Three races, three winners, three different cars. Oh and today in China, a five-lap long battle for second place featuring six cars. Yup; this year’s rules might have meant all those ugly broken noses, but they’ve also created the closest racing since, well, since when do you think? We’re going to get out our old annuals and take a look, later.
Can it continue like this? That depends on whether circumstances particular to China this morning eased Nico Rosberg to an astonishingly grown-up first win for him and the Mercedes team. It could be that track temperatures and the compounds taken to China by Pirelli masked, for this race only, the F1- W03’s bad tyre habit. Or has it shaken it for good? It could be that the long straight at Shanghai was a one-off perfect showcase for the Merc’s trick aerodynamics… or it could be that the Double DRS is the technical breakthrough of the season and Mercedes will continue to walk away until the others can copy the system.
Mercedes is already telling folks it’s not as easy as getting a couple of lengths of hose plumbed from the beam across the base of the rear wing all the way to some little slots under the front wing. You have to design the whole car around the system, says Ross Brawn, who sold his eponymous, 2009-winning team to Mercedes. You can’t just add it on. And it is completely legal according to the FIA. Tough decisions required then at Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus or anyone else who fancies making it four chassis’ at the front this year. But it’s one that will need to be made soon. Nico stroked it home over 20secs ahead of Jenson Button.
Button, who led home team-mate Lewis Hamilton, reckoned he could have won had the team not screwed up his last pit stop. The plan was to put him out behind Rosberg with an empty track between them. We all know how determined Button is this year so it was a shame that a problem with his left rear meant he came out in the middle of a huge pack of cars crawling all over each other for the right to take a run at Rosberg. But honestly, there was no way Button would have caught and passed the Mercedes.
His slightly down-beat demeanour at the end of the race probably had more to do with an odd weekend in China where he never really seemed himself. Lewis meanwhile, who now leads the championship, seemed altogether more at ease with himself despite coming home third again. There are some interesting mind games going on at McLaren right now.
The one-two-three could have been very different had Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen not given everyone a graphic demonstration of just what it means to push your tyres beyond the limit. Running second with ten laps to go, a cataclysmic loss of pace saw him fall to 14th at the flag and signal the most incredible scrabble for position that featured what must have been a sweet moment for Mark Webber who put his Red Bull firmly ahead of Sebastian Vettel for fourth (cuing another sulky performance in front of the post-race microphones) and some great driving from Romain Grosjean who managed to take his season tally of race laps from four to sixty and in the process save some face for Lotus.
What else did we learn today? Well, Mercedes and Michael Schumacher showed us that no matter how hard you might try to eliminate human error in racing, it will always play its role. Those wheel guns might have sensors in them, but it still takes a bloke to stick it on the nut straight. And it takes even more of a bloke, with as much skin in the game as Michael Schumacher, to shrug his shoulders and say “it happens”.
Then again he must sense now that race win number 92 might not be far away.