Round four of the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship season saw the twelve teams and twenty-four drivers arrive at the Shanghai International Circuit in China, with Felipe Massa leading the Drivers’ Championship from Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso.
The weekend began in spectacular fashion for Sebastian Buemi, whose Scuderia Toro Rosso machine shed both front wheels under breaking on the approach to the hairpin at the end of the long back straight. An investigation by the team saw them go back to older suspension parts for the rest of the weekend on both Buemi’s and team-mate Jaime Alguersuari’s cars after the failure was found to be caused by new parts put on ahead of practice.
Qualifying saw Sebastian Vettel take his third pole position of the season, defeating Mark Webber by 0.248s for an all-Red Bull Racing front row, while Alonso qualified third ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.
The two McLaren-Mercedes of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were fifth and sixth ahead of Massa’s Ferrari, while Robert Kubica was eighth for Renault. Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes and Adrian Sutil’s Force India rounded out the top ten.
The race began with light rain falling, with several drivers taking the gamble of a wet weather set-up in the hope the rain worsened. At the start, Alonso took the lead, but jumped the start, earning himself a drive-through penalty.
A three-car crash at turn six on the opening lap saw the Force India of Vitantonio Liuzzi, the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and Buemi’s Toro Rosso all retire and the safety car introduced, while Timo Glock’s Virgin Racing machine ended its race in the pit lane before the race even began.
Many drivers took advantage of the safety car to pit for intermediate tyres, with Rosberg gambling and staying out on track to take the lead ahead of Button, Kubica, Vitaly Petrov and Pedro de la Rosa.
The rain did not fall as expected, and those on intermediate tyres were forced to pit again not long afterwards, meaning Rosberg, Button and the two Renault drivers had a comfortable cushion to the chasing pack.
More pit stops followed before the start of the twentieth lap when the promised rain began to fall, with intermediate tyres now the tyre to be on. Just before the pit stop, Rosberg made a mistake and allowed Button to pass him down the long back straight and into the lead.
The safety car was deployed for a second time on lap twenty-two when the front wing of Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso broke, scattering debris all over the circuit, and therefore nullifying the advantage of the leaders.
At the restart, Hamilton passed Schumacher at turn six and then passed Petrov on the following lap to move up to fourth. Two laps later he had moved past the second Renault of Kubica and was in a podium position, despite having been one of the drivers to make three pit stops.
Hamilton jumped Rosberg at the final round of pit stops to make it a McLaren 1-2 on the day, but Button was untouchable out front. The rain got heavier as the race came to its conclusion, with Rosberg holding on for the podium ahead of Alonso, who recovered from his drive-through penalty for his jump start to finish fourth, ahead of Kubica in fifth, while polesitter Vettel was down in seventh having been as low as fifteenth early in the race.
Vitaly Petrov made history in seventh, becoming the first Russian driver to score points in Formula 1, just ahead of Webber, while Massa could only finish ninth ahead of Schumacher, who just beat Sutil to the final point.
Button’s win, his second of the season, propelled him to the top of the championship, and ensured the run of different Chinese Grand Prix winners continued, with the Briton becoming the seventh different winner in seven years at the circuit. Rosberg was now second in the Drivers’ Championship while Massa, on top ahead of the race had dropped down to sixth.
McLaren now led the Constructors’ Championship on 109 points ahead of Ferrari, with Red Bull Racing in third.
2010 Chinese Grand Prix Race Result (Top 10)
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