• Chinese Grand Prix

Superb Button excels in the wet

Laurence Edmondson April 18, 2010

Jenson Button secured a superb win in the wet at the Chinese Grand Prix ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who completed a dream one-two finish for McLaren.

Nico Rosberg finished third for the second race in the row but it was a terrible day for Red Bull, whose drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, dropped back through the field to finish sixth and eighth after starting first and second on the grid. Fernando Alonso secured a well-earned fourth place after a tough race that saw him pit five times, once for a drive-through penalty. Renault's Robert Kubica maintained his strong form to finish fifth, while team-mate Vitaly Petrov excelled in difficult conditions in the closing stages to take seventh.

The race revolved around pit stops for intermediate tyres that saw half the field, including Hamilton and the two Red Bulls, caught out by coming in too early at the first sign of rain. Rosberg and Button decided not to pit, a decision that proved crucial and one that gave them the lead.

In contrast, Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso destroyed their intermediate tyres in just a handful of laps on the half wet circuit and it wasn't long before they, and the other early stoppers, filtered back into the pits to revert to slicks. As they did so, Hamilton and Vettel came in to the pits side-by-side, leading to one of the biggest talking points of the race. Hamilton reached his pit box first but pulled out right alongside the Red Bull and the pair banged wheels down the pit lane. The stewards will look into the incident, but out of the heat of the moment, it looked like a simple racing incident.

All the early indecision over tyres had cost them 50 seconds to Rosberg and Button, who were lining up a battle of their own. A mistake by Rosberg on lap 19 meant his lead was slashed by Button, and as they came down the long back straight, the McLaren made a crucial pass for position. From that point onward Button adopted a tactical mindset, as he did in Australia, and never relinquished the lead.

Meanwhile the battle was just beginning for Hamilton. He put on a brilliant show to pass Webber, Heikki Kovalainen, Adrian Sutil, Vettel and finally Michael Schumacher to move up to fifth before the rain set in again and forced the whole field to change to intermediates. Early stops by Schumacher and Webber helped them get back ahead of Hamilton in the stops, putting Red Bull back in the fight. But then the race was effectively restarted after a safety car was deployed to clear debris on the track, negating the poor decision made by those that stopped early for inters.

As the safety car pulled in Button backed up the whole field and in the ensuing carnage Hamilton and Webber came together, punting the Red Bull off the track. Hamilton carried on regardless and went on the attack again, passing Schumacher, Petrov and Kubica to move into contention for the lead. He was the fastest man on the track but it was at the cost of his tyres. He stopped for new ones, a decision that actually worked in his favour, as his next target Rosberg pitted one lap later for fresh rubber and lost position. The fight was on between the McLarens.

But again, Hamilton's hard charging style had destroyed his tyres and he struggled to match the lap times being set by Button. It was another case study of measured driving from the reigning world champion, and despite a mistake in the closing stages, he held on to the lead to take his second win of the season.

Rosberg held off a challenge from Alonso for third, the Ferrari driver having recovered from a penalty for a jump start to come through the field brilliantly. The same couldn't be said for his team-mate Felipe Massa, who clearly struggled in the wet and whose day would only have been made slightly more palatable by a pass on his old team-mate Schumacher towards the end of the race. Schumacher never looked happy as he struggled for rear traction throughout the race, a problem magnified by the terrible conditions and high wear-rate of the rear tyres.

Outside the points Adrian Sutil failed to live up to early promise and finished eleventh. He was ahead of Rubens Barrichello who seemed to be losing a perpetual battle with Massa for most of the race. A good result for Lotus saw Heikki Kovalainen finish 14th, while HRT took another minor triumph by getting both cars to the finish line.