In Formula One, the very first person you have to beat is your team-mate. So who did just that in Shanghai? Let’s go through the teams and hand out the TMB points!
1 point is awarded to the driver who sets the faster lap.
3 points are awarded to the driver who performs best in qualifying.
5 points are awarded to the driver who performs best on raceday.
Comfortably faster than Marcus Ericsson during Friday practice, the Swede turned up the wick on Saturday to put Nasr under pressure. Pipping the Brazilian in FP3, Marcus was 0.4 seconds slower in Q1, but just 0.1 seconds off in both Q2 & Q3. Both made it into Q3, highlighting Sauber’s excellent improvement since 2014.
While both started on the softs, Sauber employed a split strategy for the mid section of the race by putting Marcus on the soft tyres and Nasr on the mediums. The differing compounds seemed to make very little difference to either man’s pace, each circulating in the 1.45s as they were both mixing it up with the likes of Max Verstappen, the Lotuses & the recovering Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo would remain stuck behind Ericsson between Laps 16 & 28 and only got past when Ericsson’s tyres started to go off, the Swede pitting on Lap 30 for the medium compound tyres. Nasr followed suit for another set of mediums on Lap 31, and emerged around 7 seconds clear of Ericsson.
The former Caterham driver had come out ahead of Daniel Ricciardo during this phase, and wasn’t able to hold him off for very long. Indeed, he seemed less happy on the medium tyres against Felipe’s pace despite running in clear air and had fallen 18 seconds behind Nasr by the time the safety car came out at the end of the race. Marcus wasn’t too concerned afterwards and said “I was struggling a bit to get the front tyres to work properly, so I could not maintain the pace the way I wanted to.”
Clean sweep for Felipe Nasr on another excellent weekend for the rookie, but his on track advantage isn’t as great as the TMB points suggest. Can Marcus turn it around?
Fastest Lap: Felipe Nasr (2 – 1 to Felipe Nasr) (after Round 3)
Qualifying: Felipe Nasr (6 – 3 to Felipe Nasr) (after Round 3)
Race: Felipe Nasr (15-0 to Felipe Nasr) (after Round 3)
- Sauber: 23 – 4 to Felipe Nasr (Total After Round 3)
Both cars practiced, and both cars qualified easily within the 107% requirement. Merhi was a full 1.5 seconds quicker than 107%, while Stevens was 2.3 seconds inside it during his first qualifying session of the year.
There’s little to comment on in the actual race, due to Manor being nowhere near the pace of any of the other teams at the moment. Both men embarked in their second ever F1 race on a near identical soft-medium-soft tyre strategy, and finished the last racing lap 12 seconds apart. Most of that gap came about during the first round of stops, which Stevens took first. After they both came back out on track, the five second gap on Lap 15 had grown to 12 seconds on Lap 18 due to Stevens being 4 seconds faster on his outlap, as well as two seconds faster in the pits.
The gap remained static during the middle section of the race, decreasing a little down to 8 seconds by Lap 37 when Stevens pitted again. Pitting two laps later, Merhi emerged 17 seconds behind Will. While Roberto was able to shuffle a little closer by the time racing ended, Stevens had this one under control. A cursory glance at their respective laptimes suggests Will was able to lap a little bit more consistently than Roberto, but with both men now equal in terms of completed Grands Prix, this is one of the team mate squabbles that is difficult to predict which way it will go. Assuming Merhi holds onto his seat of course.
On a separate note, did the TV feed actually ever show the Manors on track?
Fastest lap: Will Stevens (2 – 1 to Will Stevens) (after Round 3)
Qualifying: Will Stevens (6 – 3 to Will Stevens) (after Round 3)
Race: Will Stevens (10 – 5 to Will Stevens) (after Round 3)
- Manor Marussia: 18 – 9 to Will Stevens (Total After Round 3)*
- Rounds 1 & 2 were adjudged to be split points, due to non-participation of one or both.
What a pity everything went so badly wrong for Pastor Maldonado after an exceptionally strong first half of the race. Outshone in qualifying by Romain Grosjean, Pastor failed to make Q3 as Romain went on to start from 8th. Both benefitted from Daniel Ricciardo’s fluffed start, and circulated in 7th and 10th at the end of Lap 1. By Lap 8, Pastor had despatched the two Saubers standing between himself and Romain to trail by just three seconds.
