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2nd to 14th in two laps - the tumultuous second half of the Chinese GP - Analysis of just what happened in those all-important final laps

Published by Christine

This year, I'm trying my best to keep on top of all the action in the races. My post race team by team updates are a great help, and the Factbyte Factbox provides lap by lap coverage which I can look back on when required. Sometimes, a race is just so frantic that it's hard to follow and the Chinese Grand Prix was one of those! The second half of the race was so action packed with the top ten cars (minus Nico) separated by just twenty seconds.

Whilst manning the FBFB, this happened:

Meanwhile, Vettel takes the inside line for Kimi Räikkönen, who runs wide, letting Webber into the battle and.... TOO MUCH!

- Factbyte Factbox

I wanted to be a bit more clued up than that, so I've gone back and watched the second half of the race to analyse what happened. Here are my notes on exactly what occurred, and, more importantly, why it went down the way it did.

Lap 38

Jenson Button leads the race but has another pit stop to complete. Nico Rosberg sits in second, without another stop to complete. He has his eye on the lead. Hamilton and Alonso are next in line.

An out of place Massa is sitting in fifth position, holding up a train of cars behind him - Räikkönen, Kobayashi, Vettel and Grosjean.

Lap 39

Hamilton and Alonso pit at the same time, followed by Kobayashi. Hamilton manages to jump the Ferrari during the stops. They rejoin the back of the competitive pack - 10th for Lewis, 11th for Fernando.

Lap 40

Button comes in for his final stop, he hasn't pulled out enough of a gap to Rosberg to retain his lead. Worse than that, the pit stop takes a whopping 9.7 seconds and he comes out in sixth. He passes Grosjean immediately to move up to fifth.

The current order: ROS, MAS, RAI, VET, BUT, GRO, SEN, WEB, MAL, HAM.

Lap 42

Webber passes Senna for 7th place. Massa pits from second, and disappears from the fight.

Lap 43

Hamilton makes his way pass Maldonado. He then moves on to take Senna. Behind him, Alonso tries to follow in his footsteps. He attempts a pass on Maldonado but runs wide and, instead, loses a position to Pérez.

Current positions: ROS, RAI, VET, BUT, GRO, WEB, HAM, SEN, MAL, PER.

Lap 45

Webber passes Grosjean, who runs wide in a carbon copy of Alonso's outing the previous lap. Hamilton and Senna both make the pass on the errant Lotus. Maldonado also wants the position but Grosjean isn't giving it up that easily. They run side by side for several corners, touching wheels whilst sparks and carbon fibre flies. Grosjean keeps the position and both continue running.

Lap 46

Pérez attempts a pass on both Grosjean and Maldonado at the same time, as the pair are distracted by their own squabble. It doesn't work, and results in Alonso taking his position back from Pérez.

Current positions: ROS, RAI, VET, BUT, WEB, HAM, SEN, GRO, MAL, ALO.

Lap 48

Hamilton tries to pass Webber but can't take the place. Vettel makes a pass on Räikkönen and that one does work out. Räikkönen runs wide which allows Button to pass him as well.

Webber tries to make a move past the recovering Räikkönen and leaves the track, which allows Hamilton to take the position he was hassling him for. Hamilton moves to the outside of clearly weakening Räikkönen to make further progress, but it doesn't come off.

Current positions: ROS, VET, BUT, RAI, HAM, WEB, SEN, GRO, MAL, ALO.

Lap 49

Hamilton passes Räikkönen on the outside and it's ever more obvious that Kimi is struggling. His tyres have had their day, despite him not being due another pit stop. Webber, Senna, and Grosjean all pass him, with Grosjean also jumping Senna in the process. Maldonado and Alonso both get past Räikkönen.

Current positions: ROS, VET, BUT, HAM, WEB, GRO, SEN, MAL, ALO, RAI.

Lap 50

Both Sauber drivers sail past Räikkönen, with Kobayashi leapfrogging teammate Pérez on the way through.

Lap 52

Vettel begins to struggle with his tyres, nowhere near to the same degree as Kimi though. Button makes an inspired pass on Vettel, moving up to second.

Lap 54

Hamilton spends a couple of laps closing the gap to Vettel, and overtakes the German for the final podium position. Vettel tries to come back but thinks better of it as he now has mirrors full of his teammate.

Lap 56

Webber moves to the outside on the back straight, and gets better traction on fresher tyres. The defending champion tries to hold him off but Webber hauls himself into fourth place.

Final top ten positions: ROS, BUT, HAM, WEB, VET, GRO, SEN, MAL, ALO, KOB.


The most intriguing thing that came out of the above was how much Kimi Räikkönen lost. He wasn't due a pit stop, wasn't on a different strategy to everyone else, but his tyres were completely wrecked leaving him unable to defend from half the field. This may come back to the tyre experience that we knew he was lacking. All of the eventual top ten drivers have experience of the Pirellis - including new boy Grosjean, who was a tyre tester for the F1 supplier.

It was some incredible racing and all very clean. There was a worrying moment between Webber and Vettel, but even they managed to steer clear of each other as they traded positions. Grosjean and Maldonado had a little coming together, but no major damage was done, allowing the Lotus driver to pick up his first points in Formula One. For the first time this year, Maldonado managed to stay on track to see the end of the last lap and helped secure a double points finish for Williams.

It may have taken an extra afternoon of analysing what exactly happened, but great racing deserves a second watch, and I enjoyed every minute of the Chinese Grand Prix.