Formula One stepped in to Shanghai in 2004, with the first race at the economic capital of China being won by Rubens Barrichello. The track, which is built on marshland, has seen stunning overtakes thanks to the hairpin which follows the longest straight on the calendar. It has also been the scene of maiden wins in recent years- Sebastian Vettel took Red Bull’s first win here in 2009 and in 2012 Nico Rosberg took his first victory, becoming the first German driver to win in a German car. But do either of these make an appearance in our 4 China classics? Let’s take a look…
Michael Schumacher takes his 91st and final win following a close battle with Fernando Alonso.
On a wet weekend in October 2006, Fernando Alonso took pole for the Chinese Grand Prix. Renault took advantage of their 2 cars being on the front row to use Fisichella to back the rest of the field up. Schumacher started the race from 6th, and quickly began making his way through the field. After the first round of pit stops, Schumacher was right behind the Renault pair. Alonso and Fisichella then began battling each other, which helped Michael to eventually take the lead from Giancarlo. Fernando then had a problem with a rear tyre in his second stop, giving a further advantage to Michael. Alonso began gaining in the closing stages but in the end he couldn’t do enough to catch Schumacher, who took his final Grand Prix victory in some style.
The race is also remembered for a sensational last lap from Jenson Button. With a special blue and yellow livery for the Chinese race, Jenson stormed through the field in his Honda on the final lap, overtaking his team-mate at the start of the lap. He went on to overtake three cars at the final hairpin after they were involved in a tangle caused by Barrichello out-braking himself. Button finished 4th.
McLaren’s strategy leaves Hamilton stuck in the gravel.
It was a day to forget for Lewis Hamilton in the 2007 event. With just 2 races to go, Hamilton led the championship by 12 points. China was his first chance to win the title. In Qualifying, Lewis took pole, with the two Ferrari cars lining up behind him. His team-mate Alonso started from 4th. As the race started the rain began to pour, setting up a strategic battle between the teams. Hamilton pitted first and, with McLaren expecting more rain imminently, opted to only refuel and not change his wet tyres. Raikkonen did the same but quickly began to catch the McLaren. Hamilton ran wide on his worn tyres and Kimi took the lead. Lewis’ tyres were in a bad way; wet tyres on a drying track are never a good mix. After some laps, Hamilton came in to the pits but ran wide on entry and got himself stuck in the gravel trap. Ironically in the smallest gravel trap of the season, his title hopes took a severe dint. His lead was cut and Alonso, after finishing 2nd, now sat only 4 points behind. Following his race win, Kimi was an outsider for the title- 7 points behind Lewis. Sebastian Vettel also finished the race in an impressive 4th in his Toro Rosso, marking the best result for the team so far in their 2 year Formula 1 venture.
Jenson Button wins a dramatic 2010 spectacle.
This race weekend is often remembered for Sebastien Buemi’s crash in Friday Practice where both front wheels flew off his car whilst travelling at high speed.
On Saturday, Sebastian Vettel took his fourth pole in a row, following a controversial ride-height conspiracy- which turned out to be a nonsense. Button started the race from 5th. Alonso took the lead at the start but he clearly jumped the start and hence received a drive through penalty. The rain affected the race and caused many drivers to pit for intermediates early on. Vettel had to queue behind Webber when it was his turn to pit. In their second stops, Hamilton and Vettel pitted at the same time and on their exit they raced alongside one another down the pitlane. The two battled against each other again whilst passing Adrian Sutil at the final hairpin. Vettel was forced wide by the Force India while Hamilton took advantage and overtook them both in one manoeuvre. Button perfected his strategy in the damp conditions, overtaking leader Nico Rosberg on Lap 19. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso overtook his team-mate on the entry to the pit-lane at the next round of pit stops. A late safety car due to debris from Jaime Alguersuari’s front wing brought the safety car out and bunched the field up- Jenson slowed down so much at the hairpin before the restart that he almost caused a pile-up and Hamilton took evasive action by heading on to the grass. He managed to recover and, after a battle with his future team-mate Nico Rosberg, finished on the podium. Despite making a small error at the hairpin, where most of the day’s action seemed to be happening, Jenson went on to take the win. With Lewis in 2nd it was the first British 1-2 since the 1999 Austrian Grand Prix.
Mark Webber got onto the podium after an incredible comeback from 18th on the grid.
After an electrical problem in Third Practice, Mark Webber’s mechanics were in a battle against time to get the car ready for Qualifying. Although the car was ready in time, it was uncompetitive and Mark was eliminated in Q1 and started from 18th on the hard tyres.
It was his team-mate Sebastian Vettel who took pole. There were pre-race issues for Lewis Hamilton, who eventually got out of the garage with 30 seconds to spare before the pit-lane closed. The McLarens took the early lead after a bad start from Vettel. At the end of Lap 1, Webber found himself in 17th. Over the next 3 laps, he gained a further 2 places. There were issues meanwhile at Toro Rosso when Alguersuari’s tyre flew off due to a wheel nut not being attached correctly. This is also the race where Jenson Button accidentally pulled into the Red Bull garage during his pit stop, allowing Sebastian’s Red Bull to take the position from Jenson. In the other Red Bull, Webber was still making slow progress and found himself in 7th. After disposing of his hard tyres early on, Webber took advantage of the three sets of soft tyres he had and on the last lap was battling Button for the final podium spot. Lewis Hamilton took his first win of the season, with the Red Bull pair less than 10 seconds behind.
What are your favourite memories from Shanghai? Let me know in the comments below!
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. Now in its sixth season, the blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics. Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and GPDestinations. In 2017 and 2018, he wrote for Badger GP. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast.