If you were any other F1 team than Mercedes, you might have left China last night hearing the unmistakable clamour of alarm bells. The silver arrows of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher had been fast in qualifying for the opening two races of the season, but ate their tyres voraciously in the races. Not this time. Careful changes had transformed them.
Former world champion Keke Rosberg's boy converted his maiden pole position into his maiden victory while everyone else fell over themselves as, at one stage, nine drivers battled wheel-to-wheel for second place.
If there was a downside for Mercedes, as they took their first victory as a "works" since Juan Manuel Fangio at Monza in 1955, it was that a snafu during Michael Schumacher's pit stop on the 12th lap left him stranded by the roadside with a loose wheel and gave him the unenviable title of the race's sole retirement.
But all the attention was on Rosberg on his day of days. The young German made an early break and never looked back, building a lead of more than 25 seconds as, in his wake, Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Romain Grosjean, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Bruno Senna, Pastor Maldonado and Fernando Alonso duked it out in a race that was all about tyre stops and strategies. Rosberg, Vettel, Grosjean, Senna, Maldonado, Perez and Raikkonen opted for two pit stops, while Button, Hamilton, Webber and Alonsowent for three. Thus things see-sawed between them all as the different rates of the Pirelli tyres' wear had their effect.
Second-placed Jenson Button, below, said: "It was all going to plan up to the last stop, but after that it was more difficult running in the train of cars behind Kimi with all of us using our DRS wings at the same time.
"Congratulations to Nico, because he drove a great race. He beat me by two – it took me 113 starts before I won for the first time, and he did it in 111."
Rosberg beamed: "It's been a long time coming for me and the team, and now that it's finally there it's just amazing.
"I hadn't expected to be so fast today. We just improved the set-up of the car, and today it all came good. At the beginning of the year we were very strong in qualifying, and now we are strong in the race too."Reuse content