Lewis Hamilton completely dominated the 56-lap Chinese Grand Prix to inch closer to the world championship on a day when Ferrari and Felipe Massa simply had no answer to the pace of the leading McLaren Mercedes. Heading to the season finale in Brazil, Hamilton leads the championship by seven points from Massa who was this afternoon gifted second position by Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton launched into the lead from pole position and quickly established a three second lead from the chasing Raikkonen. Running third, Massa dropped away to 15 seconds behind Hamilton by the first round of pit stops, a gap that the McLaren driver would manage to the chequered flag….
Hamilton’s fifth victory of the season at Shanghai International Circuit also marks the fifth straight winner at this venue. As Hamilton celebrates his most dominant win of the season, Ferrari can only look back on this even and admit they simply did not have the pace with the F2008 package. The silver lining is that extend the lead from McLaren in the constructors’ championship to 11 points.
Raikkonen chased Hamilton hard in the first stint of the race, but lap by lap lost a little ground. Massa ran third until the closing stages of the race when Raikkonen backed off and allowed his team-mate through into second position. That pretty much is the story of the Chinese Grand Prix, a race as devoid of incident and accident as the Japanese Grand Prix a week ago was full of it.
Fernando Alonso started and finished in fourth position in the leading Renault, battling ahead of Heikki Kovalainen on the long back straight on the first lap to regain the position. Alonso’s points streak now moves him ahead of the ever-unfortunate Kovalainen in the championship as the Finn saw his hopes of finishing fifth dashed as he picked up a front right puncture on lap 36 and dropped down to 17th position before opting to retire the McLaren.
Nick Heidfeld led home BMW Sauber team-mate Robert Kubica to claim the fifth position. Kubica now has 75 points and drops out of the championship chase on a weekend when the F1.08 package simply did not have the pace of the ever-improving Renault or the top two teams in the sport. The decision to focus on 2009 for the second half of the season has been costly for BMW Sauber.
Timo Glock used a one stop strategy well to claim two championship points for Toyota. It was largely a disappointing day for the German-based squad as Jarno Trulli, starting from seventh, turned in on Sebastien Bourdais at the first turn and eliminated himself from the race. Bourdais himself was pushed back down the order and would take the chequered flag in 13th position after a strong recovery drive.
Nelson Piquet claimed the final point in the second Renault after using the more traditional two-stop strategy, albeit with a very long first stint. After starting sixth, it was a disappointing race from Sebastian Vettel who finished ninth in his Toro Rosso Ferrari, eight seconds behind Piquet’s Renault.
Red Bull Renault leave Shanghai with no points as well. David Coulthard ran a one stop strategy to finish tenth while Mark Webber’s aggressive fuel strategy in qualifying compromised his race and the Australian finished 14th in the sister RB4.
Rubens Barrichello does not have a very good car in the Honda RA108, but the Brazilian veteran drove a very strong race to finish 11th while team-mate Jenson Button finished his low-key weekend down in 16th position. Barrichello is fighting for his future in Formula One and based on recent events, he is the stronger of the two Honda drivers.
It was a pretty rotten weekend for the Williams Toyota team. Kazuki Nakajima made best of a one strop strategy to finish 12th from 17th on the grid while the reverse was true for team-mate Nico Rosberg on his two stop strategy. Starting 14th, the Singapore Grand Prix runner-up actually lost a position and finished a disappointing 15th.
Giancarlo Fisichella had a lonely race at the back of the field following the early retirement of Force India Ferrari team-mate Adrian Sutil. Something of a mobile chicane for the race leaders, Fisichella finished a lap down on Hamilton and 48 seconds behind 16th placed Button.
Hamilton may have the advantage heading to Brazil as he enjoys a seven point advantage in the championship. But it is still far from over, as this was the very same advantage he took to the season finale last year. And we all know what happened on that particular day.
Source – F1-Live