Despite starting on a fresh set of softs against the Frenchman’s used, Pastor pitted first and dropped in for a fresh set of mediums on Lap 10. Grosjean did the same a lap later but the lap on fresh rubber allowed Pastor to get the jump on his team-mate, emerging just one second in front of Romain. Now up to 7th and 8th, Pastor and Romain weren’t able to quite keep up with the two Williams in front of them, Pastor falling to around 11 seconds behind Bottas while Romain was a further 4.5 seconds behind.
Grosjean got the call to pit for the final time ahead of Maldonado a lap later, but this was where the afternoon completely went wrong for Pastor. Having run – seemingly intentionally – over the new run off area entering the pitlane, Pastor left his braking too late and ran far too wide. Stuck facing the barrier and unable to make the turn, he needed marshal assistance to rejoin the race and lost around 30 seconds. Pushing to make up for lost ground, he spun on Lap 39 losing another 14 seconds and putting him back between the two McLarens. While he quickly caught and passed Jenson, he wasn’t able to shake him and ended up duelling, resulting in the crash that Jenson took responsibility for. While Pastor was blameless for the contact, he shouldn’t have been back in that position in the first place, meaning the points go to Romain Grosjean for bringing his car home safe and sound in the 7th place that Pastor should have got.
Fastest Lap: Romain Grosjean (2.5 – 0.5 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 3)
Qualifying: Romain Grosjean (9 – 0 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 3)
Race: Romain Grosjean (15 – 0 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 3)
- Lotus: 26.5 – 0.5 to Romain Grosjean (Total After Round 3)
A torrid weekend overall for the Toro Rosso men, despite Max Verstappen’s eye catching drive. The pair fell by the wayside during Q2, with Sainz 0.2 seconds slower. As a result of being in the lower half of the field, Toro Rosso opted for a split tyre strategy during the race, starting Verstappen on the soft tyres and Sainz on the mediums.
In the race, there was no real comparison as Sainz spun off by himself on Lap 2, accepting the blame afterwards as his own mistake on the “green and dirty” track. He fell down to 20th as a result, although he was quickly back past the Manors.
Up closer to the front, Max had jumped to 11th thanks to Ricciardo’s start and passing Kvyat leaving Turn 3 before lining up 10th placed Marcus Ericsson. He succeeded in passing the Sauber on Lap 9 and despatched the other Sauber after the first round of stops. After his stops for medium tyres on Laps 12 & 32, Max was fighting in the low end of the points scorers and threw in another great on track pass on Sergio Perez before his Renault engine exploded and put paid to another haul of points.
Carlos Sainz never got the chance to make a go of recovering from his early error, thanks to a gearbox problem on Lap 23. Lapping consistently in the 1.44s through the second stint of the race, his 2.27 as he trundled down the long back straight struggling to find a gear resulted in him plummeting down to last-but-the-Manors. He finished 16th after the late retirements of his team-mate and Pastor Maldonado.
There’s no reason to believe that Carlos was in any way responsible for the neutral gearbox moment, with no finger pointing from anyone at Toro Rosso, but he was to blame for his early race spin. Max takes the race and qualifying points, extending his lead in this particular team mate battle.
Fastest Lap: Carlos Sainz (2 – 1 to Carlos) (after Round 3)
Qualifying: Max Verstappen (6 – 3 to Max Verstappen) (after Round 3)
Race: Max Verstappen (12.5 – 2.5 to Max Verstappen) (after Round 3)
- Toro Rosso: 19.5 – 7.5 to Max Verstappen (Total After Round 3)
The Force India squad really can’t be too disappointed with their first mechanical failure on track in 2015. Having come through the final days of Barcelona testing, the Australian & Malaysian Grand Prix without any problems, getting to Lap 10 of the third round before something went bang is really quite impressive. Unfortunately, the performance isn’t quite there yet, but there were noises of optimism from the Silverstone based camp despite leaving China without any points.
Qualifying was a complete damp squib for both Perez & Hulkenberg, with Nico unable to make it past Q1 and admitting to small errors on what should have been a faster lap. Sergio made it through but didn’t get very far, lining up in the position just ahead of Nico, 15th to the German’s 16th.
