Lewis Hamilton became the first repeat winner of the Chinese Grand Prix after a beautifully executed three-stop strategy and consummate overtaking manoeuvres earned him a superb victory in an action-packed race.
World champion Sebastian Vettel came home second after struggling with tyre wear in the closing stages of the grand prix, whilst his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber took the final podium place after an excellent drive from eighteenth on the grid.
Jenson Button had an eventful afternoon, which included mistakenly driving into the Red Bull pit box and being overtaken by his team-mate, but was challenging for the victory for much of the race. He eventually finished fourth. Nico Rosberg was fifth ahead of the two Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.
Michael Schumacher finished eighth, Vitaly Petrov ninth, and Kamui Kobayashi tenth.
Before the race got underway, there was a suggestion that Hamilton might not even make it to the start line. There was early drama after his car would not start in the garage. Mechanics frantically took covers off the car to find the source of the problem – believed to be a fuel leak. Hamilton made it out of the garage less than a minute before pit lane closed, and repairs continued on the grid. Despite this unwanted drama, he got away without any problems for the formation lap.
Pole-sitter Vettel had a bad start off the line, with Jenson Button and Hamilton getting past the world champion as the race got underway. Nico Rosberg, who started the grand prix from fourth, was challenging Vettel for the first half of the opening lap, but ultimately failed to get the better of the Red Bull driver in these opening exchanges.
Mark Webber, who was starting the race from eighteenth after his disastrous qualifying session, made up just one place over the course of the first lap. In contrast, Michael Schumacher made it from fourteenth up to ninth. Felipe Massa got ahead of Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso to take fifth.
After 5 laps, Button had a lead of 1.2 seconds over Hamilton, who had Vettel less than a second behind him. Rosberg and the rest of the field were falling back from the leading trio.
Webber was not scything through the field as many predicted he would. On Lap 9 he was only up to fourteenth place, and was then passed by the Sauber of Sergio Perez and then the Williams of Rubens Barrichello.
Jaime Alguerusari was the first man to make a pit stop, but Toro Rosso neglected to fit the right-rear Pirelli tyre on his car properly. Within a few corners, the wheel was off, bouncing freely along the Shanghai tarmac.
Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber made their first pit stops of Lap 11, with Paul di Resta following on the next lap. The new set of soft tyres allowed Webber to set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 12.
Meanwhile, the front of the field was grouped into threes – Button, Hamilton and Vettel were running within two seconds of each other, and Rosberg and the two Ferraris were having their own private race from fourth down to sixth, right up until the Mercedes driver pitted on Lap 13.
Button and Vettel came in for fresh tyres at the end of Lap 14, just after the Vettel had passed Hamilton on track. Button somehow managed to stop in the wrong pit box, plonking himself amongst the Red Bull mechanics, before sheepishly moving forward a few metres towards his own McLaren pit crew. As a result, Vettel got past the Brit in the pit lane.
Hamilton pitted on the following lap, having been passed by the two Ferrari's on his in-lap. Felipe Massa also came in, giving Alonso a temporary lead. Meanwhile, in this melee, the early stop had paid off for Nico Rosberg, who was now leading the race on merit.
Once the first round of pit stops was complete, Vettel trailed his compatriot by five seconds, but was closing fast, Button was third, Massa fourth, Hamilton fifth, Schumacher sixth and Alonso seventh.
Jenson Button came in for some new soft tyres at the end of Lap 24, the first of the front-runners to make a second stop. He emerged in eighth, just behind Paul di Resta.
Leader Rosberg came in on the following lap, responding to the McLaren strategy. The German was followed into the pits by Hamilton and Vettel was now leading the race from the two Ferraris. Then, after a fascinating battle with former-nemesis Alonso, Schumacher came in for his second stop on Lap 27.
As the strategies unfolded, it became clear the two Mercedes where on a three stop strategy from the start, and the two McLarens, despite a relatively late first pit stop, had switched to three stops. Vettel and the two Ferrari drivers remained on two stop strategies.
Rosberg, Button and Hamilton, who had both made one more stop than Alonso, passed the Spaniard on track, with ease – the fresh tyres clearly giving these drivers far better traction out of the final hairpin.
