The F1 circus arrives for it's 3rd outing in the Southern Asia country, and Vettel will be looking to repeat his win here last year, as well as capitalise on his win last time out - the years' first back-to-back winner, and it's a testament to the increasing quality of the cars, drivers and pit crews that we've had to wait this long in the season, before any driver has multiple wins !!
Vettel has built up a reputation of being at the top of the championship at the end of the season, which is where he's at now - just 4 points behind Alonso - and with just 5 races to go (including this one) it's going to go down to the wire again. Which is good for the teams (and their sponsors), but even better for the fans !!
Q1 - Kovaleinen goes out early onto a dusty circuit, and helps to clean up the racing line. Karthikeyan spins off the track, with brake failure. Hamilton has a front-left lock-up, and goes wide over the run-off area. As expected the lead changes several times, but Vettel seems comfortable in the top spot. All of the top drivers safely qualify, though only just for Hamilton in 17th, and Alonso in 16th. Had Senna finished his lap (instead of pitting), it's possible that he could have knocked one of them out !!
Q2 - Lap times are falling, by all the teams, with Vettel again leading the way. Both McLarens are suffering from front end lock-ups, and 'grippy' brakes. Most drivers report understeer, which should ease as the track gets rubbered-in. At the end of the session, out are Maldonado, Buttton, Perez, Kobayasi, Di Resta, Ricciardo and Vergne !!
Q3 - Hulkenberg goes around and then pits without setting a time. Vettel again sets a top time, pushing Alonso down to second, but Webber is worth keeping an eye on. One of the Mercedes cars exits the garage, forcing Hamilton to go wide and pass it in the pit lane. So, the front of the grid is - 1. Webber, 2. Vettel, 3. Hamilton, 4. Alonso, 5. Raikonnen, 6. Massa, 7. Grosjean, 8. Hulkenberg, 9. Rosberg, 10. Schumacher. With the weather described as 'changeable', means this should be an interesting race - bring it on !!
Lights out, the two Red Bulls pull away cleanly, while Hamilton and Alonso start their battle, and there's some damage further down the line as cars come together. Button is hit by Kobayashi, puncturing Buttons' right front tyre, and he retires. Rosberg also retires after being bashed by Kobayashi, and Kobayashi pits for new tyres. Vettel makes the pass on Webber to take the lead !!
With Rosberg's car parked in the DRS zone, the stewards keep the DRS disabled, which harms some of the drivers. Lap 9, the stewards give Kobayashi a drive-through penalty for his 'kamikaze' moves that took out two cars !!
The marshalls finally get Rosberg's car safe, and stewards enable the DRS system. And Ricciardo takes advantage of this, by shooting past Senna. Lap 12, Schumacher and Di Resta battle, but the much more experienced multi-world-champion leaves him behind, to battle with Vergne !!
Lap 14, Hamilton makes a fast pit stop, other teams also pit with Hulkenberg and Grosjean almost coming together, and they continue to battle when they return to the circuit. Webber also pits, promoting Alonso to 2nd, and Webber returns into 3rd !!
Lap 16 Vettel pits as does Alonso, but on returning to the race Alonso comes out alongside Perez, and Hamilton right behind has a piece of the action, and Perez drops behind them both. Lap 18, Kobayashi retires as Raikkonen and then Massa make the pass on Perez !!
Lap 20, Maldonado and Grosjean battle, as Hamilton radio's a performance problem, and he's passed by Massa. The team radio report that Hamilton's problem is one of 'bad graining' on the front right and to adjust the balance setting. Lap 23, Raikkonen battles with Hamilton, but isn't able to make the pass !!
Lap 24, Raikkonen does get past, but Hamilton retakes the place, though still suffers with front-end lock-ups. Vettel has a good lead over team-mate Webber, who radio's his front right tyre going off, while Alonso is close in third !!
Lap 27, Hamilton pits giving Raikkonen the place, and rejoins in front of Ricciardo. Vettel sets the fastest lap of the race so far, as the team radio for him to take care of his front right tyre. Hamilton radio's that his car feels 'nervous' after the pit stop !!
