Vettel leads Webber in Red Bull one-two

2009 Chinese Grand Prix review

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Sebastian Vettel’s second Grand Prix win had a touch of deja vu about it – he started from pole position but the wet race started behind the safety car.

And at the end of it he had taken Red Bull to their maiden victory, just as he did for Toro Rosso at Monza last year. Webber followed him home in second as Red Bull scored an historic one-two in an incident-filled race.

Safety car start

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Shanghai, 2009

The first eight laps of the race were spent behind the safety car, in scenes reminiscent of the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji two years ago.

A couple of drivers even managed to go off the track while the safety car was out – including Felipe Massa and Adrian Sutil. Sutil made an early stop for more fuel and, on lap seven, Fernando Alonso did the same from second place.

Just as Alonso was heading into the pits came word that the safety car was coming in. His light fuel load had already compromised his race but had the team known the end of the safety car period was imminent perhaps they wouldn’t have brought him in. It left him last, albeit with a full tank of fuel.

Vettel was the only driver to enjoy a clear view of the track ahead when the race started and made best use of it, quickly pulling out three seconds over his team mate. Webber largely kept pace with his young team mate at first, while Jenson Button (who passed team mate Rubens Barrichello early on) fell to over seven seconds behind by lap 11.

Vettel takes control

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Shanghai, 2009

Webber’s chances of catching Vettel were soon thwarted. A mistake on lap 12 allowed Vettel to double his lead to six seconds. Then on lap 12 Webber surprisingly made his first pit stop – two laps before Vettel came in, despite having gone to the grid with more fuel on board. Had Vettel done a better job of managing his fuel during the safety car period?

Two other drivers were on the move in the early stages. The first was Lewis Hamilton, who picked off Kimi Raikkonen at turn 10 shortly after the start. On lap nine he took Jarno Trulli for fifth, but two laps later a spin dropped him back to tenth. He continued in this ‘one step forward, two steps back’ fashion for much of the race.

Sebastien Buemi, who had started behind Hamilton, copied the McLaren driver by first passing Raikkonen and then going off. Buemi stuck at it, though, and got back ahead of the Ferrari on lap 11 – and Massa arrived in the other Ferrari to follow him through.

Buemi and Massa caught Trulli next and easily passed the struggling Toyota. Raikkonen and Hamilton were almost falling over themselves to get past Trulli. Heikki Kovalainen, Sebastien Bourdais, Timo Glock and Nakajima got by him too.

Toyotas and BMWs everywhere

Next to catch the Toyota was Robert Kubica and, perhaps caught out by how early Trulli was braking, slammed hard into the TF109 at turn 16. Kubica’s BMW almost flipped but stayed an all four wheels and remarkably, after a visit to the pits for a new nose, was able to continue. Trulli’s race was over, however.

Meanwhile their team mates were getting stuck into each other as well. Timo Glock dived down the inside of Nick Heidfeld at the hairpin but succeeded only in damaging his front wing and tipping Heidfeld into a spin. Surprisingly, Glock went unpunished for a tangle that looked a lot like Kovalainen’s collision with Webber at Spa last year.

On lap 17 the safety car was summoned to clear up the carnage. The Brawn cars, which had inherited the lead after the Red Bulls had pitted, now surrendered it by making their first pit stops.

Buemi also headed for the pits but this came after a tangle with the race leader Vettel. In another echo of Fuji ’07, the Toro Rosso driver hit his Red Bull stable mate from behind. Fortunately both were able to continue, Vettel reporting no noticeable damage, and Buemi needing a new nose.

The other Toro Rosso of Bourdais tripped up as the race got restarted, spinning at the hairpin.

Untouchable Vettel

Before the safety car period Hamilton had passed Raikkonen a second time, and then lost it with another excursion off the track. Finally on lap 22 he made it stick with a brave pass on the outside of turn seven.

Vettel quickly built up a lead over Button, who had leap-frogged Webber at the first round of stops. Button was 7.6s behind the leader on lap 26, with Webber bearing down on him less than two seconds behind.

