Rosberg records first win in China as Button and Hamilton complete podium line-up
09:14 GMT, 15 April 2012
Nico Rosberg took the chequered flag for the first time in his Formula One career to give Mercedes their first victory since the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio in 1955.
After claiming pole in his 111th grand prix on Saturday, Rosberg enjoyed a relatively smooth ride in winning the Chinese Grand Prix, even after losing team-mate Michael Schumacher early on after a pit-stop error.
Behind the 26-year-old German, however, it proved to be a real battle for the other placings, with Jenson Button claiming second ahead of McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Leader of the pack: Nico Rosberg won his first grand prix in China
CHINESE GRAND PRIX
Click here for the full result
Hamilton has now taken over leadership of the standings by two points from Button – 45 compared to 43 – with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso third, eight points adrift.
Appreciably, Rosberg and the Mercedes team were ecstatic as he crossed the line 20.6secs clear of Button, with Hamilton 5.3secs further down the road at the Shanghai International Circuit.
With Mercedes starting on the front row – courtesy of Hamilton's five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change – the start was as comfortable as could be as the duo filed away in procession once the five red lights disappeared to signal the start.
The hopes of a double for Mercedes in the race, however, came crashing down on lap 14 within moments of Schumacher's first pit stop.
Chase is on: Jenson Button closes in on Michael Schumacher in China
It should have been routine, but
instead Schumacher was released when the front-right nut had seemingly
not been fitted correctly, the member of the pit crew in that position
slapping the ground in frustration once the seven-time champion had
Just 30 seconds later Schumacher was
trundling off the circuit, the disappointment obvious in his voice as he
said: 'Nothing I could do guys. Out of the race.'
The stewards are to launch an investigation post-race into the incident, citing an unsafe release.
At that stage Schumacher was acting as a buffer in second place, allowing Rosberg to build up a small time cushion whilst Button, Raikkonen and Hamilton loomed large behind him.
On the hunt: Lewis Hamilton came through from seventh to finish third in China
The two Britons were the prime movers at the start, with the duo both making up two places as Button elevated himself from fifth to third and Hamilton from seventh to fifth.
Behind them the Red Bulls went backwards as Mark Webber fell from sixth to ninth and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel losing four places in falling to 15th.
That had followed his worst qualifying performance yesterday for 42 races, starting outside the top 10 for the first time since the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2009.
Beyond Schumacher's pit-stop calamity, it proved plain sailing for Rosberg as Mercedes were able to control the race from the front, covering their rivals' pit stops.
Depair: Michael Schumacher was an early casualty in China having started on the front row
For some, like Rosberg, it was two stops, others such as Button, Hamilton and Webber in fourth, it was three.
In leading from the front Rosberg had the edge and one of F1's master tacticians in team principal Ross Brawn could make the right calls.
With Rosberg running away with it at the front, the closing laps were a frenetic affair, with Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen dropping like a stone on worn stones, finishing 14th after running second with five to play.
It was a similar story for Vettel as he too was up to second late on, but in quick succession he was overtaken by Button, Hamilton and Webber to wind up fifth, albeit improvement on his starting position.