Race Notes: Chinese Grand Prix 2009

Apologies for the delay, I’m in the final phase of studying so there will be frequent delays on the blog until mid-June. Sorry! I watched this race live albeit away from my computer so I did not take notes live – I am watching this again on Friday night with a beer.

2009 Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix
Circuit: Shanghai International Circuit
Location: Shanghai, China
Coverage: BBC One (via iPlayer)
56 laps

Anchor: Jake Humphrey
Analysts in the paddock: David Coulthard and Mike Gascoyne (standing-in for Eddie Jordan)
Race commentary: Jonathan Legard and Martin Brundle
Pit and paddock reports: Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie

** Disclaimer – These are notes taken during the race. They may or may not make any sense and I have only edited them for brevity, punctuation and grammar. **

BBC coverage is GO with classic opener, The Chain!

Unexpected rain in China! Rain was forecast to arrive some time after the race and here we are and it is wet.

Jake Humphrey the tallest TV anchor ever is live in the empty-looking Shanghai pitlane with David Coulthard and Mike Gascoyne, famed F1 car designer and possibly the shortest man in F1.

Light rain and fairly heavy gusts of wind as the guys talk and recap the points.

Top Drivers:
Button 15
Rubens 10
Trulli 8.5
Glock 8

Top Teams:
Brawn 25
Toyota 16.5
BMW 4
Renault 4

Crazy half-points awarded last time out in the rain-shortened Malaysian GP. First time we’ve done the half-points thing in 20 years or something. I forget the exact number of years.

Qualifying report with Lee McKenzie. Highlights:
– It wasn’t raining then.
– Kubica out in Q1.
– Hamilton thanks the team for improving the car, “we’re gradually catching up”.
– Vettel on pole, Alonso 2nd.
– Alonso is light.
– Start order:

Vettel, Alonso
Webber, Rubens
Button, Trulli
Rosberg, Kimi
Lewis, Buemi
Heidfeld, Kova
Massa, Nakajima
Bourdais, Piquet
Kubica, Sutil
Glock (penalty), Fisi

Onboard with Vettel on his one and only lap in Q3, his pole lap described by Martin Brundle. Seb is on fire, brilliant lap.
Recorded segment with Coulthard talking to Webber and Vettel – Seb is in David’s old seat!
Seb: “We did not expect we would be that strong in qualifying.”
Mark: “I spoke to an aerodynamicist and he was in tears at the qualifying result, they had such a hard job over the winter.”

Back with Jake and DC says he’s extremely proud of the team, he had four seasons working with them and developing the cars.

The pitlane is getting busier as we go to Ted and a news roundup:
– Ron Dennis out of the McLaren F1 team, moves over to the ‘automotive’ side.
– Martin Whitmarsh saying they are changing the culture of the business.
– Diffuser update: Now they are legal, McLaren and Renault have brought some to test in China.
– Ferrari: 2 races, zero points. Kimi has given up on the WDC but thinks they can win races later in the year. No KERS for Ferrari in China after reliability issues in Malaysia.
– BMW will not have KERS because they don’t think it provides enough benefit in China.

Wow look at all that news, Ted rocks!

Package: Martin Brundle talking tyre terminology. Graining, marbles. Oh only 30 seconds? BBC going for 101 short and sharp packages before the race. Straight into a recorded chat with Jake and Jenson Button. If they are going too quickly to note it down, how are we supposed to listen to it?

This section is quite long actually. JB says they tested the car pre-season – later than everyone else – and it was fastest by six tenths, “which was quite nice”.

David Coulthard and Mike Gascoyne both agree that JB will win the title this year. Mike says Jenson has matured a lot in the years since he drove for Mike at Renault in 2002.

Martin’s Track Guide but you can go back to my China Preview to see an onboard so I’ll save some space here.

Jake, Martin and Mike are walking along pitlane and through the gate on to the grid. Walking and talking at the same time! These guys are talented. There are 30 minutes until the race starts and the cars are now leaving pit lane.

The main grandstand is full. I’m not sure if that’s a good sign or if the organisers bussed them in – it has been known at this venue in the past.

Gascoyne mentions that ‘Alonso is very light, could be Flav going for some attention.’ (paraphrased) I laugh because Mike used to work for Flav!

Martin Brundle is on the grid and joins the trio. He was hiding under an umbrella while the guys are unprotected. They joke.

