Team-by-team look at the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix

Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix saw impressive performances across the field from a dominant victory by Alonso to a brilliant points finish for Daniel Ricciardo. There was also some less than impressive racing from some which resulted in post race penalties. I take a look at where each team stands after round three.

Starting from third on the grid Fernando Alonso made a good start to give Ferrari its first win of the 2013 season. The team’s decision to start on the soft compound tyre proved to be the right one and allowed him to produce an impressive victory as others struggled in the closing laps. Felipe Massa had been right with Alonso in the early laps but stayed out one lap longer than his teammate on the softs and lost out at the pitstop. Massa was left at the back end of the top ten for much of the race eventually finishing sixth. Alonso now sits in third in the drivers championship, nine points behind championship leader Vettel whilst Massa slips to fifth. In the constructors Ferrari leap frog Lotus to second in the table just five points behind Red Bull.

Kimi Raikkonen took second and a well deserved podium after following the same strategy as Alonso. Raikkonen had struggled at the start being passed by the both Ferrari’s and later suffering damage to the car’s nose after a clash with Sergio Perez. The team decided against a new nose cone and instead continued to the end of the race, saying afterwards the damage had effected the pace of the car. Romain Grosjean in comparison had a quiter race eventually finishing ninth after catching a fading Nico Hulkenberg in the closing laps. Both drivers escaped a post-race penalty after using DRS during yellow flags when the device should have been disabled. Raikkonen heads to Bahrain in second place in the driver’s championship whilst in the constructors the team sit in third.

Despite Lewis Hamilton claiming pole the team could not convert this into a race win but their pace still allowed them to take a podium after Hamilton finished third. Hamilton had mirrored the strategies of Alonso and Raikkonen but came under heavy pressure from Vettel in the closing laps as the German tried to finish on the podium with a contrasting strategy. Nico Rosberg’s race was ended prematurely after he suffered from a suspension problem from the start and retired his car soon after his second pitstop when the problem became worse. Hamilton’s second consecutive podium leaves him fourth in the driver’s championship with the team also fourth in the constructors.

Red Bull
Red Bull attempted to run a contrasting strategy to their rivals with Vettel starting on the medium compound tyre. Early in the race he was passed by Hulkenberg and leading up to the first pitstop he was unable to pass him, saying he was held up and could have gone a lot faster, ultimately compromising his race. Vettel later led the race but was quickly overtaken by Alonso and still had to pit for the soft tyre. With just five laps to run he pitted leaving him behind Hamilton. He pushed in the final laps but could not catch the Mercedes despite it being close on the line, ending the race in fourth. After a disappointing qualifying which saw him disqualified and start from the pits Mark Webber’s day did not get any better. Webber pitted after just one lap on the soft tyres and began to make his way through the field but a clash with Jean-Eric Vergne left him with a three place grid penalty for Bahrain. Later pitstop repairs saw his tyre fall off on the outlap ending his race and hopes of points. Red Bull still lead both championships but by narrow margins.

McLaren’s performance in China suggests a slight improvement of form with Jenson Button finishing fifth after following a two stop strategy and starting on the medium tyre. He lead the race momentarily but never looked likely of reaching the podium. His performance will give some hope to those back in the factory but it still looks like more work is needed to make the car truly competitive. Sergio Perez’s driving left much to be desired leaving a number of drivers disgruntled by his defensive tactics. A brush with Raikkonen left the Lotus with damage to its nose and the Mexican could only manage to finish 11th outside the points. This weekend showed promise for the team but there is still a long way to go until the car can be challenging its rivals for podiums.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo provided jubilation in the Toro Rosso camp after securing seventh position and helping the team to get above Sauber in the constructors championship. After an impressive qualifying performance yesterday the Australian converted the position into a solid six points finish after pushing in the closing stages and getting ahead of Hulkenberg and Di Resta. Jean-Eric Vergne was hit by Webber early in the race but managed to continue, eventually finishing 12th. The team will hope to continue the form in Bahrain next weekend.

Force India
There were mixed fortunes at Force India with Paul di Resta running a good strategy to claim eight position and four points but Adrian Sutil retired on lap six after being hit by Esteban Gutierrez. Di Resta started on the medium tyre only changing to the soft compound in the final few laps holding off Grosjean and Hulkenberg for eighth. Di Resta and Sutil had clashed on lap one with the Brit hitting the rear of the German’s car and being pushed onto the grass. Sutil said he was not aware Di Resta was behind him until the impact whilst Di Resta said his early race pace was affected by the clash. Sutil’s race was ended early on in the race after Gutierrez failed to stop in time damaging the rear wing of the Force India and the Mexican picked up a five place grid penalty for Bahrain as a result.

A disappointing race for Sauber after only coming away with one point. Nico Hulkenberg started on the medium tyre and managed to pass both Vettel and Button early on. He later led the race at the first pitstops and stayed with Vettel through much of the sceond stint. His race was compromised after the team pitted him for softs in the third stint and the car was not competitive enough in the final stint on the mediums eventually leaving him tenth. Gutierrez’s race ended early after he ran into the back of Sutil after failing to stop, he will have a five place grid penalty for Bahrain after admitting he was at fault.

An anonymous race for Williams with the drivers finishing two seconds apart from each other in 13th and 14th. Both drivers kept out of trouble but the car simply did not have the pace to challenge for points in China. Both made improvements on their qualifying positions but the car was just not strong enough in the race. There is definitely more room for improvement.

Both Marussia driver’s finished the race but once again it was Jules Bianchi who looked impressive. Bianchi finished a strong 15th although he was helped by the four retirements of cars ahead of him. Once again he beat teammate Max Chilton who in turn finished ahead of Caterham driver Giedo van der Garde. Other Caterham driver Charles Pic split Bianchi and Chilton. A good performance from both but Marussia and Caterham are starting to look closer than at the previous Grand Prix.

Both Caterham drivers finished the race one lap down and could not beat both Marussia drivers. Pic took 16th place whilst Van der Garde was the last classified finisher in 18th. Both benefitted from some big names dropping out but the team seem to be closer to rivals Marussia with Pic beating Chilton. Overall an improvement from previous races.



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