.874
12. Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +1:03.665
13. Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1:11.416
14. Kovalainen    Lotus-Cosworth             +1 lap
15. Hulkenberg    Williams-Cosworth          +1 lap
16. Senna         HRT-Cosworth               +2 laps
17. Chandhok      HRT-Cosworth               +4 laps

Fastest lap: Hamilton, 1:42.061

Not classified/retirements:

Trulli        Lotus-Cosworth               27 laps
Di Grassi     Virgin-Cosworth              9 laps
De la Rosa    Sauber-Ferrari               8 laps
Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari           1 lap
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               1 lap
Liuzzi        Force India-Mercedes         1 lap
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              1 lap

World Championship standings, round 4:

1.  Button        60
2.  Rosberg       50
3.  Alonso        49
4.  Hamilton      49
5.  Vettel        45
6.  Massa         41
7.  Kubica        40
8.  Webber        28
9.  Sutil         10
10. Schumacher    10
11. Liuzzi         8
12. Petrov         6
13. Barrichello    5
14. Alguersuari    2
15. Hulkenberg     1

1. McLaren-Mercedes          109
2. Ferrari                    90
3. Red Bull-Renault           73
4. Mercedes                   60
5. Renault                    46
6. Force India-Mercedes       18
7. Williams-Cosworth           6
8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari          2

NEXT RACE: Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona. May 7-9.

Red Bull front row as Vettel takes pole in China

Sebastian Vettel continued Red Bull Racing’s qualifying domination with another fantastic pole position at the Shanghai International Circuit, his third pole in four races.

The young German leads an all-Red Bull front row with Mark Webber only 0.248 seconds slower. The margin between the pair was too close to call in the first two sectors and yet it was Vettel who gained the upper hand in the last few corners to claim pole.

Fernando Alonso took third for Ferrari – four positions ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa – but it was a bitter pill to swallow for Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren. After setting the quickest time in Q1 and Q2, he was unable to challenge the Red Bulls for the top spot and will start the Chinese Grand Prix in sixth, behind Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg and his team-mate Jenson Button.

Michael Schumacher lines up in ninth in the Silver Arrows, between Robert Kubica’s Renault and the Force India of Adrian Sutil.

Rubens Barrichello almost got the Williams into the top ten, only for Sutil to bump the Brazilian down to P11 in the final seconds in Q2. Despite this Barrichello was within 0.033 seconds of beating his old Ferrari colleague Schumacher to the final Q3 slot. Williams team-mate Nico Hulkenberg lines up P16, in between the Sauber pair of Kamui Kobayashi and Pedro de la Rosa respectively.

Following his impressive race performance in Malaysia, Jaime Alguersuari out-qualified Toro Rosso team-mate Sebastien Buemi as the Spaniard equalled his career-best Formula One start in P12.

After crashing in the final practice session after losing control exiting the last corner, Vitaly Petrov was able to recover in the repaired Renault to take P14.

As for Tonio Liuzzi, the Force India driver blamed the traffic in costing him the chance in going through to Q2 and with a time margin of 0.111 seconds, he was right to complain! Liuzzi will start the race down in P18.

Lotus looked set to win the battle of the so called ‘division two of Formula One’ between the new teams until Timo Glock’s last qualifying run put Virgin Racing at the head of the tail-end pack by 0.117 seconds over Jarno Trulli’s Lotus. Heikki Kovalainen escaped a spectacular spin under braking for Turn 6 and will start in P21 in the second Lotus. As for Hispania, Bruno Senna edged out team-mate Karun Chandhok but the latter will receive a five-place penalty for non-regulation gearbox work on his car on Friday.

So, a great result for Red Bull Racing with a perfect 100 per cent pole record in 2010. Can Vettel score another Far East victory following his Malaysian Grand Prix success? Or will Webber readdress that first corner mistake in Sepang by going for the first win of the season? What about the forecast rain heading to Shanghai? Will that play a major affect on the race on Sunday? Let’s wait and see.

Qualifying times from Shanghai:
1.  Vettel         Red Bull-Renault      1:34.558
2.  Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1:34.806
3.  Alonso         Ferrari               1:34.913
4.  Rosberg        Mercedes              1:34.923
5.  Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1:34.979
6.  Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes      1:35.034
7.  Massa          Ferrari               1:35.180
8.  Kubica         Renault               1:35.364
9.  Schumacher     Mercedes              1:35.646
10. Sutil          Force India-Mercedes  1:35.963
11. Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth     1:35.748
12. Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:36.047
13. Buemi          Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:36.149
14. Petrov         Renault               1:36.311
15. Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari        1:36.422
16. Hulkenberg     Williams-Cosworth     1:36.647
17. de la Rosa     Sauber-Ferrari        1:37.020
18. Liuzzi         Force India-Mercedes  1:37.161
19. Glock          Virgin-Cosworth       1:39.278
20. Trulli         Lotus-Cosworth        1:39.399
21. Kovalainen     Lotus-Cosworth        1:39.520
22. di Grassi      Virgin-Cosworth       1:39.783
23. Senna          HRT-Cosworth          1:40.469
24. Chandhok       HRT-Cosworth          1:40.578

Red Bull one-two as Vettel wins in Malaysia

Sebastien Vettel won his first race of the 2010 season with a dominant performance for Red Bull Racing. Team-mate Mark Webber finished in second despite starting from pole position while Nico Rosberg rewarded the Mercedes GP team with its first podium in third. A great result for the Silver Arrows in only its third race in Formula One.

