Despite starting in the top two positions, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber endure a chaotic Grand Prix in Shanghai, finishing in sixth and eighth, respectively.
Rain once again played its part in a flyaway grand prix, and this time, again, it was all about tire strategy, which ultimately affected the results.
Starting on slicks, Fernando Alonso illegally got ahead of pole-sitter Seb and his teammate Mark, but in a reversal of the Malaysian GP, Webber came out ahead of Vettel, just behind the Ferrari driver who was subsequently given a drive-through penalty for jumping the lights.
From there, most – including Seb and Mark – elected to change to intermediate tires during a Safety Car period precipitated by Vitantonio Liuzzi spinning and taking Toro Rosso’s Sébastien Buemi and Kamui Kobayashi with him. However, the eventual race-winner Jenson Button and the man who finished third, Nico Rosberg, remained out on slicks. The rain didn’t last as long as anticipated and the inters didn’t cope with the warming track, so it was back to slicks…
As Vettel and Webber made an attack on the cars in front, a second Safety Car call-out was made. In the corner preceeding the Safety Car’s exit, Button slowed down, causing a jam behind him and in the ensuing chaotic slingshot around the final corner, Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Webber became entangled with the Australian coming off worst.
It wasn’t the only Hamilton vs. Red Bull battle this afternoon, as the McLaren driver went wheel-to-wheel with Seb in the pitlane after he was released into the path of the German driver, an incident which is under investigation by stewards. “At the stop I was ahead," recalls Sebastian. "I don’t know why he pulled to the left and was keen to touch me. I hoped I didn’t get a puncture from that – I don’t really understand why he did that as I was a bit ahead of him and had the advantage anyway.”
Hamilton went on to finish the race on near-bald inters behind teammate Button with Rosberg third. Alonso was fourth ahead of Kubica with Petrov between the two Red Bull drivers. Massa was ninth with Schumacher collecting the final point of the race.
“Sixth and eighth isn’t the result that we were looking for from first and second, but it is such a lottery in chaotic conditions and they are still valuable points," said Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner after the race. " It’s not often you get a race like that, and when you’re first and second you’ve got everything to lose, rather than everything to gain.”
Red Bull Racing leaves China with Sebastian fifth in the drivers championship and Mark eighth while the team is now third, behind McLaren and Ferrari and ahead of Mercedes.