On lap 28 Button ran onto the painted white line before the hairpin and slithered wide, allowing Webber back into second. But Webber himself ran wide on the following lap, allowing Button through again. Not wanting to give the place up the Red Bull driver attacked once more and, in a copy of Hamilton’s move on Raikkonen, took Button at turn seven. Emerging from a ball of spray, Button hardly saw his rival coming until they were side by side.

Rosberg gambles, Hamilton spins

Nico Rosberg, Williams, Shanghai, 2009

By lap 33 Vettel had a 17 second lead over Webber and 21 seconds over Button. Barrichello had dropped 16 seconds behind his team mate in fourth.

Alonso spent many laps stuck behind Buemi but finally found a way through and ascended to fifth before his pit stop. Buemi now took up fifth, ahead of Hamilton, Sutil and Kovalainen.

Vettel made his final stop on lap 37, falling behind Button, but easily able to re-pass the Brawn on lap 40 for the lead. Button’s stop two laps later allowed Webber back into second.

Shortly before this Nico Rosberg gambled on a switch to intermediate tyres. He was able to get within a second of the pace of those on full wet tyres, but the rain returned and the gamble backfired.

Hamilton’ single pit stop on lap 33 left him fifth but he was struggling with tyre wear. One mistake on lap 47 allowed team mate Kovalainen past, and another error two laps later – his fourth of the race – let Sutil by into sixth. Force India’s joy was short-lived however, as Sutil crashed out at turn five on lap 50.

The wreckage was covered under double waved yellow flags, meaning for the first time this year a race ended at racing pace.

Vettel’s second win

Vettel and Webber were able to manage their cars to the flag while Button, struggling with low tyre temperatures, was third.

Fourth for Barrichello keeps him second in the championship. A chaotic race had a surprisingly uniform conclusion – two Red Bulls, two Brawns and then two McLarens, Kovalainen beating Hamilton after finally getting further than lap one for the first time this year.

Glock recovered to take seventh ahead of Buemi who, aside from nearly swiping his victorious half-team mate out of the race, had a strong race in the kind of conditions where he made a name for himself in GP2 last year.

Alonso’s strategy gamble failed, leaving him ninth, ahead of Raikkonen. It was another miserable weekend for Ferrari as Massa retired on lap 23 having climbed from 13th to third.

Bourdais was once again out-shone by his rookie team mate and finished 11th. Heidfeld clocked up yet another finish but there was little else to smile about at BMW with Kubica behind in 13th.

Giancarlo Fisichella was 14th, failing to emulate his younger team mate’s speed in the wet but at least bringing the car home. Rosberg and Piquet were the last of the runners ahead of Sutil.

Button retains his lead in the championship but will Red Bull be able to repeat their wet weather performance in the Bahraini desert? We’ll find out in just seven days’ time.

More on the Chinese Grand Prix

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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42 comments on “Vettel leads Webber in Red Bull one-two”

  1. StrFerrari4Ever
    19th April 2009, 14:36

    Great review Keith really enjoyable this championship keeps delivering the unexpected.
    By the way when are you going to announce the predictions results? :)

    1. When I’ve had a chance to add them up – tomorrow at the very earliest!

  2. StrFerrari4Ever
    19th April 2009, 14:54

    Okay and I have to give you credit your like the people at the factories in F1 your working flatout :P

  3. Is it me or can anyone else notice that most drivers have upped their game this year.

    Apart from one or two exceptions there seems to be a lot less mistakes from drivers this year.

    1. How many people made mistakes in the first few races last season? Only Massa I would say.

  4. StrFerrari4Ever
    19th April 2009, 15:09

    Yep Giuseppe i’ve noticed that aswell there’s more hunger amongst the drivers more urgency.
    Monsieur Bourdais is Bull I won’t continue since you know how it ends and Piquet seems just there to make the numbers but this is promising for more great years of F1 ahead of us.

  5. All in all, a very entertaining event-filled race. It had everything imaginable except a fuel rig malfunction and a backmarker win, two things we can do without. Instead the conditions have dictated the shape of the race.

