Race - Chinese GP report: Ferrari
Scuderia Ferrari’s short term aim coming into this race was to be the best of the pack of teams chasing Mercedes and today that was the case, with Fernando Alonso taking a fine third place behind the all conquering Anglo-German team. Lewis Hamilton took his third straight win, ahead of Nico Rosberg, who still leads the Drivers’ championship – Fernando is up to third. Kimi Raikkonen in the second F14 T made up three places off the grid, to finish eighth.
As the lights went out, Hamilton led from pole, Ricciardo got bogged down from second allowing Vettel to go ahead, while Fernando got a blindingly quick run to move up two places to third colliding with a fast starting Massa in the Williams. Kimi moved up one spot to tenth by the end of the opening lap.
On lap 5 of 56, the order was Hamilton a massive 4.1 ahead of Vettel in the Red Bull, with Fernando’s F14 T just 0.8 behind the German. Behind the Ferrari man came Ricciardo, Rosberg, working his way back up after a poor start, Massa in the Williams, while Hulkenberg was seventh in the Force India. Bottas was eighth in the Williams, with Grosjean ninth for Lotus ahead of Kimi in tenth.
With the cold conditions, even after a handful of laps, several drivers including Fernando were complaining of graining on the left front tyre and Button was the first to pit in the McLaren on lap 7 for Mediums. Grosjean was next to change to the harder compound on lap 9, promoting Kimi to ninth. The Finn took on Mediums on lap 10, as did Massa and Perez, although the Brazilian Williams drivers had a major problem with a rear and had a very lengthy stop. Fernando pitted next time round.
With everyone having visited the pits, Hamilton kept the lead, now 3.7 ahead of Fernando, who had Vettel 3.3 behind. Fourth was Rosberg, then came Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Kimi in eighth, while Grosjean and Perez completed the top ten. Rosberg closed on Vettel and the two men were wheel to wheel for several corners, the Mercedes man eventually making it stick to go third on lap 22. Ricciardo also passed Vettel on lap 25.
At this point, Fernando was 9.7 behind Hamilton and 5.7 ahead of third placed Rosberg, although the German now began closing on the Spaniard. Lap 29 and the gap had shrunk to 3 seconds, while Kimi was having a solitary race in eighth. Hulkenberg, Bottas and Kimi all came in together for their second stops on lap 31, the Finn fitting Mediums again. On the next lap, Rosberg was within the necessary second to use DRS, but for the moment, Fernando was holding him off, until the Spaniard made his second stop on lap 33, again for Mediums, dropping to fourth.
With everyone having completed two stops, Hamilton was 12.7 ahead of Fernando, who had a 3.4 lead over Rosberg. Then came Ricciardo fourth, followed by Vettel, Hulkenberg, Bottas and Kimi eighth, 3.5 ahead of Perez. Once again, Rosberg closed on the Spanish Ferrari man, so the gap was only 2.1 with 16 laps remaining. Lap 42 and they inevitably changed places and thus the order was set to the flag, with Fernando heading for his and the Scuderia’s first podium of the season. Kimi contributed 4 more points to the team total with his eighth place finish. The Scuderia is now fourth in the Constructors’, just 2 points behind Force India.
“After a difficult start to the season, this podium is a confidence boost for the whole team, providing extra motivation for all those who are doing their best to close the gap to the front. And I think this podium should be dedicated to Stefano, as everything we do up to July will also be the result of his efforts. We have definitely made a step forward, because compared to two weeks ago, we have partly closed the gap to the leaders, but we are well aware there’s still a long way to go and we have to keep our feet on the ground. In general, this has been a good weekend for me, as everything went well right from Friday, although the rain made qualifying more complicated than expected. I was on the limit all race long and I really don’t think I could have done any more. This is quite a unique track of its kind and now we must make the most of the long break before the next race to prepare as well as possible for whatever situation arises.”
“This has been a really difficult weekend. Right from Friday morning, I suffered with problems that we didn’t manage to solve completely and today in the race, I couldn’t get the result I wanted. The start was good, I made up two places but then I couldn’t make up any more ground, as I just didn’t have the pace, nor much grip at the front or the back. In the final stint on new tyres, the car handled better, but then, as the tyres degraded the situation got complicated again. I think the difficulties I encountered here stem from a combination of various factors, from my driving style combined with the low temperatures and the characteristics of the track. Today, we brought home valuable points thanks to the intense efforts of the whole team and now we will continue to work ceaselessly to improve. Fernando’s result is very encouraging and proves we are moving in the right direction.”
“Today’s result is a reward for the effort that all the team is putting into every area. Both drivers got away well, managing to make up two places immediately and, luckily the collision between Fernando and Felipe Massa’s Williams left the F14 T undamaged. In the first stint, with Kimi we lost a bit of time behind Grosjean and that prevented him from making up ground on his rivals, in a race where tyre degradation and graining played an important role. The choice made at Fernando’s first stop saw him take second place: from then on, we concentrated on managing the gap to the Red Bull and tried to keep Rosberg behind us for as long as possible. This weekend we made some progress and in general, the speed of the car has increased, both in the corners and on the straights, but we have to be realistic about our current potential and continue working, because the gap to Mercedes is still big and no one within our team has any intention of giving up.”