At the end of Lap 30, Vettel was leading from Massa, both of whom had made just one stop. Rosberg, Button and Hamilton were third, fourth and fifth, and they had made two stops. All five drivers had at least one more stop to make.
Vettel then came in for his second stop at the end of Lap 31, which dropped him to sixth place, behind Alonso. The Ferrari driver pitted the next time round. One lap later it was Massa in the pits, and Rosberg regained his race lead.
After the second pit stops, Rosberg, Hamilton, Button, Vettel, Massa was the order of the top five. Schumacher was in sixth, and was being closely followed by Mark Webber, who had brought himself roughly into contention.
The beginning of Lap 36 saw Hamilton make a move on his team-mate into the first corner. It looked for an instant as though the two McLaren drivers were going to come together, but Button gave Hamilton enough room to get through.
Button pitted at the end of Lap 38, making his third and final stop of the afternoon. He emerged ahead the heated Schumacher/Webber battle for sixth place. Eventually Webber got past the seven-time world champion.
Hamilton was in for his last stop one lap after his team-mate, and emerged from the pits ahead of Button. Rosberg pitted from the lead the next time round, and just came out ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
Now, with 16 laps to go, all of the front runners had made their scheduled pit stops. Vettel was leading the race from Massa, but these two had older tyres, and had to make it to the end of the race ahead of a charging Rosberg, Hamilton and Button. At the end of Lap 40, Rosberg was 5.4 seconds behind Vettel, but had just been told by his Mercedes team that fuel was critical.
Hamilton made it past Rosberg on Lap 42, and was now free to go after Massa. He got past the Ferrari driver at the beginning of Lap 45. Rosberg had a failed attempt to get past Massa later in the lap, but out-braked himself, and instead lost a position to Button.
With ten laps to go of the grand prix, Hamilton was 3.3 seconds behind leader Vettel, who was unable to pull away thanks to the advanced age of his tyres.
Further down the field, Adrian Sutil and Sergio Perez had a coming together, which looked to be the fault of the Mexican. The Sauber driver just slithered into Sutil's Force India, and got a drive-through penalty for 'causing a collision.'
Button and Rosberg cleared Massa who, like Vettel, was struggling on old tyres. Webber, who was the fastest man on track at this stage, also got past Massa.
Hamilton took the lead of the Chinese Grand Prix from Vettel on Lap 52, just driving past the Red Bull driver, who had appeared to have lost the use of KERS by this crucial stage of the grand prix.
Not that lack of KERS was slowing team-mate Webber down. With three laps to go, the Aussie was all over the back of fourth place man Rosberg, and he overtook him on Lap 54. Webber then took a podium position from Button at the end of the penultimate lap.
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||56||+5.1 secs||18||Report|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||56||+7.5 secs||15||Report|
|4||4||Jenson Button||McLaren||56||+10.0 secs||12||Report|
|5||8||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||56||+13.4 secs||10||Report|
|6||6||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||56||+15.8 secs||8|
|7||5||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||56||+30.6 secs||6|
|8||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||56||+31.0 secs||4||Report|
|9||10||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||56||+57.4 secs||2|
|10||16||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber||56||+63.2 secs||1||Report|
|11||15||Paul di Resta||Force India||56||+68.7 secs||Report|
|12||9||Nick Heidfeld||Renault||56||+72.7 secs|
|13||11||Rubens Barrichello||Williams||56||+90.1 secs||Report|
|14||18||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||56||+90.6 secs||Report|
|15||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India||55||+1 Lap||Report|
|16||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus||55||+1 Lap||Report|
|17||17||Sergio Perez||Sauber||55||+1 Lap||Report|
|18||12||Pastor Maldonado||Williams||55||+1 Lap||Report|
|19||21||Jarno Trulli||Lotus||55||+1 Lap||Report|
|20||25||Jerome D'Ambrosio||Virgin Racing||54||+2 Laps|
|21||24||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing||54||+2 Laps|
|22||23||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Hispania Racing||54||+2 Laps|
|23||22||Narain Karthikeyan||Hispania Racing||54||+2 Laps|
|Ret||19||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||9||Wheel||Report|