Chinese Grand Prix 2012

/ Commentary

Race

Hello and welcome to ESPNF1's live coverage of the Chinese Grand Prix. If you've got other plans for today, drop them, you don't want to miss this...

Nico Rosberg will start from pole position for the first time in his career, and the first pole for Mercedes since 1955. Lining up alongside him is Michael Schumacher, who is also on the front row for the first time since his return to Formula One. Will one of them be able to convert their position in to victory?

The 'Double DRS' clearly helped Mercedes in qualifying, but it's yet to do so in the race. Waiting to strike directly behind are Kobayashi and Raikkonen, with both Sauber and Lotus having displayed good race pace so far this season, so we could see a surprise from one of those two.

What of McLaren and Red Bull? Well Button starts fifth and Webber sixth, so there's still the potential for one of the usual suspects to take victory. Button struggled to get heat in to his tyres yesterday but the McLaren has looked good on longer runs. Similarly Red Bull has had good race pace so far this season, so we're looking as far back as Lewis Hamilton in seventh for potential winners.

If you want to get in touch with us during the race with your predictions, comments or questions then you can do so either using the link above or via Twitter @ESPNF1

Weather-wise, Mercedes is hoping for cooler temperatures and overcast conditions to help its tyre wear. At the moment that's exactly what we've got, and there's been no talk of rain so far

Lewis and Kimi have been sharing a joke on the grid, and Hamilton seems very relaxed despite starting seventh after a grid penalty. He got his tyres working much better than Button yesterday so he'll be confident no matter what the conditions


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It feels strange not to have mentioned Vettel yet, but he's not even starting in the top ten. Having switched to the old-specification Red Bull exhaust he seems more confident in the car even if it isn't quite as quick as Webber's solution, so expect him to move forward from 11th

Also quick - if he makes it through the opening few laps - is Grosjean in 10th. He could make life difficult for Vettel behind and Alonso directly in front. There's so many intruiging battles up and down the field, and if the two Mercedes hold up the pack then it could keep any one of the drivers I've mentioned in contention. Can you tell I'm excited?

We're almost ready for the formation lap, and Jean-Eric Vergne will not take part in it as he is starting from the pit lane. If the grid confuses you slightly, Hamilton did set the second fastest time in qualifying but a gearbox change has seen him demoted to seventh, while everyone who had qualified behind Vergne moves up a spot

Tyre news: Massa is the highest-place starter on medium tyres, while Senna also has medium tyres on his Williams and both Toro Rosso's have gone for mediums too

We're away on the formation lap and Zuba has emailed in asking: "If Kobayashi does well today--will someone finally take notice, and think about offering him a top 3 car?"

I think if Kobayashi does well today in a dry race then he probably is already in a top three car!

Rosberg leads the pack back on to the grid. Slowly.

Green flag at the back, the lights are on... and we're away!

Lap 1

Rosberg leads away well, poor start for Kobayashi and a great one for Button. Button up to third, Raikkonen holds fourth and Hamilton gets up to fifth. Kobayashi loses out to Perez too for sixth. Awful start for Vettel, he's 15th

Lap 2

At the end of the first lap Rosberg leads by 0.7s from Schumacher, and the Mercedes have started well as Button is over a second behind already. Replays show Senna running in to the back of Massa in to turn one but only slight damage to his front wing

Lap 3

Rosberg pulling away at the front, now leads by 1.1s. Schumacher has gapped Button by 1.6s too. Raikkonen is putting pressure on Button, while Perez is close behind Hamilton

Lap 4

A good start for Kovalainen up to 16th. Vettel is still down in 14th. Rosberg just seems quicker than Schumacher at the moment - 2 seconds the gap now - whith Button 1.4s behind and Raikkonen within a second. DRS is enabled as well

Lap 5

Schumacher starting to drop back from Rosberg, he's now 2.6s back and Button has taken 0.2s out of him

Lap 6

Rosberg is some 0.3s quicker than Schumacher in sector one. I wonder if Schumacher is attempting to look after his tyres a bit more...

The top eight have all done lap times within 0.2s of each other. This is going to be some race. Webber pits at the end of the lap having been stuck behind Alonso

Lap 7

Webber straight on to the medium compound. Rosberg is easing away even more, the gap is substantial on the back straight. At the end of the lap he's 3.5s ahead of Schumacher

Lap 8

Schumacher starting to back up the field a touch. Three seconds between him in second and Perez in sixth.