Martin: These installation laps to the grid are the first laps they’ve done in the wet all weekend. There is no practice or warmup before the race these days.
DC: I’d want to do an extra lap of prep if I had the fuel available to do so.
Mike: Did your engineer ever tell you to ‘stay cool baby’?
DC: I never had that intimate a relationship with my engineer.

I already think Mike should permanently replace EJ in this role.

Lewis on his out-lap to the grid. A LOT of spray and standing water.

Martin collars DC and they BOTH do the Gridwalk!!

MB: There’s a Renault guy here with Red Bull because they supply engines, where do his loyalties lie?
DC: With Red Bull because he works for Red Bull, he supplies the engine. They’re delighted with pole. Renault are very fair with their supply. The guys trying to butt in on Kai Ebel of German TV who is interviewing Vettel! Kai backs out.
SV: We have the fuel on board, everyone knows. We are in quite early compared to others.
(A Premiere mike appears.)
DC: Why do you name your cars? Your cars are female I presume?
SV: Yes they are always female. You should have a good relationship.. I don’t know. You respect her and you try to treat her well, anyway you are the man for when it comes to women, so..
Martin pulls DC away before he can reply and they make a beeline for Alonso’s Renault.

Martin trying to pushing his way through and interrupts some other language broadcaster who is waiting her turn patiently. “We booked months ago, honestly!”
FA: We have a completely different race now in these conditions. We go for some points, we see how many.

Martin doesn’t like the qualifying system. Fuel-corrected Barrichello is on pole because if you adjust it for the weight they carried, he was fastest.

Guys darting from car to car looking for people, asks Steve at McLaren (ex-Autosport man) where Lewis is. He’s in the garage. DC – it means he’s in the toilet doesn’t it.

That was The.Best.Gridwalk.Ever. I hope someone capped it on to YouTube, I will look for it later.

Ted reports on his analysis of when everyone will stop which is fantastically awesome for a dry race but I really don’t think it means anything in a wet race.
Back live and Ted has found that Toyota have elected to start Glock from the pitlane. May as well, they were at the back after a penalty for a gearbox change. Briatore doesn’t look happy.

Ted with Pat Symonds of Renault – we have a Safety Car start due to the wet conditions. He says it’s the worse thing that could have happened to them because they were light.

Ultra-rapid editing turnaround as we get a montage of cars and personnel on the grid. I’ve never seen editing as fast as these little packages before we hit the World Feed. Stunning.

WORLD FEED – we join Jonathan Legard and the FOM-supplied pictures

JL: In the year of the ox, how appropriate is it that there’s a Red Bull in a China shop?

Lots of water streaming off the main buildings.

We have a Safety Car start so there will be NO FORMATION LAP. When the green light is lit we will be on lap one immediately.

MB – Bit underwhelmed to get up to the comm box and see it is a Safety Car start quite honestly, these are the best drivers in the world. The car I want to be in is the Red Bull, it seems the best balanced for the conditions.

We missed the Chinese national anthem, I think we were in the gridwalk at the time. No mention in the coverage. I’m not fussed about anthems per se, I just like to hear it as part of the atmosphere of the event and the build up to the race, as if you were in the stands. I guess being on the grid is just a little bit more interesting so I won’t complain 🙂

START ORDER
Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Barrichello, Button, Trulli, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Buemi, Heidfeld, Kovalainen, Massa, Nakajima, Bourdais, Piquet, Sutil, Fisichella
Electing to start from pitlane: Kubica and Glock

GREEN LIGHT
Bernd Maylander in the Mercedes AMG Safety Car leads the field away from the grid. Under wet start rules we are now GO Go go in a very underwhelming manner.

56 to go (56/56)
(I’m doing laps to go this week, usually I take the current lap from the live timing counter but I’m watching this on Friday!)

Onboard camera inside the SC, all smiles in there. Guys make the point that if you rode with Bernd you’d get out breathless, it only looks pedestrian compared to F1 cars.

One SC lap gone. Martin says they’ll bring it in pretty soon. Legard says conditions aren’t getting better but they are not getting worse.
Martin says the issue here is aquaplaning, skimming over the water not in control of the car.
Button radio – visibility is very very bad, got aquaplaning.
Ted Kravitz – both Williams drivers can’t conceive of the SC coming in yet.

