Alonso takes comfortable Shanghai win
14 April 2013 – Fernando Alonso took his first victory of the season in Sunday afternoons’s Chinese Grand Prix, overcoming his rivals in a race dominated by tyre strategy. The Ferrari driver finished over ten seconds clear of Kimi Räikkönen, who is one of many under investigation for DRS usage under yellow flags. Pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton just held on to claim third position after a late comeback from Sebastian Vettel.
As soon as the lights went out, the race turned into a tactical battle, with the first seven runners on ever-worsening Soft tyres. Hamilton held the early lead in his Mercedes, while Alonso and Felipe Massa jumped past a slow-starting Räikkönen. But the degradation quickly followed for the front pack of cars, with Hamilton losing a handful of places before the opening phase of pit-stops began at the end of the fifth lap.
Massa gambled by staying out on-track one lap longer than his rivals and fell away from the leaders, while team-mate Alonso fared better and gradually carved his way back through to emerge as the leading Option-tyre starter. Prime runners Nico Hülkenberg, the aforementioned Vettel and Jenson Button moved clear as their rivals pitted, but could not remain at the front as their strategies unravelled.
Alonso made his way past the the aforementioned trio as the race wore on, ultimately overtaking Vettel on Lap 42. Räikkönen, who clipped the rear of Sergio Pérez's McLaren in the early stages as the various pit-stop plans converged, settled into second, although Hamilton applied pressure as the chequered flag approached.
When Vettel made his final stop for Soft tyres with just a handful of laps remaining, he sat around 15 seconds behind Hamilton. But the Red Bull driver surprised his Mercedes rival and slashed the gap with a series of fastest times, moving into the DRS window on the final tour. As both men approached the final corner, Hamilton just had enough in hand to complete the podium behind Alonso and Räikkönen.
Button held on to fifth after a somewhat challenging final phase on the Soft rubber, crossing the line five seconds clear of Massa. Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo converted his strong starting position to claim the team's highest finish since the 2011 Korean Grand Prix, while Paul di Resta marked a return to the points for Force India.
Romain Grosjean and Nico Hülkenberg completed the top ten positions, denying Pérez who experienced a weekend to forget. The race was worse for fellow Mexican Esteban Gutiérrez, however, who caused a dramatic incident in the early stages when he ploughed into the back of Adrian Sutil's Force India at the final hairpin. Both men were left out of running, with plenty of debris landing on the exit of the corner.
Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg were the only other retirees from the 56-lap race. Webber endured an accident with Toro Rosso's Jean-Éric Vergne at Turn 6 during his rise through the field, before a pit-stop to repair damage went wrong and left him with a loose right-rear wheel which ultimately detached itself on the back straight. Rosberg was forced to retire before the half way mark with a suspected suspension issue.
In the championship standings, Räikkönen closes to within three points of continuing leader Vettel, with Alonso and Hamilton lurking closely in third and fourth places.
The fourth round of the 2013 season takes place in Bahrain from 19-21 April, with practice, qualifying and the race covered via the GPUpdate.net Live Report