DRS doesn't appear to be working too well right now, but so many cars are in a line that they are all getting to use it

Lap 9

Webber with the fastest lap on his medium tyre - 0.6s quicker than Rosberg. He's right behind Petrov and Vergne though.

Rosberg leads by 4.1s, while the Sauber pit crew are ready...

Lap 10

And it's Kobayashi who pits. Vettel is in too having not made any progress. Medium tyres for both. Hulkenberg pits for a new front wing.

Raikkonen right on the back of Button now as Schumacher pulls away a touch

Lap 11

Raikkonen and Hamilton pit together...

...and Hamilton wins the race out of the pits! Webber comes around the outside of them both in to turn one, Hamilton comes out ahead but Raikkonen loses out to Webber eventually. Hamilton put on softs but it's mediums for Kimi

Lap 12

Button pits for softs. Hamilton, Webber and Raikkonen dispatch Ricciardo. Kobayashi close behind Raikkonen now too as Vettel sets the fastest lap

Lap 13

Schumacher and Alonso pit. Mercedes not really having any issues with tyre wear. It is having problems getting them off though and Schumacher loses a place to Button! His front right is the problem, and a mechanic slaps the floor...

...Schumacher parks the car. I think his front righ wasn't on properly

Lap 14

Rosberg pits for medium tyres. No such problems there though and he stays ahead of Button. Currently it's Perez and Massa leading.

Alonso close behind Raikkonen for seventh. Perez's pace is pretty good on his first set of tyres. He leads Massa by 7.4s and Rosberg by 12s

Lap 15

Raikkonen is still stuck behind Webber, and you feel he is a real contender for this race if he can clear the Red Bull

Lap 16

Rosberg sets the fastest lap and is within 2.8s of Massa.

Replays showing the mechanic trying to put the front right on and waving frantically as Schumacher pulls away, so it was the front right that was the problem

Lap 17

Perez pits from the lead and comes out between Grosjean and Vettel. He's on to the mediums.

Massa now leads but it won't be for long - Rosberg is right behind him and uses the double DRS to ease in to the lead

Lap 18

Rosberg leads Massa, with Button 4.1s off the lead. Hamilton is 6s behind Rosberg, Webber 8.5 back and Raikkonen and Alonso within 11s of the leader

Perez and Grosjean battling for ninth place, and the Lotus defends well. They're closing in on Kobayashi too

Lap 19

Massa pits for another set of medium tyres and he rejoins back in 14th

Rosberg continues to set fast laps and now leads by 4.4s

Perez makes an error at turn seven and Vettel is through in to 10th place

Lap 20

Rosberg is continuing to set a good pace and now leads by 4.7s from Button. Hamilton is 2.1s behind his team-mate and then there's a good battle between Webber, Raikkonen and Alonso

Now everyone has pitted there is only 24s between the top 14 cars. Such a close field we have here

Lap 21

Di Resta and Maldonado fighting over 12th, and the Williams stays ahead in to turn one. Massa is right behind him too.

Webber goes a bit wide at the hairpin and Raikkonen follows him. Webber then pits for another set of medium tyres. Time to see what pace Kimi has now...

Lap 22

Alonso is close behind Raikkonen but both are quicker now they have clear air. Hamilton pits for McLaren and puts on medium tyres

Lap 23

Hamilton rejoins between Massa and Webber. That's 13th place right now. Webber is clearly the quickest man on the track now on fresh rubber

Lap 24

Raikkonen matching the pace at the front now, he takes 0.2s out of Button on that lap. Webber with the fastest lap, 1.3s quicker than the leader.

Hamilton is stuck behind Massa now, so he's losing out on the immediate performance of his new tyres

Lap 25

Button pits for medium tyres. He's a bit out of sync having run the softs and rejoins behind Maldonado in 10th place. They battle through turns seven and eight - the high-speed change of direction - but Maldonado holds on. He's powerless to defend in the DRS zone though and Button is through

Lap 26

Kobayashi pits. Raikkonen currently second and just taking a few tenths out of Rosberg's lead.

