Fernando Alonso became the third different driver to win at the start of 2013 with victory in the Chinese Grand Prix.
Alonso passed pole sitter Lewis Hamilton on lap five shortly be they pitted to replace the soft tyres they started on. That dropped them back into the pack but Alonso always stayed in front of those on the same strategy as them.
Nico Hulkenberg passed Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel early on. All three had started on mediums so when the leading drivers got rid of their soft tyres, the Sauber driver took the lead.
Vettel caught up to Hulkenberg but was unable to make a move on him. They came in for their pit stop together but Red Bull’s superior pit work got Vettel out ahead while the Sauber crew struggled with Hulkenberg’s right-rear tyre.
Alonso and Hamilton picked their way through traffic but Kimi Raikkonen hit trouble when he tried to pass Sergio Perez on the outside of turn six. He damaged his front wing and nose as he clipped the McLaren and ran wide.
But Raikkonen persevered and caught Hamilton during the race, jumping the Mercedes during the final round of pit stops. But by now Alonso was on his way to victory, and far from catching Raikkonen came under attack from Hamilton again in the closing stages.
Vettel joined their battle as the last lap began having postponed his compulsory switch to soft tyres as late as he dared. He caught them at a terrific pace – 13 seconds in four laps – but only had one chance to pass Hamilton on the final tour. A lock-up at turn 11 as he homed in the Mercedes put paid to that.
Hamilton then locked his tyres at the final turn but Vettel was unable to capitalise and crossed the line two-tenths of a second behind the Mercedes.
Jenson Button brought his McLaren home in fifth, the highest driver on a two-stop strategy and the only points-scoring driver to make just two visits to the pits.
Hulkenberg came home tenth after his combative drive early in the race, trailling Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo, Paul di Resta and Romain Grosjean.
However several drivers were caught out by the FIA’s continuing inability to control the Drag Reduction Systems, a problem which has persisted since the first round of the season. Vettel, Button, Rakkonen, Grosjean, Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas, Mark Webber and Max Chilton are all being investigated for allegedly using DRS while the yellow flags were out.
All bar one of the drivers finished the race. The exception was Webber, whose race had already been scuppered by a collision with Jean-Eric Vergne when he lost a wheel following a pit stop.
That collision is also under investigation, as is Adrian Sutil’s early retirement from the race when he was hit by an out-of-control Esteban Gutierrez at the hairpin.
2013 Chinese Grand Prix
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- Four-way tie in Predictions Championship round three
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- 2013 Chinese Grand Prix weekend in Tweets
Image © Ferrari/Ercole Colombo