In its fifth season and 74th race, Red Bull was added to the list of Formula One winning teams when Sebastian Vettel mastered a wet track for a start-to-finish victory in the Chinese Grand Prix yesterday.
Having finally broken through for victory, Red Bull could also celebrate a one-two finish as Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber notched his best ever finish.
Brawn GP’s Jenson Button was third at the Shanghai International Circuit, stretching his championship lead to six points over teammate Rubens Barrichello, who was fourth.
Red Bull’s 1-2, elevating it to second in the constructors’ championship, was a credit to the team’s crew, who had to fix a driveshaft problem that blighted the cars in Saturday’s practice, restricting their running in qualifying.
“It was a fantastic strategy and extremely good effort by the team to get both cars reliable after the trouble we had yesterday,” said Vettel, who had his second career win after triumphing in similarly wet conditions in Italy last year. “Its an enormous job by all of Red Bull.”
The exultation in the Red Bull garage was in severe contrast to the gloom at Ferrari, which again finished out of the points, making it their worst start to a season since 1981. Felipe Massa had an electrical failure, while Kimi Raikkonen was 10th.
“We need to stay cool,” Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said. “There is no reason to get in a panic mode because that would be worse.”
Ferrari rival McLaren had its best showing of the year, with Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton fifth and sixth, respectively, ahead of Toyota’s Timo Glock. The trio all benefited from a strategy that required only one pit stop while most others had two. Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi was eighth.
“I made a few too many mistakes today,” Hamilton said. “This afternoon was a real struggle but I’m glad I got some points for the team.”
Vettel effectively led all race, but his drive was not without drama. The German survived being hit from behind by Buemi while coasting behind the safety car about one-third into the race, and also had to contend with a track made treacherous by standing water.
“It was close sometimes to keep the car on the track, especially entering turn one sometimes there was a bit of a river running down the track and you just lost the car, snapped oversteer, just caught it and hoped for the tires to stick again,” Vettel said.
Webber and Button had an entertaining scrap mid-race, with three passing maneuvers. The Australian eventually prevailed with an impressive pass around the outside on the seventh turn, which he described as “one of the best moves of my career.”
“It was incredible to get the car home,” Webber said. “To get maximum points after the missed opportunity in Australia and Malaysia, its a great day for the team.”
Though Brawn now has a real rival in the championship races, Button was pleased to get another podium position in the conditions, where visibility was poor due to the spray when trailing cars.
“It’s very, very scary in a way,” Button said. “Being third ... is such a relief and such a great feeling to come away with these points.”
Ross Brawn, the eponymous boss of the Brawn GP team, admitted they had been outpaced by Red Bull.
He explained that Button and Barrichello had struggled to keep their tires warm in the cold, wet and windy conditions.