Fernando Alonso and Ferrari fired a shot across the bows of the rest of the Formula 1 field at last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, proving the Prancing Horse is back.
The Spanish driver took his first victory of the season from Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus in second and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in third.
It was a much improved weekend for the McLaren boys, too. The Woking based team – and T W White & Son’s local squad – recorded a fifth place with lead driver and former World Champion Jenson Button, while Mexican Sergio Perez finished eleventh in the sister car.
McLaren had faced some problems in the first two races, but the team has obviously worked relentlessly to improve the car’s performance – succeeding with a decent result in China.
Button’s race pace proved strong as he made up three places overall, having qualified eighth on the grid.
The British racer drove a cleverly thought out race, with the McLaren team making some excellent calls from the pit wall.
Button actually made one fewer pit stop than the rest of the field, emerging from his final tyre change in sixth, passing Felipe Massa in the fast Ferrari (sister car to eventual race winner Alonso) to claim fifth overall and claiming a further 10 points.
This now puts Jenson in equal seventh spot in the championship standings and elevates McLaren to fifth position in the Constructors’ table – despite a difficult start, it seems the McLaren is now showing its speed.
The third Grand Prix of the season was yet again dominated by tyre strategy, with many drivers among the pack opting to use the softer option tyre at different times.
Lewis Hamilton chose to start on the less durable but more grippy tyre, diving for his pit box after a handful of laps and bolting on the harder of the two types of rubber available.
Reigning F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel chose to play it completely differently, starting on the hard tyre, saving the faster soft rubber for his final stint.
The hard charging German was blisteringly quick in the latter stage of the race, but didn’t quite have the gap to overhaul Lewis – the Red Bull driver left himself too much to do after a dismal qualifying starting from ninth on the grid, and finished in fourth place, just a few tenths of a second behind Hamilton.
Highlights? Raikkonen was his usual brave self in the Lotus, putting some fast and courageous moves into the fast turn one, while Ferrari and Mercedes proved it won’t just be a Red Bull affair this season.
After a mistake with fuel loads that cost Mark Webber in qualifying, the Red Bull pilot lost his rear wheel after a problem in a pit stop.
Soon after the race rumours were rife that the Australian had signed a contract to drive for Porsche in its new endurance racing team starting from next year, as his current deal will have then lapsed. Given how he’s been treated or his recent run of bad luck – how ever you look at it – who could blame him?