That first corner move on his Red Bull team-mate was crucial as Vettel made a perfect start from third on the grid. He simply took the opportunity on the first lap as Webber left the space leading into Turn 1. In that moment, the Australian handed the Malaysian Grand Prix to his German rival and Vettel never looked back. Finally a win for Sebastian and his Luscious Liz!

Robert Kubica continued Renault’s strong form with fourth while the impressive Adrian Sutil taking fifth for Force India. The McLaren of Lewis Hamilton – who drove an aggressive race following a mistake in qualifying – was sixth, ahead of Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and Australian Grand Prix winner Jenson Button in the other McLaren.

As for Fernando Alonso, who was driving well despite a downshift problem with the F10’s gearbox, the Spaniard suffered a late failure which promoted fellow countryman Jaime Alguersuari into ninth – taking his first points of the season for Toro Rosso, a great reward thanks to his bold overtaking moves on Nico Hulkenberg and Vitaly Petrov. The former taking the final points position for Williams.

Sebastien Buemi was P11 for Toro Rosso with Rubens Barrichello’s Williams in P12. Even though Fernando Alonso was forced to retire with an engine failure, the double world champion was classified in P13 but that late retirement means Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa now leads the drivers’ championship by two points.

Virgin Racing’s Lucas di Grassi was the best of Formula One’s so called ‘division two’ with P14 – nursing its inadequate fuel level to the flag – finishing ahead of the Hispanias pair of Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna respectively.

Jarno Trulli was the last remaining classified runner with P17 though he suffered hydraulic problems at the end – with similar issues forcing Lotus team-mate Heikki Kovalainen to lose several laps in the pits.

Also hitting trouble were Petrov, Force India’s Tonio Liuzzi, Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes, Timo Glock’s Virgin Racing and both Saubers – with Pedro de la Rosa not even making the start following engine problems on his way from the garage to the grid.

So that much-talked about rain never arrived, as the race remained dry throughout. Finally Red Bull Racing was awarded a race victory with Sebastian Vettel taking the honours after missing out in Bahrain and Melbourne. No reliability problems unlike the previous Grands Prix and the RB6 seemed to be the car to beat this season.

Felipe Massa now leads the championship with 39 points with Malaysian Grand Prix winner Sebastien Vettel moving up to a joint second with Fernando Alonso on 37 points. Reigning world champion Jenson Button and Mercedes GP driver Nico Rosberg are on 35 points. While in the constructors’ chase, the Scuderia still maintains the lead with 76 points, ten ahead of McLaren and 15 over Red Bull Racing.

Race results from Sepang, 56 laps:

1.  Vettel       Red Bull-Renault      1:33:48.412
2.  Webber       Red Bull-Renault      +4.8s
3.  Rosberg      Mercedes              +13.5s
4.  Kubica       Renault               +18.5s
5.  Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  +21.0s
6.  Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes      +23.4s
7.  Massa        Ferrari               +27.0s
8.  Button       McLaren-Mercedes      +37.9s
9.  Alguersuari  Toro Rosso-Ferrari    +1m10.6s
10.  Hulkenberg   Williams             +1m13.3s
11.  Buemi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari   +1m18.9s
12.  Barrichello  Williams-Cosworth    +1 lap
13.  Alonso       Ferrari              +2 laps
14.  Di Grassi    Virgin-Cosworth      +3 laps
15.  Chandhok     Hispania-Cosworth    +3 laps
16.  Senna        Hispania-Cosworth    +4 laps
17.  Trulli       Lotus-Cosworth       +5 laps

Fastest lap: Webber 1m37.054s

Not classified/retirements:
Kovalainen   Lotus-Cosworth        46 laps
Petrov       Renault               32 laps
Liuzzi       Force India-Mercedes  12 laps
Schumacher   Mercedes              9 laps
Kobayashi    Sauber-Ferrari        8 laps
Glock        Virgin-Cosworth       2 laps
De la Rosa   Sauber-Ferrari        0 lap

World Championship standings, round 3:

1.  Massa         39
2.  Vettel        37
3.  Alonso        37
4.  Button        35
5.  Rosberg       35
6.  Hamilton      31
7.  Kubica        30
8.  Webber        24
9.  Sutil         10
10.  Schumacher     9
11.  Liuzzi         8
12.  Barrichello    5
13.  Alguersuari    2
14.  Hulkenberg     1

1.  Ferrari                    76
2.  McLaren-Mercedes           66
3.  Red Bull-Renault           61
4.  Mercedes                   44
5.  Renault                    20
6.  Force India-Mercedes       18
7.  Williams-Cosworth           6
8.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          2

NEXT RACE: Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai. April 16-18.