Lap 30 Grosjean uses his KERS and DRS to try and put the pass on Hulkenberg for 6th, but can't make it happen, and two laps later Grosjean pits for new rubber. Webber pits, and rejoins in 5th. Lap 33, Grosjean puts the pass on Hulkenberg, who has just pitted !!
Lap 35, Alonso pits and rejoins behind Glock, but makes the pass easily. Vettel has a big front end lock-up, and the team radio for him to pit which he does, as do Massa and Raikkonen. Lap 37, Schumacher and Di Resta battle for 10th, giving Perez chance to catch up to them !!
Lap 38, Di Resta finally makes the pass, and Perez is right behind Schumacher's gearbox. Massa right behind Alonso, is told by the team to 'back off' by 'a couple of seconds'. Hamilton and Grosjean battle, with Hulkenberg right behind them. Grosjean goes wide but doesn't make the pass, but gives Hulkenberg chance to pass him and come level and pass Hamilton. Grosjean passes too, but Hamilton retakes the place !!
Lap 42, Grosjean and Hamilton continue to battle for the place, and Hamilton pits as Perez make the move on Schumacher and takes the place. Massa radio's that he's faster than team-mate Alonso, but there's no response !!
Lap 47, Hamilton and Vergne battle for 9th, but the Torro Rosso keeps the McLaren at bay. Lap 49, the team tell Vettel to continue to look after him front right tyre. The astroturf at some of the corners is beginning to wear and tear, and there's a possibility that the safety car could be brought out !!
Lap 53, Vergne passes team-mate Ricciardo, and Hamilton tries to follow but can't make it. Hamilton's car picks up a large piece of the torn astroturf, affecting his aerodynamics. Last lap, Vettel is taking it very carefully, to try and make the tyre last to the flag with team-mate Webber taking second and Alonso third !!
1. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault
2. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault
3. Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari-Ferrari
4. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari
5. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Lotus-Renault
6. Nico Hulkenberg Germany Force India-Mercedes
7. Romain Grosjean France Lotus-Renault
8. Daniel Ricciardo Australia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
9. Jean-Eric Vergne France Toro Rosso-Ferrari
10. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes
11. Paul di Resta Britain Force India-Mercedes
12. Sergio Perez Mexico Sauber-Ferrari
13. Michael Schumacher Germany Mercedes-Mercedes
14. Pastor Maldonado Venezuela Williams-Renault
15. Bruno Senna Brazil Williams-Renault
16. Vitaly Petrov Russia Caterham-Renault
17. Heikki Kovalainen Finland Caterham-Renault
18. Timo Glock Germany Marussia -Cosworth
19. Charles Pic France Marussia -Cosworth
20. Narain Karthikeyan India HRT-Cosworth
Rtd Pedro de la Rosa Spain HRT-Cosworth 16 laps completed
Rtd Kamui Kobayashi Japan Sauber-Ferrari 16 laps completed
Rtd Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes-Mercedes 0 laps completed
Rtd Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes 0 laps completed
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 215
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari-Ferrari 209
3 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 167
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 153
5 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 152
6 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 131
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes-Mercedes 93
8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 88
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari-Ferrari 81
10 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 66
11 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 50
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 45
13 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 44
14 Michael Schumacher Mercedes-Mercedes 43
15 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 33
16 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 25
17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 12
18 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 9
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 0
= Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 0
= Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 0
= Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 0
= Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 0
= Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 0
= Jerome d'Ambrosio Lotus-Renault 0
1 Red Bull Racing 367
2 Scuderia Ferrari 290
3 Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 284
4 Lotus F1 Team 255
5 Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 136
6 Sauber F1 Team 116
7 Sahara Force India F1 Team 89
8 Williams F1 Team 58
9 Scuderia Toro Rosso 21
10 Marussia F1 Team 0
= Caterham F1 Team 0
= HRT F1 Team 0
Good race, though whoever laid the astroturf might want to use a stronger adhesive before next time !!