We can only see three cars coming down the straight at any one time, so much spray. Not Fuji 2007 levels but pretty bad. Similar to Malaysia without the darkness!

54/56 – JL congratulates to Kovalainen for completing a lap!
Vettel radio – there is water on the track but it is okay, we’ve had worse in the past.
Martin agrees but also says the F1 aero and downforce doesn’t work until 70mph so the spray isn’t clearing as well and car temperatures are down. Massa went off track.

53/56 – Rosberg radio: aquaplaning on the main straight.
Martin calls up Mike in the BBC area of the paddock, what’s going on at the pitwall?
“The guys light on fuel haven’t got long left so shall I rejig my strategy and pit now? Those front 3 cars I’d think about pitting now.”
52/56 – Force India are in the pitlane as Sutil pits. Gets a pit stop out of the way when it doesn’t cost them anything. Kimi runs off track at the last corner.
Alonso on the radio: If we start running quick the water will disappear.
Martin: That message is not for us, it’s coded well not at all actually, it’s for Charlie Whiting.

51/56 – Rosberg pits. Hamilton’s radio says it will rain for 30 minutes at least.
Ted comes on and tells us Rosberg was on a 3-stopper, they switched him to a 2.

50/56 – Martin: “We should be motor racing now. Sorry if I sound like a stuck record but we should be getting on with this now, surely.”

49/56 – Alonso pits from 2nd. He should join the back of the pack and we get a message saying the Safety Car will come in at the end of this lap. Let’s see if we can see what’s going on in the spray on this start.

GREEN FLAG

This is the first hot lap in wet conditions for the whole weekend.

Hamilton takes Raikkonen! Kimi tries to hang on but Lewis pulls away around turn 13 and may have hit KERS down the following straight.

47/56 Buemi takes a look at Kimi but thinks better of it, and then again on the straight, still no, then Seb runs very wide at the last turn. Lots of runoff so he gets away with it.

46/56 Heidfeld is off wide at turn one.
45/56 A Brawn and Hamilton went wide at the last turn as well, Martin says that must be where there is a lot of standing water.
Buemi takes Raikkonen! Now Hamilton is slow! Buemi and the two Ferraris pass Hamilton but it baulks Kimi allowing Massa by him as well. Now Bourdais is on Hamilton’s tail.
Replay: Hamilton spun, full 360. Actually quite impressive that he managed to end up pointing the right way!
44/56 Buemi now passes Trulli! Swiss Seb is on a charge.
Massa is now lined up behind Trulli.

Replay: Piquet and Fisichella have a little tap. We go live just as Glock’s front wing taps Heidfeld into a spin.

43/56 Massa passes Trulli. Replay: Glock and Heidfeld, Glock didn’t know he was there. Replay: Nice move from Massa on Trulli.
42/56 Webber pits from 2nd. He’s out just in front of Trulli. Legard says he’s in front of the Trulli Train! The train gets a mention on TV!
41/56 Vettel pits from the lead. This is lap 15. Slow away. Nice clear track waiting for him.
Replay: Hamilton passes Raikkonen… again. He passed him, spun, then passed him again. Kimi slow in the wet, Lewis quick but hanging it on the edge..
Kovalainen passes a Toyota and someone follows him. We’re struggling to see who, may be Bourdais.

40/56 Button leads from Barrichello but neither have stopped. Glock starting at the back has caught Trulli who is slow in the wet. Martin says Lewis had a slow lap (on the timing screen) and lost the place to Kimi again.

39/56 Ted: When Vettel’s engineer saw the lap time of the Brawns his head dropped…
As Ted speaks we see a Toyota with no rear wing! Meanwhile a BMW is in with a new nose. Replay: Kubica hits Trulli hard! Completely destroys the rear wing of the Toyota. Trulli slow into the last turn, Kubica at full speed..

SAFETY CAR
It deploys immediately and picks up the first car which is Glock, not the leader Button. I don’t like that. Hold the SC at pit out until Button appears.

Glock slow without a wing on the backstraight. Button pits before he catches the SC. Pits don’t close any more, remember.
Now Buemi’s front wing is damaged.. Barrichello is in. I believe Vettel now leads.
Replay: Glock slow on the backstraight, Vettel slows down because he doesn’t want to pass a car under yellow and Buemi tags Vettel. Vettel proceeds past the damaged car (this is allowed).