In the race, Nico jumped up to 12th place on Lap 1, despatching Kvyat, Sainz, Ricciardo, & Perez in the process, while Sergio took a little longer to climb up to 13th past Kvyat and the spinning Sainz. The gap between the two Force Indias was just two seconds when Hulkenberg was forced out of the race on Lap 10 with his gearbox failure, meaning there isn’t quite enough of an argument for Nico to take the race points over Sergio despite such a great start.
After Nico was out, Sergio pitted for another set of soft tyres. He ended up running a three stop strategy, running the softs in all stints but the final one. He felt this was the correct strategy as the Force India doesn’t appear to enjoy the medium tyres, but correct or not, there wasn’t enough pace to bring home a points finish and he took 11th spot. For the moment at least, Sauber, Toro Rosso & Lotus all appear to be comfortably faster.
Fastest Lap: Sergio Perez (2 – 1 to Sergio Perez) (after Round 3)
Qualifying: Sergio Perez (6 – 3 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 3)
Race: Sergio Perez (10 – 5 to Sergio Perez) (after Round 3)
Force India: 15 – 12 to Sergio Perez (Total After Round 3)
Jenson got the better of Fernando again on Saturday, albeit by just 0.004 seconds, suggesting that the two World Champions are extracting every single thing they can from the McLaren MP4/30. The race then went on to be quite an interesting affair for both men, albeit for different reasons.
Fernando, for the second race in succession, managed to get the better of Jenson at the start of the race and even managed to work his way up to 15th in the early .Sp5rl!47rs as Ricciardo & Sainz made a mess of things. After being passed by the recovering Ricciardo, Fernando threw everything at the Australian as Daniel got baulked by his team-mate but ultimately had to settle in just ahead of Jenson to finish the first stint of the race.
The middle section saw a differing approach by McLaren. Fernando put on the medium tyres for a long middle stint, pitting on Lap 12 while Jenson followed on Lap 14 to put on the softs, the tactic used by the top 4 drivers. This allowed Jenson to open up an almost ten second advantage throughout the middle of the race, but with the roles reversed in the final third, Alonso started coming back at Button.
As Jenson began squabbling with Pastor Maldonado following his calamities, Fernando pulled in his team-mate at a vast rate of knots but seemed to hang back to watch Jenson fight with Pastor. A wily move, as the two collided in front of him, leaving Fernando free to swoop through and take the positions. Surprisingly, it was Jenson to blame for the accident with Pastor and he duly held his hands up and took his punishment. Even without the collision, everything seemed to be going Fernando’s direction in the final phase of the race as he was able to unlock 1.43s and 1.44s to Jenson’s 1.45s before encountering Maldonado. Race points to Fernando.
Fastest Lap: Fernando Alonso (1.5 – 1.5 to each) (after Round 3)
Qualifying: Jenson Button (9 – 0 to Jenson Button) (after Round 3)
Race: Fernando Alonso (10 – 5 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 3)
- McLaren: 15.5 – 11.5 to Jenson Button (Total After Round 3)
Keen to assuage expectations after the heady days of Sepang, neither Ferrari driver nor Maurizio Arrivabene seemed to rate their chances highly of a repeat performance. While the SF-15T was just off being a match for Mercedes W06, Ferrari appear to be affecting the way Mercedes approach a race, which automatically makes China more of a competitive sporting fixture than any we saw in 2014.
Raikkonen was 0.2 seconds off Vettel’s pace in Q1 & Q2, before setting a Q3 lap slower than his best in Q2. Vettel went 0.3 seconds faster than his Q3 best, meaning Raikkonen was over half a second slower in Q3. While not quite incurring the wrath of Ferrari for such a poor Q3 showing, the team very much pointed at Kimi as being disappointing during the Saturday session, a fact that the Finn had no problem acknowledging.
Raikkonen had his team whooping and celebrating within thirty seconds of the race start after showing some of the race craft that has characterised Kimi in his second F1 career. Keeping the inside line through Turn 1, Raikkonen squeezed around the outside of Massa through Turn 2 and brazened it out to set up a move on Bottas into Turn 3. His late braking is a far cry from the meek and submissive early braking of 2014, signifying the Finn’s confidence in his machine this year. Vettel’s start was not dramatic by comparison, slotting into third place and setting off in pursuit of the Mercs.