    So what did we learn this time?
    1) The delicate-but-fast Red Bull is here to stay
    2) It seems the championship is really and truly up for grabs this year
    3) Ferrari downplay about the F-60 this year is real
    4) Mac is a wounded but still-dangerous beast
    5) Piquet is going to have a long, long year

    So what will the next drama be in BahRAIN? Well, rain it IS possible (but not probable) in April. Maybe dust storms… Or locusts.

  6. How predictable that Red Bull should become yet another team to take a double podium with their first win…

    Jordan 1-2, Belguim 1998
    Stewart 1-3, Europe 1999
    BMW 1-2, Canada 2008
    Brawn 1-2, Australia 2009
    Red Bull 1-2, China 2009

    …plus others I probably couldn’t remember (Honda took a 1-4 at Hungary 2006, but now I’m really scraping the barrel.) Interestingly, there are now only two teams on the grid without a win- Toyota and Force India. When was the last time there were so many race winning teams on the grid?

  7. Piquet should go. He has had waaaaaaay too many chances. Make way for someone who deserves a seat.

    1. I originally wrote a post, but decided not to post it because it was pretty harsh. Screw it!

      I feel sorry for piquet, but had I been Flavio today I would’ve told Piquet to park the car wherever he was, and make his own home. I don’t understand how this guy gave Hamilton a hard time in GP2 – but hey, plenty of people don’t make the grade in F1, I guess.

      I agree, I’d rather see someone else be given a chance. It’s getting tedious watching Piquet have his moments in the Renault.

  8. Alonso Follower
    19th April 2009, 17:37

    Not too harsh on Piquet, please. Force India regularly scores way worse than Nelson and nobody seems to care. The problem is that Nelson has as a teammate that, having a bad car and a bad day still has a chance to surprise. Fernando is too good to have a competitive driver on its side (like Lewis) but having Nelson on his side just makes Piquet looking worse in comparison.

  9. Note to Flavio – These cars had your engines and no DD, maybe you should stop embarrassing yourself with all the comments! :)

  10. Great review Keith.

    Despite that god-awful start, it turned out to be quite an entertaining race. I’m delighted for Red Bull as their result was much deserved. I’m always quite smugly pleased with myself as I have always believed Vettel to be supremely talented and he keeps proving me right (I know I’m not the only one who spotted his talent early but hey….I do like to indulge my moments…LOL).

    Brawn should also be happy with 3rd and 4th, with the Red Bulls dialed into perfection they would’ve been shy near impossible to beat. Plus it’s a nice wee haul of points for the championship.

    I’m not gonna comment on Ferrari otherwise my eyes will be stinging with tears (I love being melodramatic ;-). However I still have faith in my beloved team.

    Good work from both the McLaren drivers, earned some valuable points which is important. Hamilton showed good form at times but then moments of brain fade in others.

    Many have commented on Piquet and I must admit I’m struggling to find sympathy for him most of the time but the one I really wanna kick in the bollocks is Bourdais!!!…maybe I’m being too harsh or I don’t have enough info to justify a comment but the guy is a complete waste of space! I know he had a successful career in the States but he has accomplished sweet F.A. in F1 (short of compiling the longest list of excuses for poor driving in F1 history). It’s not like there’s a shortage of racing talent out there and as someone said in the live blog this morning…’Give Anthony Davidson the drive!!’…..well I think that’s a good example of a solution. Like Piquet, if Bourdais doesn’t deliver by the end of the year, he’ll be out on his ear!

  11. Silly you are.

    No doubt Piquet is very important for Renault.
    It is just this time that Piquet didn’t smash his car in a right time and a right place to allow Renault #1 – Alonso to make it in favour and win this GP.

    He tried 2 times or maybe more I don’t remember.
    Maybe next time his crashes will bring a win for Alonso.

    This guy is a joke.

  12. another joke. Briatori. he cant run a football club and hes got a big mouth. go back to selling clothes you ignorant middle aged brat.

  13. To all those who think Piquet is still not delivering, -Nakajima

    He barely scrapes out of quali 3 while his teammate always makes it into quali 1 (this year). In my eyes, he is the real underachiever of F1 and Williams should really have a word with him

    1. True- Rosberg is getting much more out of the car. But there is probably some sort of connection between Willaims and Toyota that keeps him there as long as Toyota has the WIlliams engine deal.