Webber splashes through to take pole in Sepang

Mark Webber achieved his second career pole position for Red Bull Racing with a strong drive on intermediate tyres in the tricky wet conditions at the Sepang International Circuit.

The Australian’s margin over his nearest competitor was impressive – over one second clear – compared to Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel will start the Malaysian Grand Prix in third in the other Red Bull.

As for the McLarens and Ferraris, the top two outfits were caught out by the changeable weather on the wrong sets of Bridgestone and will line up near the rear end of the grid.

Rain played a major part in the qualifying session and after several spins from many cars plus a red flag, the grid for Sunday’s race looks like its going to be another entertaining Grand Prix.

The late decision to remain in the pits in Q1 to see if the conditions improve proved costly for Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, as each driver was struggling on the track.

For the reigning world champion, the McLaren went into spin at Turn 6 and Button was forced to withdraw the rest of the session with his car stuck in the gravel. Jenson will start in P17. His team-mate fared no better with Hamilton spinning on the last corner on his first qualifying run. Lewis was unable to extract a faster lap time due to the increasing rain and will start the Malaysian Grand Prix in P20.

The same problem of being caught out by the rain also affected the Scuderia with Alonso and Massa struggling for grip and decent lap times. In the case of the current championship leader, the Spaniard performed a perfect 1080-degree spin exiting Turn 8 while Massa had a slide through the gravel. The time difference may only be 0.2-0.4 seconds to advance into Q2 but due to the tricky wet conditions, it was extremely unlikely for the Ferraris to find the available time and go through. The pair will start the race in P19 and P21 respectively.

So the prospect of the strongest/fastest cars at the rear of the grid should form an exciting race on Sunday, but what about the rest? Well, the Force India of Adrian Sutil exceeded in the changeable conditions and did a great job to qualify in fourth position. Sutil even had provisional pole in Q3 but then the track conditions improved and Webber was able to take advantage to grab the top spot thanks to his gamble on intermediates. Still, it was an impressive performance by Sutil in the Force India.

The Williams of Nico Hulkenberg lines up fifth, his best qualifying performance for a Formula One rookie. As for Robert Kubica, who had set the pace in Q1, the Renault driver will start the race in sixth position.

On row four is Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher – Williams and Mercedes GP respectively – with Kamui Kobayashi taking Sauber’s first top ten start of the season ahead of Tonio Liuzzi in the other Force India.

The Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersauri form up row seven with Renault’s Vitaly Petrov just missing out on a Q3 spot and will start P11, ahead of Pedro de la Rosa, who was a second off his Sauber team-mate Kobayashi’s Q2 pace.

With the top drivers making mistakes in the rain-interrupted qualifying session, it allowed the Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen and Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock to reach Q2 for the first time in their teams’ history. The pair will form row eight. For Heikki, he out-qualified his team-mate Jarno Trulli by a small margin of 0.009 seconds to take P17.

As for the Hispania team, Karun Chandhok out-qualified his team-mate Bruno Senna for the first time as the Brazilian spun off early in Q1. Both beat Lucas di Grassi – who only joined Q1 for the saturated closing minutes as post-practice work on his Virgin over-ran.

Thanks to the wet qualifying session, we have a mixed up grid with the McLarens and Ferraris at the back while at the sharp end is the Red Bulls. More rain is forecast in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, so expected to see plenty of action and overtaking.

Qualifying times from Sepang:

1.  Webber         Red Bull-Renault       1:49.327
2.  Rosberg        Mercedes               1:50.673
3.  Vettel         Red Bull-Renault       1:50.789
4.  Sutil          Force India-Mercedes   1:50.914
5.  Hulkenberg     Williams-Cosworth      1:51.001
6.  Kubica         Renault                1:51.051
7.  Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth      1:51.511
8.  Schumacher     Mercedes               1:51.717
9.  Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari         1:51.767
10.  Liuzzi         Force India-Mercedes  1:52.254
11.  Petrov         Renault               1:48.760
12.  de la Rosa     Sauber-Ferrari        1:48.771
13.  Buemi          Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:49.207
14.  Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:49.464
15.  Kovalainen     Lotus-Cosworth        1:52.270
16.  Glock          Virgin-Cosworth       1:52.520
17.  Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1:52.211
18.  Trulli         Lotus-Cosworth        1:52.884
19.  Alonso         Ferrari               1:53.044
20.  Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes      1:53.050
21.  Massa          Ferrari               1:53.283
22.  Chandhok       HRT-Cosworth          1:56.299
23.  Senna          HRT-Cosworth          1:57.269
24.  di Grassi      Virgin-Cosworth       1:59.977