Formula 1: Hamilton Breaks Vettel’s Streak With Win in Chinese Grand Prix

April 17, 2011 Updated: April 17, 2011

FIRST 2011 WIN: Lewis Hamilton gives a big 'Thumbs up' after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix. (Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
FIRST 2011 WIN: Lewis Hamilton gives a big 'Thumbs up' after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix. (Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton earned his and McLaren’s first win of the 2011 Formula 1 season, finishing ahead of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix Sunday morning. Hamilton became the first repeat winner of the Chinese Grand Prix, and ended Sebastian Vettel’s two-race win streak.

"I am absolutely overwhelmed,” the McLaren driver told the post-race press conference on SPEED TV. “It’s been a long, long time—it feels like a long, long time–since since I was sitting here and I feel very proud and extremely grateful for the hard work everyone’s put in.”

Had Vettel won the race, he might have gained an insurmountable lead in the Drivers’ Championship. When asked, Hamilton was cautiously optimistic about his, and McLaren’s championship chances.

”We still have a long road ahead of us but we are working very hard to close the gap,” he said. “In the race we are quite similar, but in qualifying we’ve still got a lot of work to do.

“These guys did a fantastic job and I am looking forward to many, many more great races like this.”

Hamilton used a combination of tire management—not considered his strong suit—and forceful passing moves—a Hamilton trademark—to overtake race leader Vettel on lap 52 of the 56-lap race.

Hamilton nearly didn’t make the starting grid. His car sprung a dangerous fuel leak just before the race; his mechanics were able to repair it with 30 seconds to spare, but had to finish attaching the bodywork on the grid.

"“Before the start, I was sat in the car and thinking, ‘Okay, let’s go,’ but the car wouldn’t start. I didn’t question what was going on, I just wanted to stay calm and not add to everyone’s stress," Hamilton explained. "When I finally left the garage, I drove down the pitlane watching the light and hoped it wouldn’t turn red – and it didn’t! It’s never been that close before…"

Button and Hamilton got the jump on Vettel at the start. (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)
Button and Hamilton got the jump on Vettel at the start. (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)
Hamilton and his teammate Jenson Button both passed Vettel at the start—a rare bad one from the Red Bull driver—but Vettel re-passed Hamilton on lap 11, just before his pit stop.

Lewis Hamilton of Britain (L) leads Sebastian Vettel during the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton of Britain (L) leads Sebastian Vettel during the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)
Hamilton didn’t see Vettel again until lap 44. Then he patiently waited for Vettel’s tires decay. Hamilton made a couple of good attempts at the Red Bull driver, before finally catching Vettel by surprise with a pass in Turn Seven. Once past, the McLaren driver opened a five-second gap by the end of the race.

“At the end, it was tough to get past Sebastian–even though he was getting slower, he never looked like getting out of shape," Hamilton said.

"It was always going to be difficult to follow him onto the back straight, so I wanted to get him before then–I wasn’t expecting to overtake where I did, but I had the grip to keep ahead, and I made it stick."

Sebastian Vettel tried a two-stop strategy, hoping one less stop would give him enough lead on track to hold off cars with fresher tires. Vettel passed Hamilton on lap 11, just before heading to the pits, then took the lead on lap 25 when the leaders pitted for their second stop.

Vettel held the lead until he pitted again on lap 31, then retook it on lap 37 when the leaders pitted again. Vettel couldn’t open a big enough gap to protect him from Hamilton, whose tires were seven laps fresher

Drive of the race goes to Red Bull’s Mark Webber, who started in 18th and finished third—without the aid of KERS.

Webber had bad luck, and made bad tires choices, in qualifying, but he turned that to his advantage in the race. Webber started on Primes, then used his extra options from qualifying give him an edge over the rest of the field which started on Options and had to finish on Primes.

Webber didn’t gain 15 positions just on tire strategy. He also made a series of courageous and determined passing moves, fighting his way past such experienced opponents as Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.

Webber did all this without the aid of KERS—he radioed that his KERS unit had broken on lap 24. Regardless, he cut his way through the field, earning himself a podium finish and giving Red Bull a huge lead in Constructors’ points.

Jenson held on to fourth place, ahead of Nico Rosberg, and the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. Michael Schumacher finished eighth, only half-a-second behind Alonso.

Toro Rosso-Ferrari driver Jaime Alguersuari lost a wheel early in the race, sidelining him. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)
Toro Rosso-Ferrari driver Jaime Alguersuari lost a wheel early in the race, sidelining him. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)
Vital Petrov of Renault earned two points for ninth, and Sauber-Ferrari’s Kamui Kobayashi fought his way past Paul di Resta to take the final point.

24 cars started the race, and 23 took the checkered flag. Only Jaime Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso failed to finish; his crew failed to tighten his right rear wheel nut and the wheel came off after he left the pits on lap 9.

Formula One heads for Byzantium next: the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix, 58 laps of the 5.33-km, 14-turn Istanbul park circuit, starts at 3 p.m. local time on May 8. Tickets and travel packages are available through the official Formula 1 website.

The race will be broadcast on SPEEDTV at 7:30 a.m. ET.

 

2011 Formula One Chinese Grand Prix

 

#

Driver

Team

Laps

Time/retired

Pts

1

3

Lewis Hamilton

McLaren-Mercedes

56

1:36:58.226

25

2

1

Sebastian Vettel

RBR-Renault

56

+5.1 secs

18

3

2

Mark Webber

RBR-Renault

56

+7.5 secs

15

4

4

Jenson Button

McLaren-Mercedes

56

+10.0 secs

12

5

8

Nico Rosberg

Mercedes

56

+13.4 secs

10

6

6

Felipe Massa

Ferrari

56

+15.8 secs

8

7

5

Fernando Alonso

Ferrari

56

+30.6 secs

6

8

7

Michael Schumacher

Mercedes

56

+31.0 secs

4

9

10

Vitaly Petrov

Renault

56

+57.4 secs

2

10

16

Kamui Kobayashi

Sauber-Ferrari

56

+63.2 secs

1

11

15

Paul di Resta

Force India-Mercedes

56

+68.7 secs

 

12

9

Nick Heidfeld

Renault

56

+72.7 secs

 

13

11

Rubens Barrichello

Williams-Cosworth

56

+90.1 secs

 

14

18

Sebastien Buemi

STR-Ferrari

56

+90.6 secs

 

15

14

Adrian Sutil

Force India-Mercedes

55

+1 Lap

 

16

20

Heikki Kovalainen

Lotus-Renault

55

+1 Lap

 

17

17

Sergio Perez

Sauber-Ferrari

55

+1 Lap

 

18

12

Pastor Maldonado

Williams-Cosworth

55

+1 Lap

 

19

21

Jarno Trulli

Lotus-Renault

55

+1 Lap

 

20

25

Jerome d'Ambrosio

Virgin-Cosworth

54

+2 Laps

 

21

24

Timo Glock

Virgin-Cosworth

54

+2 Laps

 

22

23

Vitantonio Liuzzi

HRT-Cosworth

54

+2 Laps

 

23

22

Narain Karthikeyan

HRT-Cosworth

54

+2 Laps

 

Ret

19

Jaime Alguersuari

STR-Ferrari

9

Wheel