Hamilton passes Massa up the inside in to turn six - a clean move! He needed that, and now Webber will want to do the same, quickly

Lap 27

Button passes Senna for seventh using DRS and then sets the fastest lap. 1.6s quicker than Rosberg.

Hamilton v di Resta using DRS, and Hamilton is through in to tenth place

Webber follows Hamilton's lead and passes Massa up the inside of turn six

Lap 28

Alonso pits and puts on soft tyres. He's back out behind Massa.

Webber passes di Resta in turn two, and he's quickly after Hamilton.

Perez defending from Button, but Jenson gets a good drive on to the main straight and uses DRS to get by in to the hairpin. Up to fifth place

Lap 29

Raikkonen pits for medium tyres and he's lost out badly. He's rejoined in 13th behind Alonso. It's not going to shake out until the final stint, as different teams are pitting at completely different times

Lap 30

Rosberg continues, and I'm starting to wonder if Mercedes is hoping to two-stop... Button is catching him quickly but is stuck behind third-place Vettel right now. Button uses DRS to pass.

Massa is told to get out of Alonso's way as he is on a different strategy, and does so in to the hairpin

Lap 31

Rosberg leads Grosjean by 15.7s and the Lotus is taking over half a second a lap out of the leader. Alonso passes di Resta for ninth place

Lap 32

Vettel pits and puts on the medium tyre. He'll probably be trying to go to the end on that set.

Grosjean has got the gap down to 14.7s but he's got Button right behind him and he pits as Button sets the fastest lap

Lap 33

Button took over 2 seconds out of Rosberg on that lap and his engineer says to him "we are going to win this race Jenson". Hamilton is still stuck behind Perez who is third now, and Webber is also in that battle

Lap 34

Rosberg stays out, and Button takes another 2 seconds out of his lead. Both need to stop again, and the gap is down to 12.3s.

Webber tries to pass Hamilton around the outside of turn six but Hamilton defends well. Perez with a big lockup and Hamilton is close behind out on to the main straight

Lap 35

Rosberg pits, as does Webber. Perez keeps locking up but still keeps Hamilton behind. That's an early stop from Rosberg if he wants to go to the end of the race...

Alonso now all over the back of Hamilton because of Perez's slow pace

Lap 36

Perez pits after another big lockup, and the battle becomes Hamilton v Alonso. McLaren on mediums and Ferrari on softs.

Button leads by 9.5s, but even if Rosberg needs to pit again too he could win if he's quicker on these tyres

Lap 37

And Rosberg takes almost a second out of Button on that lap. The gap is now 8.6s. Vettel is eighth and stuck behind Kobayashi and Raikkonen.

First to ninth are within 25 seconds of each other, with only Massa in there who hasn't pitted twice.

Webber runs wide coming on to the long back straight and as he hits a bump the front end lifts high in the air. He's fortunate that the car doesn't get airborne and can continue. New pants needed I suspect

Lap 38

The gap at the front is now eight seconds between Button and Rosberg. Hamilton is 13.2s off the lead but can't shake off Alonso

Lap 39

Hamilton and Alonso pit at the same time, and good stops from both mean they rejoin in that same order. Kobayashi also pitted so they've come out in 10th and 11th places.

Massa holding up Raikkonen, Vettel and Grosjean from fifth backwards

Lap 40

Button pits, so Rosberg is back in the lead with 16 laps to go. Slow stop for Button! He's behind Massa, Raikkonen, Vettel and Grosjean! It was the left rear that wasn't going on, and that looks to have cost him the race.

Button dispatches Grosjean with ease before the back straight, Vettel up next

Lap 41

Rosberg leads by 19.1s from Massa (who needs to pit again). The race is his if he can make it to the end on these tyres

Lap 42

Massa pits, so Raikkonen is now second and Vettel third. Second to 12th are in a line covered by seven seconds.

So much going on! Hamilton passes Maldonado in to turn six, he's now eighth

Lap 43

Hamilton on the move and he's passed Senna in turn six as well. Alonso tries around the outside of Maldonado in to seven and runs wide on the marbles, takes to the grass and almost wipes out Perez as he rejoins. That promotes Perez to 10th

Lap 44

It's all relative when I say 'closing in' as they're all so close together, but Hamilton is on the back of Webber for sixth

Lap 45

Raikkonen and Vettel edging away from Button. Webber passes Grosjean in to turn six and Grosjean gets the better exit to try to hit back through turn seven. He has the same problem as Alonso though and runs off the track. He's back on behind Senna.

