Despite only arriving on the F1 calendar in 2004, the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai has already earned it’s place in F1 history, witnessing debut wins for Red Bull, Nico Rosberg and the modern Mercedes team, as well as Michael Schumacher’s final F1 victory, not to mention the controversy over Lewis Hamilton’s champagne spraying tendencies, or the locals invading the track to have a try at one of the Ferrari’s!!
It all started back in 2004. F1 arrived to the latest freshly constructed Hemann Tilke circuit in a relaxed state, with the championship having already been sealed by a dominant Michael Schumacher for Ferrari, who had 12 wins and 2 second places to show for his 14 finishes that season. In fact, Schumacher’s only failure to appear on the podium had been caused by retirement, after he was taken out in the tunnel at Monaco, under the safety car! For once Michael would have to play second fiddle, as Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello secured pole and raced to victory in the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix. As for Schumacher, a torrid weekend saw him start from the pitlane after a mistake in qualifying saw him fail to set a time, and in the race he could only manage to progress to 12th place, having collided with the Jaguar of Christian Klien, spun off, and picked up a puncture for good measure. A most un-Schumacher like performance.
In 2005 Schumacher’s luck was still out in China – he had another disastrous weekend, colliding with Christian Albers Minardi before the race had even started, Schumacher seeming to simply not pay attention as he weaved about on his way to the grid and was collected by the oncoming Albers. Schumacher was given a reprimand, but was able to take the start from the spare car, although he subsequently spun out of the race. Fernando Alonso, already crowned world champion to end Schumacher’s period of dominance in the sport, signed the season off in style by taking the win in China from pole position for Renault. Schumacher’s bad luck in China would finally end in 2006 (read more), when he produced a wonderful win in wet/dry conditions over title rival Fernando Alonso that seemed to put him on the brink of regaining the drivers title. It would however prove to be the final victory of Schumacher’s career, and not enough to wrest the tile back from Alonso.
In 2007, it was McLaren and Lewis Hamilton’s turn to suffer in Shanghai (read more). The rookie seemed on course to seal the driver’s title at the first attempt, only to slide off the track on the way into the pits, opening the door to an unlikely Raikkonen recovery in the championship. In 2008, Lewis made amends for his 2007 nightmare with a lights to flag victory from the Ferrari’s of Massa and Raikkonen, to set himself up to take the title he had let slip the previous year.
For 2009, the race moved to early in the season from its previous end of season slot. Sebastian Vettel, who had already secured a win for Toro Rosso in the wet in Italy the previous year, now took the senior Red Bull teams first ever victory from pole position, leading home team-mate Mark Webber for a memorable Red Bull 1-2 (the first of many!) in a wet race. 2010 would see another wet dry race, this time reigning champion Jenson Button took the victory for McLaren with a well judged drive in the changing conditions.
The 2011 race produced one of the classic dry races of recent seasons, with McLarens Lewis Hamilton coming out on top of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel in a thrilling dry race that saw 4 teams vie for the win, Hamilton passing Vettel on track shortly from the end as Vettel paid the price for getting the tyre strategy wrong (read more).
2012 was notable for the first Grand Prix victory for Mercedes in the modern era, current world champ Nico Rosberg taking his maiden F1 victory in a dominant display from pole positon, ending his long run in F1 without a victory (Nico’s first F1 win coming at the 111th attempt), and recording the first Mercedes win in F1 since 1955! Michael Schumacher’s Chinese bad luck returned however. Driving the second Mercedes Schumacher had been running in second place behind Rosberg in the early stages, but was eliminated from the running after being released from the pits with his front right wheel not properly attached.
Fernando Alonso triumphed for Ferrari in a dry race in 2013, before the new PU era kicked off a period of Mercedes dominance, with Lewis Hamilton taking a pole to flag victory from team-mate Nico Rosberg in 2014, although the chequered flag in question came out a lap too soon after a mix up!! 2015 saw a member of the public invade the track during practice on Friday, apparently hoping to try their hand at one of the Ferrari’s (something for Liberty to consider perhaps!), but on track 2015 saw yet another dominant 1-2 for Mercedes, with Hamilton leading Rosberg, with Nico bitterly complaining that Hamilton was backing him into the Ferrari’s behind in the early stint of the race! If a hostility within Mercedes wasn’t bad enough, Lewis also faced a backlash from the public after he was accused of being ‘selfish and inconsiderate’ (not an F1driver surelty!!) after spraying champagne directly into the face of one of the podium hostesses!
Last year’s race saw the wheels come off Lewis Hamilton’s championship challenge, well the MGU-H anyway, with energy recovery problems meaning Lewis was unable to set a time in qualifying and would have to start from the back. This, added to a puncture for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and a collision between the other Red Bull of Kvyat and the two Ferrari;s of Raikkonen and Vettel on the opening lap, meant it was all rather too easy for Nico Rosberg, who romped home to victory for Mercedes, to take his third straight victory at the start of the season.