Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg nailed down his claim as title favourite with a victory from pole position in China: one of the most action-packed and challenging races of the year.
6 wins in a row and 3 in a row this season makes it harder to dismiss the kind of form the German is currently experiencing as anything other than a title charge. Nobody has won 5 in a row and not won the title. Nobody has won the 1st three races in the season and not gone on to win the title. If Lewis Hamilton beliefs in miracles now is the time to start looking for one. As Hamilton suffered from the consequences of his clash with Bottas last time out (Gearbox change & penalties) Rosberg looked imperious.
We may have witnessed one of the most exciting races in a long time as Pirellis mixed tyre strategies available continued to offer up different strategies but, early challenge from Ricciardo aside, this was almost too easy for Rosberg. Ferrari were expected to capitalise on the woes of Hamilton but, unlike last season when they grasped every opportunity available, this was another 2016 race where they conspired against themselves. This time collecting each other when a fantastic manoeuvre by Daniil Kvyat caught out Sebastian Vettel, who flinched and wiped out Kimi Raikkonen in the process. Vettel recovered to claim 2nd. Kvyat would take an impressive 3rd.
It was a mixed weekend for Daniel Ricciardo. He set a stunning lap in Q3 to join Nico on the front row, in P2, and used the Super Soft tyre’s advantage over the Mercedes driver’s Softs to lead off the grid, but a puncture on lap two from debris after Kimi & Seb clashed meant that 4th place would be a hint of what could have been for the Aussie.
The majority of drivers used a three-stop strategy: however there were a number of different variations on this theme. Rosberg used a two-stop soft-soft-medium strategy to win: the same as Felipe Massa, who finished sixth for Williams.
A very different strategy was used by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who climbed to seventh place behind Massa after starting from the back as a result of a technical problem in qualifying, despite making five pit stops.
In total, 13 drivers used all three compounds available, in a strong demonstration of how the latest regulations have shaken up the range of tactics that are possible during a grand prix.
Paul Hembery: Pirelli motorsport director: “Most teams came into the Chinese Grand Prix, which we were delighted to sponsor this year, with not as much dry running as they would like. As a result, their strategy forecasts were made even harder, but Rosberg and Mercedes made exactly the right calls after starting on the soft tyre: which just goes to show how strategy really starts from before qualifying. Shanghai is one of the most demanding circuits of the year, yet Rosberg’s win was achieved with just two pit stops. Behind the winner a wide variety of different approaches were used, underlining how teams are using the 2016 three-compound choice to great effect”.
Fastest times of the day by compound:
Longest stint of the race:
Truthometer: We predicted a three-stop strategy as being fastest, starting on supersoft and then switching to soft on laps 11, 26 and 41. Rosberg however started on the soft, so we thought that for him a three-stopper changing to soft on laps 16 and 31, then supersoft from lap 46,could be interesting. In the end he stopped twice, for the soft on lap 16 and medium on lap 39.