Neither were quite able to fully race the Mercs, but Vettel’s early second stop did force Mercedes to cover off their attack. Seb had managed to close in on Rosberg due to the pedestrian pace as Hamilton & Rosberg sought to stretch out their tyre life, and pulled the trigger while trailing by two seconds. Raikkonen had eked out a little bit longer in both of his first two stints, seemingly resigned to fighting for the final place on the podium. After both Ferrari men had re-emerged for the final stint, the Mercs were after pulling away and Kimi used his fresher rubber harder in an effort to fight Sebastian. Closing the gap down from 4.5 to 1.5 seconds over the last stint, Raikkonen was just getting near to DRS range when racing was called off. Split points in the race, due to both men putting in superb races. Just like Sauber, Raikkonen is a lot closer to Sebastian than the TMB points suggest at the moment.
How confident are Ferrari right now? While they seem to lack outright pace compared to Merc, their Malaysian & Chinese weekends have indicated that they know how to interfere with Mercedes game plan in an effort to get them to slip up. While they did so in Malaysia, Merc were able to fend them off in China due to making the soft tyre last longer than expected. It was a tactic Mercedes were forced into, and one that could have backfired. For now, Ferrari’s target has to be defeating the low hanging fruit that is Nico Rosberg. If they can do that consistently, the Scuderia have a very real chance of Constructor’s Championship glory.
Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (2 – 1 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 3)
Qualifying: Sebastian Vettel (9 – 0 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 3)
Race: Split points (12.5 – 2.5 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 3)
- Ferrari: 23.5 – 3.5 to Sebastian Vettel (Total After Round 3)
The inseparable Williams duo remained just that in Shanghai. Valtteri was 0.4 seconds quicker in Q1, but lost out during Q2 by the same margin. Luckily, this was still plenty good enough to get through into Q3. He was then 0.2 seconds slower than Felipe, but outqualified his compatriot at Ferrari to line up 5th to Felipe’s 4th. Speaking after qualifying, Bottas suggested that his deficit was down to struggling with the rear of the car during the final session.
The race was a dull affair for both, with only the start providing them with some entertainment. Accelerating away from the line, Bottas managed to get the better of Massa through the long Turn 1, sticking to the outside when Felipe had to ease off the throttle due to Vettel’s Ferrari being in front. Comfortably clearing Felipe, Bottas then came under pressure from Raikkonen approaching Turn 3 and was outbraked. Being slowed as a result, Felipe was able to duck back under Valtteri and repass him, leaving the Williams drivers 5th and 6th. They would finish in these positions.
Despite running a near identical strategy of used softs, new mediums, used mediums and running in clear air, the gap between Felipe and Valtteri grew consistently during the race. Five seconds after the first stops grew to 8 by the time the second round started, and up to 10 by the safety car. Not under pressure from the Lotus’ behind and unable to stay with the soft shod Ferraris and Mercs in the mid section of the race, both men were pragmatic after the race and knew they had achieved the maximum the FW37 was capable of. However, Valtteri needs to be careful and not allow Felipe beat him too often if he wants to ensure his star continues to rise. While Felipe has been a championship contender in the past and remains superb in terms of single lap speed, he isn’t quite on the same level as the likes of Alonso, Vettel & Hamilton over a season. For Bottas to make the jump to a bigger team, he needs to put more clear air between himself and Felipe.
Fastest Lap: Felipe Massa (2.5 – 0.5 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 3)
Qualifying: Felipe Massa (7.5 – 1.5 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 3)
Race: Felipe Massa (7.5 – 7.5 to each) (after Round 3)
- Williams: 17.5 – 9.5 to Felipe Massa (Total After Round 3)
It seems a little bit early to be raising question marks about Daniil Kvyat so early in his Red Bull career, considering this was only his second race start with the team. He was outqualified easily on Saturday, Ricciardo putting in a Q2 laptime 0.3 seconds faster than the Russian could manage, before Daniil seemed to make a go of annoying Helmut Marko during the race.