36/56 Mike Gascoyne: Vettel is lighter than Button behind him. Ferrari and McLaren have not stopped and they can only be 7-10 laps from their pit window.

Massa has stopped on the circuit. Marshals run to his car. Three races, zero points. Replay: he just loses drive.
Ted says Vettel has no damage.

35/56 Hamilton radio: This is lap 22 we expect you to get to 33.
SC in this lap. Bourdais spins before the restart.

34/56 GREEN FLAG
Barrichello is losing places. Hamilton passed Raikkonen somewhere, we didn’t see it. Alonso passes Nakajima.
Replay: Hamilton just drives around the outside of Raikkonen!
Vettel 4 seconds faster than Button on that lap..

33/56 Top order: Vettel, Button, Webber, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kovalainen, BuemiBarrichello
Glock’s front wing is at a strangle angle, he pits. Toyota have a nice little trolley carrying the front wing, little time-saving measure..
Vettel is just driving away from everyone else and making it look easy.

30/56 Button radio: Vettel is only quicker due to the fuel effect.
Nakajima and Glock both run off independently of each other. Martin, are you a fan of the big runoff areas?
MB: Yeah, it keeps them in the race doesn’t it and I’ve hit enough catch fences and posts that I’m quite jealous actually.
Nakajima off the road again a lap later. Rejoins.
Piquet has wiped the nose off his car. Eventually rejoins, all the nose debris is in the gravel. Replay: Took out the polystrene braking marker!
Replay: Sutil wide.

28/56 Piquet pits for his new nose but it’s taking a while.
Webber has passed Button somewhere: replay: Button brakes too late at the end of the long straight and Webber just takes the normal line to pass him.

26/56 In these conditions to only have two drivers out (Trulli and Massa) is quite remarkable. A wet race like this is normally a race of attrition. Impressive.

25/56 Button repasses Webber! Replay: Webber ran off track at the last turn.
Webber is coming back at him and retakes the position! Excellent! He did the same thing as Hamilton earlier, same place.
Button weaving and warming his tyres at racing speeds..

23/56 Hamilton pits. He should get fuel for the rest of the race, where does he come out? He’s 8th on a clear track with good visibility.
Everyone has stopped apart from Kovalainen in 4th.

22/56 Kovy is in now. Kubica’s nosecone is at a funny angle. Has he hit something else or did they not fit this one properly?
21/56 Alonso pits from 5th, looks like he’s out in 9th. Kubica pits for another nose.
20/56 Bourdais is doing donuts on the grass. Martin: What do you give that, 5.9? Oop another 180, that’s the full 6.

French Seb isn’t getting on well with F1 cars, is he?

19/56 German Seb pits. Button retakes 2nd and Vettel is now 3rd. Webber leads but needs to stop.
A slow Renault of Alonso. Up to speed again. Did he spin? Replay: it comes around on him at turn 13.
18/56 Vettel is catching Button. Good traction out of 13 on the onboard.
17/56 Webber pits from the lead. Vettel sets fastest lap. Webber is 3rd just ahead of Barrichello.
Glock takes Raikkonen for 11th.

16/56 Vettel takes the lead! He pulls out from behind Button in the spray and dives by at the end of the long straight.
15/56 Rosberg pits for intermediate tyres! That can’t be the right choice.
Replay: Alonso passes Raikkonen for 11th. I think that might be wrong because Glock was 11th a second ago.
14/56 Button pits, Vettel FL. Full wets for Button. Martin says Rosberg is going pretty well on the inters.
13/56 Barrichello pits and takes full wets, drops to 5th.
Vettel, Webber, Button, Buemi, Barrichello, Hamilton, Kovalainen, Sutil(!)
Martin says Rosberg is 2 seconds off the pace on his intermediates now.

12/56 Nakajima parks it in the garage.
11/56 Martin: I’d love to see that Force India get a point.
He’s doing a good job to stay ahead of Heidfeld and Glock.
10/56 Piquet spins at pit entry. May not have intended to go down the pit entry road.
Martin: I don’t want to beat up on the kid but he’s had three 17th slots on the grid, he’s going to have to raise his game.

9/56 Hamilton runs off the road where he went off earlier, doesn’t spin this time but it lets Kovalainen through.