  14. We´re going to call them Rainstorm Ecclestone and
    Monsoon Mo.

  15. Part of the Piquet thing the cloud of his father’s fame always over his head. Nelson senior’s distinguished reputation; good looks, Brazilian pedigree, and three world championships, made him a bona fide celebrity. His personality was that of a playboy / practical joker and a big guffaw was never more than a moment away.

    Nelson Jr. is more brooding; from what I’ve sensed on camera, a loner. We see in our own friends that children can sometimes become the inverse of their parents. Whether it’s due to a child’s disdain of the “lawmakers”, or generation-skipping heredity, i doesn’t matter.

    In any case, Senior’s fame is a heavy load to bear. I think it can affect a person’s concentration.

  16. Great result for Vettle and Red Bull, props to them – shame that Jeson didn’t shine as much as he might have been expected to – but every cloud has a silver lining so Ferrari’s failure to score any points makes up for it.

    Also I think Flavio’s comments about rear diffusers shows he’s loosing the plot. The man takes “sore looser” to a new level

    1. Oh yes and to pick up on the multitude of comments above – Buemi rules, Bourdais sucks, and we should start a “If Nelson Piquet Can Drive in F1 So Can I” campagain

  17. Fergus Gallas
    19th April 2009, 22:56

    Great review Keith.
    One thing i must admit about Hamilton. He really wants to break every record about F1. In China he was after Massa’s spins record on a single race and i believed he has matched it. Good for him.

    1. Fair enough, although he did it while still being competitive. Still seemed a bit poor considering how much promise he showed though.

  18. Great race. Keith is this a record – most consecutive races without a McLaren or a Ferrari on the podium? If not, must be getting close !

  19. Yeeeoooww Red Bull !! Awesome!!
    Both drivers showed great talent in the wet conditions.
    Also great to see Jenson on the podium again.
    Though I was getting dizzy watching Hamilton “The Rain Master” spin around & around for yet another race :)

  20. i think Kamui Koyabashi( toyota Test driver) should get the Williams seat replacing Nakajima and Davidson or Sato replace Bourdais. as for Piquet there should be another Brazillian named Bruno Senna to replace him

  21. Hamilton had 5 errors.. not 4. Hope the same type of ruthless criticism Massa drew in Silverstone last year goes a little bit towards Hamilton, since this should settle the whole “next rain master the sport has seen since Senna”

    1. The Rain Master was not constantly spinning. It was a Mclaren tactic to disorientate his rivals by showing them his off road capabilities :)

    2. Hope the same type of ruthless criticism Massa drew in Silverstone last year goes a little bit towards Hamilton

      Given that Hamilton finished sixth and Massa at Silverstone was a twice-lapped 13th and last, I doubt it.

  22. Watching Vettel pass Button as though he were, how do you say, a parracarra, reminded me of Brazil last year. It is fitting that the guy who almost knocked the title from Hamilton’s hand while Hamilton stumbled on a wet track, as he did again today, is now the new shining star.

    As for Hamilton, it was rather embarrassing. But one can withstand some ruthless criticism when you start 9th and finish 6th in a non-competitive car.

    Doesn’t this result add an ironic turn to the diffuser story? The trick and untouchable Brawn was routed by a plain old brilliant design in dry and wet. Adrian Newey earned a great laurel today. Perhaps it is not the Brawn that McLaren and Ferrari should be furiously copying.

  23. Vettel gets his moment in the sun, er …. rain but the real star this season is …………… GLOCK !
    aside from the Brawn drivers he is the only driver to score in all three races and considering two of his starts were from pit lane and one from 18th …… to the points ……. in a Toyota.
    He deserves an pat on the back and a paycheck bonus!

    1. The Sri Lankan Senna
      20th April 2009, 8:27

      im with you there. Glock is definitly showing maturity and is a possible team leader if Jaron gets sacked due to his BS driving

    2. If nothing else, Glock is showing up Trulli’s weaknesses in the dry.

  24. Great win for Red Bull! After Malaysia, I thought this would be a lopsided game for Brawn but its not – they have another team to match it up.

