Rosberg takes chequered flag for first time in F1 career

 

Nico Rosberg today took the chequered flag for the first time in his Formula One career to give Mercedes their first victory since the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio in 1955.

After claiming pole in his 111th grand prix yesterday, Rosberg enjoyed a relatively smooth ride in winning the Chinese Grand Prix, even after losing team-mate Michael Schumacher early on after a pit-stop error.

Behind the 26-year-old German, however, it proved to be a real battle for the other placings, with Jenson Button claiming second ahead of McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton has now taken over leadership of the standings by two points from Button - 45 compared to 43 - with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso third, eight points adrift.

Appreciably, Rosberg and the Mercedes team were ecstatic as he crossed the line 20.6secs clear of Button, with Hamilton 5.3secs further down the road at the Shanghai International Circuit.

With Mercedes starting on the front row - courtesy of Hamilton's five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change - the start was as comfortable as could be as the duo filed away in procession once the five red lights disappeared to signal the start.

The hopes of a double for Mercedes in the race, however, came crashing down on lap 14 within moments of Schumacher's first pit stop.

It should have been routine, but instead Schumacher was released when the front-right nut had seemingly not been fitted correctly, the member of the pit crew in that position slapping the ground in frustration once the seven-time champion had pulled away.

Just 30 seconds later Schumacher was trundling off the circuit, the disappointment obvious in his voice as he said: "Nothing I could do guys. Out of the race."

The stewards are to launch an investigation post-race into the incident, citing an unsafe release.

At that stage Schumacher was acting as a buffer in second place, allowing Rosberg to build up a small time cushion whilst Button, Raikkonen and Hamilton loomed large behind him.

The two Britons were the prime movers at the start, with the duo both making up two places as Button elevated himself from fifth to third and Hamilton from seventh to fifth.

Behind them the Red Bulls went backwards as Mark Webber fell from sixth to ninth and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel losing four places in falling to 15th.

That had followed his worst qualifying performance yesterday for 42 races, starting outside the top 10 for the first time since the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2009.

Beyond Schumacher's pit-stop calamity, it proved plain sailing for Rosberg as Mercedes were able to control the race from the front, covering their rivals' pit stops.

For some, like Rosberg, it was two stops, others such as Button, Hamilton and Webber in fourth, it was three.

In leading from the front Rosberg had the edge and one of F1's master tacticians in team principal Ross Brawn could make the right calls.

With Rosberg running away with it at the front, the closing laps were a frenetic affair, with Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen dropping like a stone on worn stones, finishing 14th after running second with five to play.

It was a similar story for Vettel as he too was up to second late on, but in quick succession he was overtaken by Button, Hamilton and Webber to wind up fifth, albeit improvement on his starting position.

Delighted team principal Brawn said: "It was stunning. We still had the fear with the tyres but he used them perfectly.

"It's just a tragedy we had the problem with Michael because he would have been in great shape too.

"We have started a new adventure. I have been lucky to have a lot of special days, and this is certainly a special one."

As for Rosberg, he was beaming from ear to ear as he said: "This is an unbelievable feeling. I'm very happy, very excited.

"It's been a long time coming for me, and for the team also, for the past two years and a bit.

"It's finally there. It's amazing, and it's nice to see now how quickly we are progressing."

Button conceded his third and final pit stop proved costly as a problem with the left rear held him up considerably.

"I think I lost nine to 10 seconds, which is a pity because when I exited the pits I had four cars ahead of me I wouldn't have been racing. Otherwise I would have had a nice, clear track," Button said.

"All in all it was a fun day. I really enjoyed it, some good overtaking out there and to come away with some good points is great."

Hamilton offered his congratulations to Rosberg initially as he said: "He did a fantastic job - your first pole and first win is and incredible feeling.

"But I'm very happy to have made it to the podium (third for the third consecutive race).

"I said I wanted to move forward. The team did a great job during the pit stops and with strategy, there was a lot of overtaking, so a fantastic day."

PA

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