Germany’s Nico Rosberg celebrated the first victory of his Formula One career with a commanding pole-to-flag win for Mercedes in China yesterday.
While the son of 1982 champion Keke Rosberg sprayed the champagne to mark the end of an 111-race wait, the German manufacturer rolled back the decades to savor its first Grand Prix success as a works team since 1955.
“Brilliant race, Nico. Just brilliant,” yelled team principal Ross Brawn over the radio as the 26-year-old let out a long and loud whoop of delight after taking the checkered flag.
Britain’s Jenson Button finished a distant second for Mercedes-powered McLaren, 20.6 seconds behind, with teammate and compatriot Lewis Hamilton third for the third race in a row to take the championship lead.
Hamilton now has 45 points after three races to Button’s 43. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who had led before Shanghai, finished ninth and dropped to third overall with 37.
Rosberg’s victory was the first by Mercedes, as a works team, since 1955, when Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio won that year’s season-ending Italian Grand Prix from pole.
Mercedes pulled out of Formula One as a works team in 1955 and did not return, other than as an engine partner, until 2010 after buying the title-winning Brawn team.
While Rosberg celebrated, drenching Mercedes motorsport vice president Norbert Haug in champagne on the podium with the eager assistance of Button and Hamilton, there was disappointment for teammate Michael Schumacher.
The seven-time world champion, winner of a record 91 races, had started alongside Rosberg on the front row, but the 43-year-old’s hopes of a first podium appearance since he was at Ferrari in 2006 disappeared on lap 13 after a pit stop.
To the despair of the mechanic on the front right wheel, Schumacher was given the signal to go before the nut was attached properly. He rejoined the race before having to pull off and retire.
“The front wheel got a bit loose, but I don’t know what happened. I feel a bit sorry for one of my boys, but that’s part of the game,” Schumacher said philosophically.
Button’s hopes of a second win in three races were also dashed in the pits when the crew struggled with the rear left wheel, losing vital seconds, during his third and final stop.
Australian Mark Webber was fourth for Red Bull, with double world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel fifth after starting 11th, his lowest grid placing since 2009.
Frenchman Romain Grosjean took his first points for Lotus with sixth place, ahead of the Williams cars of Brazilian Bruno Senna and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.
Sauber’s Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi took the final point in 10th place.