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F1 Advent Calendar 2012 (Day 3) - China surprise // The third advent outing heads to the third race of the year and a new winner

Published by Christine Blachford

F1 Advent Calendar 2012 (Day 3) - China surprise audio waveform
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Hello, welcome, this is the third episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012. Thank you for joining me as we trace the key moments of the season just gone, from the highs of winning to the lows of losing. This time we’re moving on to Day Three - China surprise.

Jenson Button won the first of the race of the year in Australia, and Fernando Alonso secured victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix. The race in Sepang started with Lewis Hamilton on pole position, and ended with Sergio Pérez chasing Alonso for the victory, ultimately unable to take the win from Ferrari.

Two races in and two different winners, the F1 circus moved on to China. On the Thursday before the race, Lotus filed a protest against Mercedes. The season had been unusually quiet in terms of regulation disputes, but Lotus were keen for the Mercedes rear wing to get some extra attention. They submitted the 2000 Euros required as deposit for the protest, and officially complained that there was some F-duct action that should have been banned. The FIA investigated and ultimately ruled the rear wing was legal and Mercedes were allowed to continue with their design.

Qualifying set up an unusual grid, with one lap specialist Sebastian Vettel dropping out in the second session - ending a streak of 41 consecutive qualifying sessions inside the top ten. The Mercedes duo, meanwhile, sat comfortably in P1 and P2 during the second session, happy to wait out the last few minutes with the other top runners, comfortable with their lap times.

The final ten minute shoot out for pole saw Nico Rosberg post the fastest time of the entire weekend, and the German just had to sit back and watch as no other driver could match it. Both Rosberg and Mercedes had secured their first pole position. Lewis Hamilton slipped into second but was facing a gearbox penalty, demoting him five places. Michael Schumacher qualified third, so that with Hamilton’s grid drop, it became an all-Mercedes front row.

It was a great start to the race for Nico, as he sped away from pole position and didn’t look back. The first lap contact came from Bruno Senna who ran into the back of Felipe Massa, but the damage wasn’t too great for either. Mark Webber had a poor start, and opted for a strategy change, coming into the pit lane earlier than anticipated. His sudden move to the medium compound led him to set the fastest lap of the race so far, and that in turn prompted other drivers to take their stops early too.

For Schumacher, this was a disaster as one of the front tyres wasn’t fitted properly, and he was forced to retire from the race. It was unfortunate for Mercedes, but they still had a driver in the lead of the race and that didn’t look set to change any time soon. He lost the lead of the race during the pitstops, but when things all shook out, it was Rosberg in front once more.

Behind him, the battles were fierce, with Vettel losing out to both McLaren drivers and to Romain Grosjean. It was a good result for the Frenchman, who had retired from both the previous events in the early stages of the race. The other Lotus, in the hands of Kimi Räikkönen, managed to get all the way up to second at one point, but as the race drew to a conclusion, his tyres started to go off. This was our first demonstration of just how important looking after your tyres was going to be to the season. From second place, Kimi dropped back down to tenth in the space of one single lap. He was 14th, out of the points, and out of rubber, by the time the race ended. After the race, Alan Permane said: “We’ll dissect the data and see if a three stop would have been better for us... without the gamble we took with Kimi we wouldn’t have been running in second position so that was the risk we took.”

Out front, Nico Rosberg took the chequered flag to turn his maiden pole position into his debut Formula One victory. Speaking of the surprise result, Rosberg said: “It’s been a long time coming for me and the team. We didn’t expect to be that fast today. We knew we had a good chance to be in the front, but we didn’t expect to be that fast.” Behind him, the two McLaren drivers took to the podium, with Jenson Button just six seconds up on Lewis Hamilton as they crossed the line.

Rosberg’s victory didn’t propel him into the championship battle, with Fernando Alonso dropping behind the McLaren duo, and Lewis Hamilton taking the top spot in the standings for the first time. Three races, three different winners, three different championship leaders. The 2012 season was starting to look very interesting indeed.

That’s all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012. We’ve sped through three races of the season so far, and there’s plenty more still to come. I hope you’ll join me next time when we’ll find out what key event is given the advent treatment for Day Four.

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