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The 2013 Chinese Grand Prix turned out to be an enthralling race with lots of drivers impressing us, either through a strong race result or by effectively carrying out their strategies. Fernando Alonso recorded his 31st win after starting from 3rd on the grid, Kimi Raikkonen finishes in 2nd place despite having a damaged nose while Jenson Button scored 10 points following a 5th place finish on a two stop strategy; but who was your driver of the day? We asked the same question yesterday on Twitter and got some amazing answers. We've embedded those tweets at bottom of this page. If you didn't answer that question yesterday, don't worry, you can provide your opinion today in the poll or through the comments section at bottom of this page
Fernando Alonso arrived at Shanghai with considerable pressure from teammate Felipe Massa who had beaten him in last four qualifying sessions. But Alonso responded by qualifying 3rd on the grid, two places ahead of the Brazilian. At the start of the race, Alonso overtook slow starter Kimi Raikkonen to take 2nd place and when Hamilton was losing time on worn tyres, the Spaniard took the opportunity to take the race lead . He controlled the race since then, despite spending much of the time in traffic of drivers who started the race on medium tyres. The double world champion thus recorded his 31st victory, tied with Nigell Mansell in fourth place in all time list of race winners and just 10 wins shy of Aytron Senna.
Despite looking relatively average during the three practice sessions, Kimi Raikkonen qualified for the race in second position alongside Lewis Hamilton. However, clutch problem prevented him to make a good start and he felled down to 4th place. After overtaking Massa during the first round of pitstops, Raikkonen made contact between turn 5 and 6 on lap 16 damaging the nose of his car. But his pace looked strong and he decided not to pit for fresh nose and front wing. During the third round of pitstops, Raikkonen undercut Hamilton to move into second place and kept the British at his bay for rest of the race. Considering a loss of 0.25 seconds per lap because of the damaged nose, he lost around 10 seconds. Without this damage he could have fought for the race win instead of fighting to remain in second place.
On Saturday, Lewis Hamilton put on a perfect lap to take his 27th pole position of the career. The next day, he got a clear start and made a small gap to rest of the field before his tyres started degrading. By lap 5 he was helpless and felled prey to the two Ferraris as he slipped down to 3rd place. During the first round of pitstops, Hamilton gained a place over Massa but was still behind Alonso. He was unable to take advantage of traffic to overtake Alonso as he could last year in USA to overtake Vettel for race lead. He then lost to Kimi Raikkonen during the 3rd stop but chased him for the rest of the race before a late charge from Vettel forced him to defend his position rather attack for 2nd place. Thus, though Hamilton lost two places in the race from where he qualified on, he did justice to his car, which though is probably the fastest in qualifying, but still struggles in terms of race pace and tyre degradation.
Sebastian Vettel tried a different strategy during the Chinese Grand Prix. He didn't set any lap time in the final round of qualifying and was free to choose between two sets of tyre compounds. He went for medium tyres which took him to second place during first part of the race as those on soft tyres pitted within first 10 laps. He then overtook Nico Hulkenberg in the pits and briefly led the race after Alonso's second stop. Though Alonso charged back to take first place from the triple world champion. At this situation, German had to stop again for soft tyres and he left the decision until last 5 laps. He came out in 5th place and chased Hamilton by three seconds a lap and ended the race on rear wing of the British driver. After the race, he said that he could have overtaken Hamilton for final spot on the podium had he not run out of laps.
Jenson Button has always been known for his ability to manage his tyres better than others and he used his advantage at a perfect time when his team is struggling for sheer pace. Button made into the final round of qualifying on Saturday and set the 8th fastest time on the medium tyres. For the race, he did a two stop strategy with a soft tyre run at the end of the race. The British driver managed the strategy beautifully, not losing any time in being overtaken by three-stoppers to finish the race in a strong 5th place. Later on he admitted that such a result was not possible if he on the same strategy as others.
You don't need to win races or finish on the podium to prove that you are a good driver racing. Daniel Ricciardo proved that throughout this race weekend in what is an important year for future of the Toro Rosso driver in F1. Ricciardo qualified for the race in 7th place, his best qualifying result since Bahrain 2012. Despite losing to rivals at first part of the race and on a new front wing, he fought his way back to points and chased Massa before finishing the race in a career best 7th place.
April 15, 2013