Being one of only two men starting on the medium tyre for the first stint of the race, Daniil inevitably ended up in front of the soft-shod Ricciardo after Daniel did a Mark Webber impersonation at the start of the race. Instead of easing off and allowing his team-mate through, Daniil gave it as good as he could, resulting in delaying both of them. Ricciardo & Kvyat both lapped in the 1.47s during their duel, with both immediately dropping into the 1.46s once Ricciardo had gotten in front. These 1.47s were enough to keep McLaren in the picture with the Red Bulls early on, although this didn’t continue for long once sanity had been restored.
Daniil’s race quickly went belly up as another Renault power unit went bang, meaning Kvyat has completed just over 60 laps of racing in the three Grands Prix so far. Considering there has been over 150 racing laps, this doesn’t reflect well on Renault. Ricciardo was able to work his way back up to finish 9th, but arguably could have been outside the points as Maldonado & Verstappen both retired in front of him towards the end of the race. The gap between Verstappen & Ricciardo had ebbed and flowed throughout the race, but loitered constantly around the 7 second mark, suggesting that there is no discernible race pace difference between the Toro Rosso & the Red Bull right now. As more races pass and a clearer picture emerges, it’s going to be very interesting to answer one very pertinent question…is the STR10 a better car than the RB11?
Fastest Lap: Daniel Ricciardo (1.5 – 1.5 to each) (after Round 3)
Qualifying: Daniel Ricciardo (9 – 0 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 3)
Race: Daniel Ricciardo (7.5 – 7.5 to each) (after Round 3)
- Red Bull: 18 – 9 to Daniel Ricciardo (Total After Round 3)
I’ve been reading some frankly ridiculous rumours over the last few days and weeks that Mercedes are deliberately holding back their performance in order to quell the support for an engine equalisation initiative, just unleashing enough at relevant points in order to ensure they get the results they want and need. While anything is theoretically possible, it’s not a particularly likely conspiracy theory, simply because of Nico Rosberg.
Having been dominated by Hamilton in Shanghai in 2014, it was more of the same this year. Not only did Lewis finish every single session of the weekend as the fastest man, he also just missed out on completing a grand chelem in the race, only losing the lead during the pitstops. Rosberg never got particularly close, with his frustration already evident on Saturday after missing out on pole position by the smallest of margins, after Lewis failed to improve on his second run in Q3.
As childish as Rosberg’s post-race lashing out was, he did have a point about feeling backed up completely. Merc’s requirement to run the soft tyre in an effort to stave off the Ferrari’s efforts meant that the middle stint was always going to be a conservation run for Hamilton & Rosberg, and had Nico pushed on any harder, his tyres would have gone and he might have finished 4th. This is where Merc should allow the two drivers to make gambles. Had Nico taken on the medium tyres in the mid section of the race, he could have pushed on and only been marginally off the pace he was restricted to by Hamilton’s presence. Lewis’ quick soft tyre lap at the end of his second phase was a 1.42.2, 1.3-1.5 seconds faster than his cruising around. With this being the time difference between the two different tyre compounds, Nico could have taken the gamble and the time hit in the mid section of the race, before coming to life in the final phase on the soft tyres.
For now though, the Merc drivers are locked into the same strategies. Assuming Lewis can continue to be the better driver in qualifying, it’s difficult to see how Nico can turn things around, particularly with the team needing to cover off the resurgent Ferraris. Rear gunner status awaits.
Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton (2 – 1 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 3)
Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (9 – 0 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 3)
Race: Lewis Hamilton (15 – 0 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 3)
- Mercedes: 26 – 1 to Lewis Hamilton (Total After Round 3)
- Romain Grosjean – 26.5 points
- Lewis Hamilton – 26 points
- Sebastian Vettel – 23.5 points
- Max Verstappen – 19.5 points
- Daniel Ricciardo – 18 points
- Felipe Massa – 17.5 points
- Jenson Button – 15.5 points*
- Sergio Perez – 15 points
- Felipe Nasr – 14 points
- Nico Hulkenberg – 12 points
- Fernando Alonso – 11.5 points*
- Valtteri Bottas – 9.5 points
- Daniil Kvyat – 9 points
- Carlos Sainz – 7.5 points
- Marcus Ericsson – 4 points
- Kimi Raikkonen – 3.5 points
- Kevin Magnussen – 3 points*
- Nico Rosberg – 1 point
- Pastor Maldonado – 0.5 point
-Manor excluded until true average emerges.
*Due to split points in Melbourne