8/56 Despite the McLarens being in close contact they are catching Barrichello. Replay: Rosberg loses it on the wrong tyres. Sutil is 7th now, I thought he was 8th. Martin says Heidfeld and Glock have passed Buemi because Buemi pitted, I’m guessing Sutil did too. Vettel, Webber, Button, Barrichello, Kovalainen, Hamilton, team by team..

7/56 Rosberg pits for full wets. Hamilton 360 in the last corner, Sutil passes him for 6th!! Very nice drive from Adrian, he’s proving himself a good wet weather driver.

6/56 Oh big accident! Wheels go flying. Must be big because it broke the tethers. Ah shit, it’s Adrian Sutil. Of all the guys to go off.. Onboard replay, can’t see a thing but it just twitches on him. He corrects it and it takes him by surprise.

No SC as yet, I hope that wheel got clear. The car is in the gravel, should be okay if nobody else goes off there.. Adrian is okay it seems.

4/56 No SC, I’m guessing if this had been lap 20 we would get one but since we only have four left they aren’t doing so. Martin says we are very close to SC conditions here with that car in that position, it is a judgement call.

3/56 Double-waved yellows while they recover Sutil’s car. Martin says that’s a close call, the drivers should be really backing off under double-yellows. Needless to say.. they aren’t.

2 to go – Everyone is just trying to make the end now.

Final Lap

SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS!

What a fantastic drive. He really is excellent in the wet. A 1-2 finish as Webber comes in 2nd. I feel bad for Mark because he’s worked hard for several years only to have Seb come in and take the first RBR win from him – but Seb drove the better race and deserved it on the day.

Cool-down lap.
Parc Ferme.
Replays of the win.
The applauding grid girls!
The podium drivers are met by Joe Bauer

Podium!

German national anthem for Vettel.
British national anthem for Red Bull Racing – erm, don’t they race under an Austran licence in deference to the owners? Should be the Austrian anthem!
Trophies.
Champaaaaagne!

We’re all done. BBC are out of here on the main coverage, they continue on the interactive feed with the F1 Forum. I’ll leave that this week as I am on the replay and can’t find it.

Race Result

1. Vettel 56 laps [10pts]
2. Webber + 10.970s [8]
3. Button + 44.975s [6]
4. Barrichello + 1:01.704 [5]
5. Kovalainen + 1:05.102 [4]
6. Hamilton + 1:11.866 [3]
7. Glock + 1:14.476 [2]
8. Buemi + 1:16.439 [1]
9. Alonso + 1:24.309
10. Raikkonen + 1:31.750
11. Bourdais + 1:34.156
12. Heidfeld + 1:35.834
13. Kubica + 1:46.853
14. Fisichella + 1 lap
15. Rosberg + 1 lap
16. Piquet + 2 laps
17. Sutil + 6 laps
Nakajima – Not classified
Massa – Not classified
Trulli – Not classified

I had no idea the Red Bulls were so far ahead of everyone else at the end there. Other than RBR and Button it was actually a fairly tight finish for F1 with 30 seconds separating 4th from 10th. That’s not bad.

Drivers Championship

1. Button 15+6 = 21
2. Barrichello 10+5 = 15
3. Vettel 0+10 = 10
4. Glock 8+2 = 10
5. Webber 1.5+8 = 9.5
6. Trulli 8.5
7. Heidfeld 4
8. Alonso 4
9. Kovalainen 0+4 = 4
10. Hamilton 1+3 = 4
11. Rosberg 3.5
12. Buemi 2+1 = 3
13. Bourdais 1
(no other scorers)

Button and Barrichello strengthen their positions at the top as Vettel jumps straight into 3rd position with his win. Glock and Webber look good for the fight for 3rd, maybe Trulli too.

Constructors Championship

1. Brawn Mercedes 25+11 = 36
2. RBR Renault 1.5+18 = 19.5
3. Toyota 16.5+2 = 18.5
4. McLaren Mercedes 1+7 = 8
5. BMW Sauber 4
6. Renault 4
7. STR Ferrari 3+1 = 4
8. Williams Toyota 3.5

RBR make big gains and take 2nd position. Brawn have a healthy lead already and Toyota are going extremely well for them. McLaren finally get a semi-respectable score while amazingly Ferrari remain as non-scorers – their worst start in points since 1981.

* * *
Bahrain is up next and we’re part way through that weekend already. I will have notes ready on Sunday evening. I plan to post my previews on Saturday morning and the Long Beach notes on Saturday night.

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