Fernando Alonso roared to a dominant victory in the Chinese Grand Prix yesterday to give Ferrari their first victory of the Formula One season.
In a dry race dictated by tire choices and frequent pit stops, the Spaniard beat Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen by 10.1 seconds to make amends for crashing out of the previous race in Malaysia.
Lewis Hamilton completed a trio of world champions on the podium with third place for Mercedes after the Briton started in pole position.
The win was Alonso’s second in China, where red is regarded as the color of good fortune, and his first since Germany in July last year. It was also the 31st victory of his career — taking him to fourth in the all-time list alongside Britain’s 1992 champion Nigel Mansell.
“The team did a perfect job with the setup of the car,” said Alonso, who is now third in the overall standings on 43 points after three races — six points behind Raikkonen and nine adrift of Red Bull’s triple world champion Sebastian Vettel. “It was a fantastic race for us from the start.”
Raikkonen had started second on the grid, but made a slow getaway and was immediately passed by both Ferraris. The Finn fell to fourth spot, before battling back through the many pit stops and despite a broken front wing.
Vettel finished fourth, just 0.2 seconds behind Hamilton after a thrilling chase to the checkered flag, with McLaren’s Jenson Button fifth to ensure five champions in the top five places.
“We’re not quite there yet, but we’re not so far away,” Mercedes principal Ross Brawn, whose team won in China from pole last year with Nico Rosberg, told Hamilton over the radio.
The Briton could at least feel buoyed with his second successive podium finish for the team he joined from McLaren at the end of last season, while Rosberg failed to finish.
There was more agony for Red Bull’s Mark Webber, who started from the pit lane after running out of fuel in Saturday’s qualifying session.
The Australian lasted just 18 of the 56 laps, pitting twice and breaking his front wing in a collision with the Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso of Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne.
The afternoon was in stark contrast to the previous Malaysian Grand Prix, which he led until Vettel ignored instructions from the pit wall not to overtake and denied him victory.
The feud between the teammates was the talk of the Shanghai paddock in the buildup to the race, but they never came close to racing each other, let alone being in a position for Webber to exact any revenge.
The nearest it came to any drama was when Vettel almost hit Webber’s loose rear wheel as he rounded the turn 14 hairpin and found it bouncing in front of him.