Barging between Grosjean and Maldonado through turns 12 and 13, and then Perez has a go at them both. Maldonado brakes latest in to the hairpin but Grosjean gets the undercut and regains the place on exit

Lap 46

Alonso dives up the inside of Perez in to turn two for 10th place. Great racing from eighth backwards

Lap 47

Button is struggling now as the track temperature drops. Webber close behind him and then Hamilton too

Lap 48

Rosberg leads by 25 seconds. Hamilton tries to pass Webber up the inside in to turns one and two but Webber just holds on.

Vettel dummies Raikkonen and gets past around the outside before turn seven, and Raikkonen runs wide on to the marbles. Button gets through, then Hamilton does using DRS in to the hairpin. Webber passes Raikkonen on exit before Senna and Grosjean pass him in to turns one and two.

Lap 49

Replays show Hamilton and Webber battling in to the hairpin before all that too. Raikkonen's tyres have had it. Both Sauber's pass him using DRS but almost run each other off the road!

Lap 50

Raikkonen's gone from second to 12th in less than two laps. Vettel is now second - 25 seconds behind Rosberg - with Button right behind him. Hamilton is 2.2s behind his team-mate. Vettel has been on these tyres for 19 laps so far

Lap 51

Raikkonen's laps had done 22 laps before giving up. Vettel needs to do 25 to see the end of the race...

Kovalainen sat in the pits for a long time. Interestingly, Petov has yet to be lapped in the other Caterham

Lap 52

Button dives up the inside of Vettel for second place in to the hairpin having used DRS. A good move under braking but Vettel is not dropping back too quickly yet. I say that, Hamilton is now close behind him.

Lap 53

Webber also catching Vettel, but the world champion defended for so long against Button that it won't be easy for either Hamilton or Webber to get by. All three are within a second

Lap 54

Kimi has dropped back to 14th behind di Resta and Massa. Alonso in ninth is all over the back of Maldonado in eighth, with Kobayashi and Perez right behind. Grosjean is sixth but 3.4s behind Webber.

Lap 55

Hamilton is through as he takes Vettel in to the hairpin. Vettel battles back through to turn one but Hamilton holds on as Webber climbs all over the back of the pair of them. Plenty of praise for Rosberg on email already, don't count your chickens!

Lap 56

On to the last lap and Webber has got by Vettel for fourth on the exit of the hairpin.

All eyes now turn to Rosberg who is three corners from victory...

Rosberg cruises round and wins the Chinese Grand Prix! He punches the air in delight as he secures his maiden victory. A fantastic drive, and he screams over the radio. Anyone who doubted his credentials have been emphatically answered.

Button comes home second and Hamilton third to make it an all-Mercedes podium. Button seems happy enough on the radio, "a good result" he says. Webber is fourth ahead of Vettel, who is just one second ahead of Grosjean in sixth place. Another good drive from Senna to seventh ahead of Maldonado, Alonso and Kobayashi

Norbert Haug is celebrating in parc ferme, and he's joined by Rosberg who stands on his car and enjoys the applause. An emotional hug between Haug and Rosberg, before Rosberg jumps in to the mechanics in celebration.

Haug is so happy that he's still in parc ferme congratulating every driver that comes in. Hamilton looks happier than Button with his result, although that might have something to do with the fact that he's pleased for his friend's victory

The drivers compare stories after being weighed, with Button and Hamilton describing the eight-car battle they were in for second place

Rosberg walks out on to the podium and salutes the crowd as the German national anthem rings out for him. He lifts his trophy above his head and has a huge smile on his face. Button looks pleased with second now, while it's a third consecutive third place for Hamilton.

As the champagne sprays it's time for us to bid you farewell. What an enthralling race, and surprisingly it was the Mercedes that was easiest on its tyres all afternoon. A richly deserved victory for Rosberg, and what a championship we have on our hands - three races and three different winners from three different teams. What will happen in Bahrain? Hopefully all of the headlines will be about the racing, join us next weekend to find out. Stay on ESPNF1.com and keep an eye on our Twitter feed for all the reaction from today. Thanks for joining us.