The Fast Lane – Hamilton outclasses Red Bull in Shanghai

Wow! It’s hard to find a better word to describe this years Chinese Grand Prix. I don’t think I stand alone by saying that this was the best Formula One race in a long long time. I defy anyone to claim F1 is boring after that!

But amongst the incredible action from the entire pack, there were two drivers who stood head-over-heels above the rest – Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber. Both have had a bit of a hard time of late – but today saw those fortunes turned around in spectacular fashion.

Hamilton has clearly learnt a lot about these Pirelli tyres since last week – keeping them sweet right up until the end of the race. He notoriously pushes his car too hard and loses grip by the end, but it was his careful driving (and admittedly three-stop strategy) which helped him pass both his team-mate and of course that stunning move (without DRS or KERS) on Vettel for the lead. A great return to form for Lewis.

But a more impressive drive came from Webber. After 20 laps, Mark was still stuck in 15th position. Both myself and several others were commenting on Twitter about just how dreadful Mark Webber’s season seemed to be and how a championship was fading away already.

Things changed completely after Mark’s second pit stop. He was finally put in some clear air and wow did it make some difference. Purple sector after purple sector, Mark worked his way up the grid and into contention for the end of the race. A few great moves on Schumacher, Massa and Button and Webber was up into a podium position. For me this (at least the second half) was the drive of the day.

Webber’s team-mate Vettel had a much busier day than he perhaps expected. After being swamped at the start by both McLaren’s and almost Rosberg, he found himself on the backfoot throughout. If it wasn’t for Button’s mistake in the first pit stop, I think Vettel could have had an even harder time of it.

But as it was, he got himself into a leading position – however Red Bull elected for a two-stop strategy, a mistake they will probably rue. Vettel’s tyres were clearly well past their sell-by by the end of the race, making it easy for Hamilton to find a way through. Of course, if there had been a few more laps, I reckon he’d have had both Webber and Button past him too. All things considered, a successful weekend for Vettel.

Button I feel had a little bit of a disappointing weekend. It’s strange to say that about someone who finished a string fourth, but I feel it could have been a lot more. Jenson made a few too many silly mistakes, the most obvious being mistaking the blue overalls of the Red Bull team for his own McLaren’s, costing him vital time in the pits. Maybe blue is the next colour McLaren will be trying out after the garish red number used yesterday!

But it wasn’t just this error, Jenson also seemed a little weak on track. Both Hamilton and Webber got past easily thanks to Button leaving them more than enough room. There seemed to be little fight whenever someone came up behind him and Jenson virtually let both through. Caught asleep methinks!

Ferrari continued their relatively disappointing season. Massa looked to have a real chance today, but the two-stop strategy just didn’t work with the fast degrading Pirelli’s. A shame, as it was great to see Massa on form and overtaking again. Alonso on the other hand was ‘all at sea’ for the whole day, spending most of the race duelling Schumacher. Even a malfunctioning DRS system couldn’t help him, which I hasten to add I do believe to be an error not anything more (cynical twitterati – I’m looking at you!).

Mercedes had a good day, finally! Rosberg was very impressive throughout both with speed and attempts to overtake. I think the team will be pleased with 5th, but again slightly disappointed he couldn’t keep Button and Webber behind. Schumacher had his best race for a long time. The final result of 8th may not be that impressive, but he was very racy throughout and provided some great on track action. Good stuff!

Paul di Resta deserves a mention. He was unlucky at the end, finishing 11th and just outside the points. But throughout the weekend he drove well and looked to be on for a much higher position earlier in the race. I was particularly impressed to see him holding his own against such experts as Schumacher and Alonso. He’s also outshining the often-praised Sutil this season.

The Renaults, who were so strong in Malaysia, seemed to disappear this week. The best position for them was 9th with Petrov. The team seems to be very up and down this year with the tracks massively effecting their performance. Last weeks hero Heidfeld (or fIeld if you’re David Coulthard) only managed 12th.

There was so much action in today’s 56 laps that I’m bound to have missed out some of it, but that’s great news. This is the sort of race F1 needed. There was a quiet expectation that after last weeks cracker in Malaysia that things would quiet down again this week. But processional this was not, easily one of the best Grand Prix’s I have ever enjoyed.

It’s early days still, but today proved that the Red Bull’s can be beaten (just!) and that could mean we have a championship on our hands. Three long weeks until Istanbull!

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