    Wouldn’t be nice to see Vettel & Button to fight the WDC? ;)

  25. An interesting observation on Vettels wins is that he started both on pole, and most important behind the safety car.

  26. @Number 38: Good point re: Glock, he has been very good over the past three races!

  27. schumi the greatest
    20th April 2009, 9:14

    @Number 38: Youre right, here’s hoping he can get a clean weekend at nahrain and i think he could have a really good race. i think glock is a good driver.

    Good race again, but after 3 races this season were still to have a “normal grand prix” i.e. dry weather on a permanent circuit. i think that at bahrain the brawns will be back on top because as bbc showed on the pre race build up, fuel corrected(i hate this race fuel qualifying) they were the quickest cars. So brawn are still the strongest team but red bull are looking very good….it would be intresting to see them up against brawn in normal conditions…vettel was on for a podium in melbourne before the incident with kubica and his malaysia race was severley compromised because of the grid penalty he received….perhaps its going to be button vs vettel for the championship??

    Mclaren do seem to have made some forward steps…hamilton is driving well at the moment to be fair.

    ferrari…..well its getting comical to be honest…they are in a real mess.

    BMW….championship challengers?? i dont think so…they are a long way off the pace at the moment…and im very dissapointed in kubica this season….

    Buemi showing promise too

  28. A good win for Vettel and another time a team’s first win is a 1-2. How good is that Red Bull in the wet, it seemed even the Brawns couldn’t compete.

    After all the fuss about the diffusers a car without the double decker diffuser gets pole and the win, although it was done to carrying less fuel and the wet race. If it had been a normal race one of the Brawns still probably would have won.

    I have been impressed by Buemi so far this season and surprised by Bourdais’s performance he should be easily beating his rookie team mate at the moment.

    I felt really sorry for Sutil, he was about to give Force India it’s first points before he crashed out.

    I am starting to worry for Williams as I was hoping they would be able to get some more points on the board early on before the big teams manage to catch up. As the commentators said during the race Rosberg has managed to top quite a few practice sessions but unless they are doing that just to get the headlines they haven’t manage to get the results yet.

    Three races into the season and we haven’t had what you would call a normal race, I wonder what will happen in Bahrain, extended safety car periods or maybe even a sandstorm.

  29. Why do people dislike Hamilton? Hes an exciting go for it driver who makes mistakes trying to push to hard in a car that isnt perfect. What do you want metronomic robots?? The sport needs its “Alesi’s” and its “Prosts” and more of the former, theres plenty of the latter.

    1. I’m gonna give my two cents on Hamilton and hope not to be berated! I agree with your opinion of him as a driver. I found him the most entertaining driver in China, whether overtaking or spinning.

      My dislike of Hamilton doesn’t come from his attitude on the track but off it. Plus watching ITVs coverage of him in the last two years (I think Anthony Hamilton got more airtime than some of the backrunners)I’m kinda sick of hearing about and from him!

      Nevertheless Hamilton’s presence as a racing driver means I’d welcome more like him. I think peoples dislike stems from his attitude off the track and some of the media coverage in Britain (esp the Senna comparisons)rather than his ability on the track.

      He did make a lot of mistakes on the wet day that as Hamiton would say himself (many many times) he usually wouldn’t but I don’t think you should criticise a driver too much for a bad day ie Massa at silverstone and Ham in China. Of course I’ll still enjoy my irrational hatred of Hamilton!

  30. As a McLaren fan, I really must say I have no sorrow or disappointment at seeing an absolute mess for Ferrari combined with a double-pointsd finish ;)

    My favorite part of the race was Kovalainen putting in a very good drive- I believe he outperformed Lewis and did a good job of shutting up the critics.

    The one thing that really amazes me is the Red Bull car- kicking around the rest of the grid with NO double diffuser and NO KERS. Newey must still be at top form using that old-fashioned drawing board when he draws these things up….

  31. damonsmedley
    21st April 2009, 5:13

    If Mark Webber was to win a race before retiring, it would have to be this year. His biggest problem being; when the Red Bulls are quick, so is Vettel… (as demonstrated in the Chinese Grand Prix)

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