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Rosberg wins Shanghai sizzler

NEWS STORY
17/04/2016

Whilst none of us will miss the qualifying system that was introduced this season - and thankfully disappeared again after just two outings - the move to three tyre compounds for drivers has certainly spiced things up.

It's fair to say that the various options available today, and the different strategies drivers and their teams will be adopting will add greatly to the Chinese puzzle.

On paper we have the potential for a thriller, what with Nico Rosberg starting from pole and seeking to extend his world championship lead. Then there is his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, starting from the very back of the grid, a five place grid penalty compounded by an MGU-H that prevented him setting a time in Q1.

Other than the race strategy that Rosberg will opt for, the German cunningly opting to use softs not supers in Q2, meaning he does not have to start the race on tyres expected to last just five laps, Hamilton has to battle his way through the entire field.

Then there's Daniel Ricciardo, whose happy go lucky, ever smiling demeanour tends to belie what a talented racer he really is. In truth, Daniil Kvyat's performance is the real example of where the Red Bull is currently, and even that greatly flatters the package.

Whether Ricciardo (and Kvyat) can mount a challenge to Rosberg (and Ferrari) remains to be seen, but we know the Australian, in particular, will be going for it.

Following convincing performances in all three practice sessions, Ferrari missed an open goal in qualifying and will be keen to make things right again today. However, with both starting on the supers and therefore needing to pit early on, the pressure is on them.

On the other hand, a couple of Melbourne-style starts on this widest of tracks and perhaps the Maranello duo can leave here with something to celebrate. Then again there is the question of reliability with the Italian team only managing to get one car home in both the previous races.

Behind them we should have a real sizzler especially as a number of drivers are starting out of position following the errant wheel incident of Nico Hulkenberg in Q2 which meant as number of drivers failed to improve.

Will the Haas fairy-tale continue, will Jenson and Fernando add to Stoffel's point for McLaren, will Sainz beat his reliability jinx?

As expected, weather conditions are much different to yesterday, the Shanghai circuit enjoying blue skies and sunshine. Which will add to the tyre performance conundrum.

With the teams having comparatively little slick tyre data to go on, what with the various stoppages on Friday and the weather in FP3, the strategy calculations for the 56-lap race have taken on a new twist.

The rain yesterday also has the effect of washing any rubber that has been laid down off the surface, which again affects tyre behaviour.

Tyre wear and degradation here is traditionally high, so the optimal strategy should theoretically be a three-stopper: start on the supersoft and then change to the soft on laps 11, 26 and 41.

An alternative strategy (Rosberg, for example) would be to start the race on soft, run soft for the majority of the race (changing around lap 16 and 31), and then put on the supersoft for the final stint around lap 46.

A Soft-Soft-Soft-Medium strategy also looks interesting but would be slightly slower.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers make their way to the grid. At both of the previous two races we're had drivers not make it to the grid, will that be the case today?

One of the last out is Hamilton, who makes a couple of passes through the pitlane, informing his team that "everything feels fine".

As the grid fills, the air temperature is 21 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 28 degrees.

As the field prepares to head off on the warm-up lap, off comes the tyre warmers. Rosberg starts on softs, as do Massa, starting from 11th, Alonso, Grosjean, Ericsson, Nasr, Gutierrez, Palmer, Haryanto, Wehrlein and Hamilton. The rest are on the supers.

The field heads off on the warm-up lap. All get away cleanly.

The grid forms... Hamilton the last driver to take up his place.

They're away! A great start from Rosberg but an even better start by Ricciardo with Vettel right in the mix. Ricciardo leads the field in to T1 however, just behind Vettel collides with Raikkonen causing damage to the Finn's nose.

Further back, Hamilton also appears to have been in the wars, the Briton having lost his front wing which is now stuck under his front wheels.

Replay shows Vettel moving aside as Kyvat comes down the inside in T1 and clipping his teammate's front and sending him into a spin. If anything it looked like the German, who was given a quick shove by Perez also, ran wide as opposed to being forced wide by the Russian.

Meanwhile, Hamilton ran over the debris from the Ferrari fiasco and also tangled with Nasr, who was carefully avoiding Raikkonen, losing his front wing in the process. Devoid of his front wing, Hamilton runs wide in T3.

The other Sauber was involved in an incident in the first corner mayhem, Ericsson moving across on Grosjean and damaging the Frenchman's front wing.

Ricciardo leads Rosberg, Kvyat, Sainz, Perez, Hulkenberg and Massa.

Despite damage, Vettel passes Button to take eighth, opting not to pit. However, Grosjean, Raikkonen and Hamilton all pit. Raikkonen sticks with supers, whilst Hamilton switches to softs, as does Grosjean. New front wings for the Briton and the Finn.

Button and Massa battle for eighth as Rosberg goes quickest in his pursuit of Ricciardo who is 0.585s up the road.

With the aid of DRS, and the Mercedes engine, Rosberg sweeps past Ricciardo. However, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems, the Australian has a left-rear puncture, possibly the result of debris on the track and is passed by his Red Bull teammate. Moments later, Ricciardo's tyre effectively delaminates. He subsequently pits, rejoining in 18th.

Check out our Sunday gallery, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by TokyoAussie, 17/04/2016 16:17

"That was an enjoyable weekend's worth. I liked Haas response near the end "we do not want to retire the car." Good.

I noticed there were no empty seats in the stands around T1 this year. I also noticed that there were no stands around T1 this year. Even so, it looked a decent-sized crowd. Marshals could use some practice."

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2. Posted by F One, 17/04/2016 15:46

"Not a bad race but Rosberg is just as thoroughly unlikeable as Hamilton is and Mercedes are still dominating."

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