Result- Fernando Alonso wins, followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton
The 2013 F1 season is following a similar pattern to the 2012 season, with race wins being split so far in the first 3 races of the calendar. Raikkonen won the Australian Grand Prix, followed by eternal favorite Vettel at Malaysia and now, it’s crowd favorite Fernando Alonso that joins the party at Shanghai.
Following an early first-lap retirement at Sepang, Alonso could not afford another no-result, especially having gone 12 races without a win dating back to last year. He was always consistent, but needed that elusive win in order to fire a warning shot at the beginning of this new high competitive 2013 Championship season.
And the Spaniard pulled out a near perfect performance to win his first race of 2013. To add to his delight, Vettel missed out on a podium spot for the first time this season as well. It was the ever-consistent Raikkonen that remained Alonso’s closest threat, but still not enough to directly compete with a marauding Ferrari. Massa underperformed as usual, despite overtaking leader Hamilton on the 5th lap of the race- and it was always going to be Alonso to bring home the 25 points.
He now lies 9 points adrift of Vettel in 3rd position in the Drivers Championship, with the silent Raikkonen sneaking to within 3 points of Vettel in second place.
It is too early to make judgements, but Red Bull do not look as unreliable as they were in the early stages of last season- despite a forgetful weekend that saw them struggle in Qualifying and race times. Webber’s miserable weekend was capped after his tyre wheeled itself away in dismay during a troubled race that had him start from the pits- almost refusing to race on his ailing Red Bull car.
Hamilton, pole-winner for the first time in his new Mercedes car, was clearly in the slower car- and was surpassed by Raikkonen during the third round of pitstops. He was almost passed by a charging Vettel on softs during the last few laps of the race, but managed to hold his own and get another podium for his team. The same couldn’t be said about his no. 2 Rosberg, who- like Webber- endured a miserable weekend and retired midway through the race. Jenson Button did admirably well to finish 5th in an underperforming McLaren, ahead of Felipe Massa in sixth.
Alonso has now won 31 races, the highest amongst active drivers- level with Mansell and fourth on the all time list behind Schumacher, Prost and Senna. Vettel is only a few behind on 27, but Alonso seems determined to avenge his close losses in 2010 and 2012 this year. A double-Championship winner (2005 and 2006), one could say that Alonso should have won atleast two more championships- if not for a combination of bad decisions, team politics and Lewis Hamilton.
This could be the year, for Alonso is always a better comeback racer than a frontrunner. A few more outright victories and lesser 2nd places could send out a loud and clear message to Vettel-who can be forgiven for mistaking FormulaOne Championship for a go-carting season lately, after having won a hattrick of titles before the age of 26.
Onto Bahrain- a Grand Prix whose very existence was controversial in 2012, but looks set to go this year.