The 2013 Chinese GP might as well have been called the race of champions, with all five active Formula 1 world champions filling up the top spots in the race. It ended with a deserving winner too, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso named the champion of champions ahead of the pack that included all past champions from 2005 to date.

Alonso emerged as the third different winner in as many races this year, after a dominant showing at the Shanghai International Circuit. The Ferrari ace was in supreme form all weekend, seemingly outperforming his car to banish any ghost he’s had since his alarming exit from the Malaysian GP three weeks ago.

Having qualified an excellent third, beating Nico Rosberg’s faster Mercedes and his own teammate Felipe Massa (the first time he’s done so in four races), Alonso jumped second-place man Kimi Raikkonen to tail pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton into the first lap with Massa close in tow.


The two Ferraris appeared to lock horns momentarily with Alonso uncharacteristically the slower of the pair. Massa failed to pass however (without any team orders), and the top three stayed in formation till the end of lap four. Come the next lap, both Ferraris took Hamilton’s tyred-out Mercedes into the first corner with the aid of DRS.

Both Mercedes cars were called into the pits immediately to switch away from the severely degrading soft tyres; the pit crew successfully choreographed a near-perfect stacked pit stops just over four seconds apart. Alonso and Massa were circulating within a second of each other so stacking was not an option.

Being ahead, Alonso gained the more favourable strategy and pitted first, staying in front of Hamilton. Forced to do a slow lap with no tyres left, Massa emerged from the pits behind a big bunch of slower midfielders, which effectively destroyed his race. He never quite recovered from the disadvantage, finishing the race a distant sixth, 40 seconds behind his teammate.


Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg became the surprise race leader after the soft-tyred front runners stopped as early as lap five, having overtaken Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button in the opening laps. Vettel appeared to be held up behind the Sauber, but chose to follow instead of attack. Both pitted on lap 14, and Vettel’s untroubled two-second stop allowed him to pass the stricken Sauber.

The two-stopping Button assumed the lead and kept it till lap 21 when he was passed by the fast-charging Alonso, who earlier made mincemeat of Jean-Eric Vergne, Paul Di Resta and Sergio Perez. The pursuing Hamilton and Raikkonen had trouble emulating Alonso’s charge through the pack, and what had been a small margin after the first stops grew with each botched overtake.

Raikkonen came to blows with Perez around turn six, smashing his front wing into the McLaren’s back. “What the hell is he doing? He pushed me off the track!” quipped the Finn. The misadventure cost him vital elements on the front wing and made a hole in the nose, both amounting to about a quarter of a second per lap. It didn’t affect the Iceman much though, who dusted off the damage and pushed on to challenge Hamilton ahead.


Alonso made his second stop on lap 23 and emerged behind the leading number one Red Bull. Told not to waste time racing Alonso, Vettel for once followed a team order (a shocker, after his double-crossing deed in Malaysia) and didn’t put up much of a fight. That left Alonso comfortably in the lead, where he’d finish.

Hamilton and Raikkonen jostled over second place, but the Lotus pulled ahead by pitting three laps earlier for his third and last set of medium tyres. The Brit spent the rest of the race tucked in behind Raikkonen, and successfully defended against Vettel on fresh tyres on the last lap to claim his second podium finish for Mercedes GP.

Button pulled off an unspectacular but effective two-stop strategy to finish fifth, ahead of the second Ferrari of Massa and Daniel Ricciardo in his Toro Rosso. Paul Di Resta, Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg fought hard for the minor points, leaving McLaren’s Perez empty handed again.


Further back, newbie Valtteri Bottas outraced race-winner and Williams team leader Pastor Maldonado, while Jules Bianchi again showed his class by coming up tops in the back-of-the-grid Marussia/Caterham battle. Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde both finished a long way back from their respective teammates, which do not bode well for their young F1 careers.

Mark Webber endured a horrific weekend where he was left stranded at the sharp hairpin on both Saturday and Sunday. Red Bull may give you wings, but they had somehow failed to supply Mark with enough fuel in qualifying, nor with enough wheel nuts in the race. Poor Webber, perhaps Vettel had told his team that Mark didn’t deserve them either, just as he didn’t deserve the win in Malaysia. Putting salt into his wounds is the three-place grid penalty he carries into the next race for crashing into Vergne in the sister team.

Elsewhere, Adrian Sutil pushed his teammate Di Resta into the grass on the opening lap, only to be taken out by rookie Esteban Gutierrez who misjudged his braking point into the hairpin and collected the luckless Force India with him. The Mexican will serve a five-place grid penalty in Bahrain. Nico Rosberg meanwhile, retired from a strong position with a broken rear anti-roll bar.


Alonso’s 31st career win (now fourth highest in the all-time list, equalling 1992 champ Nigel Mansell) lifts him from a lowly sixth place after the Malaysian GP into third in the drivers’ standings (with 43 points) behind Vettel (52) and Melbourne-winner Raikkonen (49). Yet to win a race this season but impressively consistent is Hamilton in fourth with 40 points while his old teammate Button is left languishing in eighth with just 12 points.

Things are still looking rosy for Red Bull Racing in the constructors’ championship with a tally of 78 points, albeit left with a much smaller lead of five points ahead of Ferrari compared to the 26-point cushion it enjoyed coming away from Malaysia. Lotus and Mercedes aren’t that far behind either, each with 60 and 52 points respectively. McLaren and Force India have 14 points apiece.

There’s no time to rest for the Formula 1 circus as business continues as usual in Bahrain this coming weekend. What’s your take on the Chinese GP, and who do you think will win in Bahrain?