The Shanghai International Circuit has staged 14 consecutive races since joining the Formula 1® calendar in 2004. Frequent wet weather coupled with a track that is notoriously hard on tyres and brakes has thrown up plenty of memorable moments in the Chinese Grand Prix over the years. Here’s four of them.
Michael Schumacher’s Final F1® Win
Schumi’s dominance of the sport with Ferrari was slowly coming to an end when the Chinese Grand Prix debuted on the calendar in late 2004, and the champ didn’t exactly cover himself in glory with his first two races in Shanghai. Schumacher started the 2004 Chinese Grand Prix from the pit lane after a spin in qualifying. Following a collision with Christian Klein’s Jaguar, a further spin and a puncture, the German went on to a miserable 12th place finish, his first non-podium finish of the year.
Things didn’t improve in 2005 when Schumacher carelessly weaved into the path of Christijan Albers’ Minardi on the warm-up lap, causing significant damage to both cars. Schumacher started the race in the spare car, but spun out from tenth place on lap 22.
The 2006 Chinese Grand Prix was the third-to-last race of the season and Schumacher was locked in a close fight with Fernando Alonso for the driver’s title. After a rain-affected qualifying session, Schumacher could only manage sixth on the grid as Alonso took pole. Rain fell again before the start of the race, neutralizing Alonso’s advantage and allowing the German to stage a comeback on a drying track. Before the second round of pitstops, Schumacher seized his opportunity to pass Alonso, who was struggling with tyre issues, going on to take his 91st and final Grand Prix victory. Alonso had the last laugh however, taking the 2006 World Championship after Schumacher retired from the next round in Japan.
Mistake Costs Hamilton Dearly
Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver in the Chinese Grand Prix, with five wins to his name, but his first visit to the Shanghai International Circuit in 2007 is remembered for all the wrong reasons.
In his rookie year, Hamilton was leading a three-way fight for the driver’s crown with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen coming into the penultimate round in Shanghai on October 7. Hamilton claimed pole and took the early lead in the race on a wet track, then followed team orders from McLaren to stay out on the same set of intermediate tyres as the track rapidly began to dry. When Hamilton finally got the call to pit, his tyres were so badly worn that he slid off the track on the pit entry. Hamilton’s race was finished and Kimi Räikkönen took the win. The Finn followed up with another victory two weeks later in Brazil to snatch the driver’s championship from Hamilton’s grasp by just one point.
Red Bull Claims its First Victory
Brawn GP ended 2009 as the dominant team, but Red Bull also made a good fist of the new regulations that came into force that year. Sebastian Vettel took pole for the third race of the season in Shanghai. The race was forced to run behind the safety car for the first eight laps due to heavy rain, but once underway, Vettel and teammate Mark Webber kept out of trouble and performed strongly in the tricky conditions to finish one-two. It wasn’t Vettel’s first win of course, as he had taken the spoils for Toro Rosso in the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, which was also rain affected. Vettel would go on to record 38 victories and four consecutive driver’s titles for Red Bull between 2010 and 2013.
First Mercedes Win For 57 Years
Mercedes were a dominant force in the early years of the modern Formula One® World Championship but left the sport after a terrible crash at Le Mans in 1955, which killed more than 80 spectators. It wasn’t until 2010 that Mercedes decided to return to Formula 1® as a constructor, persuading Michael Schumacher out of retirement to drive alongside Nico Rosberg.
The team finished fourth in the constructors championship behind Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, mainly thanks to some strong performances from Nico Rosberg, who finished on the podium three times and resoundingly beat his more experienced teammate. Mercedes achieved the same championship position in 2011, and it wasn’t until the third race of 2012 that Mercedes’ fortunes turned around. Rosberg took pole for the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix and Schumacher lined up beside him on the front row. Schumacher retired early with a wheel issue, but Rosberg benefitted from a superior two-stop race strategy to lead throughout and win by 20 seconds from Jenson Button’s McLaren. It was a maiden win for Rosberg and the first Mercedes victory in Formula 1 since Juan Manuel Fangio won the 1955 Italian Grand Prix at Monza!
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