In this edition of Tales From The Vault, we are looking at two first wins for teams and a final win for a legend of the sport which have all taken place in China.
2006 – Schumacher’s Last Win
Michael Schumacher’s final win came in China despite the German being fifteen seconds behind Fernando Alonso. Alonso led away at the start, but Schumacher began to work his way up from sixth, passing Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button by lap twenty.
While Kimi Raikkonen past Giancarlo Fisichella, Raikkonen was then vulnerable to Schumacher as he chased down his teammate and eroded the gap he had. The track was beginning to dry, this helped Schumacher on the Bridgestone tyres as both Renaults began to struggle on the Michelins.
Raikkonen’s retirement moved Schumacher into third place, as he, Alonso and Fisichella made their first stops between lap twenty-one and three. The Spaniard was unsure about his tyres making it to his second stop.
This disadvantaged him even more, and within a few laps, his 20-second lead had evaporated to nothing. For several laps, Alonso, Fisichella and Schumacher ran nose to tail. Fisichella then made a move on his teammate on lap twenty-nine, but ran wide at the hairpin but on the next lap made the move stick. Schumacher followed shortly after.
When Alonso did switch to the dry tyres, a bad stop of over twenty seconds caused him to drop to fourth and be over fifty seconds off the lead. Schumacher and Fisichella were among the last drivers to switch to dry tyres.
When the Italian re-joined the race, he ran wide and gave Schumacher the lead into Turn One. Schumacher went onto lead the rest of the race and his ninety-first and final win.
2009 – Red Bull’s First Win
It was another wet race in Shanghai which allowed Sebastian Vettel to take Red Bull’s first win in Formula One. It was a great drive from the youngest winner (at the time) to keep the car on track, while others struggled for grip.
Vettel hung on from pole to lead his teammate Mark Webber home to the best result of his career. That race, looking back nine years on highlights some of the weaknesses we now see with Mercedes in cool conditions.
Looking back nine years on, I think that proved that Red Bull was a serious team and in the sport to win. But it was also a good race for McLaren following the lie gate scandal in Melbourne. If I remember rightly I felt it was the first time they were in the mix.
Fernando Alonso was a big loser in that race, the timing of the safety car coming in saw him lose places as he made his pit stop before working his way to ninth.
There were a number retirements Kazuki Nakajima, who was off track often before pulling into the garage on Lap 43, Massa whose Ferrari stopped altogether on the back straight on Lap 30, and Trulli.
2012 – Mercedes return to the top step
Nico Rosberg dominated the race leading the race from pole to take his first win and Mercedes first win since Monza in 1955. Behind him, there was a battle between Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, but Hamilton’s third place was enough for him to lead the championship.
Rosberg and Mercedes won after a botched pit stop for Hamilton, while Button chased down the German. The problem put Button in a huge scrap for second, stretching initially from Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus in second place back to Paul di Resta’s Force India in 13th, all running in line astern.
A frantic last ten laps first saw Raikkonen, on a two-stop strategy, drop to the back of the group after running wide as his tyres started to lose grip.
Schumacher had run well in his first stint and was close to Rosberg, however, lost half a second in his pit stop. However, was forced to retire after Mercedes failed to tighten the nut on his right front wheel.