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Rosberg, Mercedes Win In China

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 16 2012

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

First pole. First win. Nico Rosberg “broke his duck” in convincing fashion Sunday, posting his inaugural FIA Formula 1 victory from pole position in the UBS Chinese Grand Prix.

The son of 1982 F1 World Driving Champion Keke Rosberg, Nico scored the first win for the factory Mercedes team since 1955, when five-time World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Fangio went on to notch his third World Championship for Mercedes in ’55, when he won four of seven races.

Rosberg, 26, was joined on the podium at Shanghai International Circuit by runnerup Jenson Button of McLaren/Mercedes and teammate Lewis Hamilton, who posted his third consecutive third-place finish of 2012.

“Unbelievable feeling – very, very cool,” said Rosberg, who scored his first win in his 111th race and the 125th F1 victory by a German driver. “It was a long time coming for me and for the team also, the last two years and a bit. Now it’s finally there and it’s amazing. And it’s just really nice to see how quickly we now are progressing. Didn’t expect to be that fast today. I expected we would have a good chance to be in front but not at the pace I was able to go in the race.

“The engineers in the last few weeks have been working very, very hard and just improving the setup. We really struggled in the first two races with the race pace and today it all came good. It’s great to see how we’ve managed to progress.”

Keke and Nico Rosberg are the third father/son combination to win in F1 since the World Championship was formed in 1950. Keke Rosberg, of Finland, scored his first F1 win in a Williams/Ford at the Swiss Grand Prix in 1982. He won five career races, including the inaugural and only Dallas Grand Prix in 1984 in a Honda-powered Williams, from 1978-86.

“I’m sure he’s very happy, too, and I look forward to speaking to him,” Nico said of his father, who scored his final victory in the 1985 Australian Grand Prix.

Graham Hill, the quintessential Englishman and World Champion in 1962 and 1968, posted the first of his 14 career victories for BRM at the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort in ‘62. Graham Hill’s second World Championship came with Lotus/Ford in ‘68. He was killed in a plane crash in 1975. Damon Hill – the only son of a World Champion to become one – earned the first of his 22 victories at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 1993 while driving for Williams/Renault. Damon won his World Championship for the team founded by Sir Frank Williams in 1996.

Charismatic Gilles Villeneuve of Canada won six F1 races for Ferrari before being killed during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix in 1982. Villeneuve’s first win came in the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on a circuit that now bears his name. The closest he came to the World Championship was a second-place finish in 1979 to teammate Jody Scheckter. Jacques Villeneuve, the 1995 Indianapolis 500 and CART champion, moved to F1 in 1996 and became an instant star, winning his first race in his fourth start with Williams. The 1997 World Champion for Williams/Renault, Jacques recorded 11 victories before retiring in 2006.

Button, winner of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, saw his race-long pursuit of Rosberg via a three-stop vs. two-stop pit strategy disappear during his last stop on Lap 40 of the 56-race distance.

“I think our race pace was good, especially on the harder of the two tires,” said Button, World Champion in 2009. “And then on my last stop, I stopped on the marks and we had a problem at the rear of the car (left wheel). Sat there nine-10 seconds, I think it was, so on exit from the pits I had four cars in front of me _ cars I wouldn’t have been racing and I would have had a nice, clear track to hopefully, hunt down Nico. It was a big gap but we were going to give it a go. But all-in-all a fun day. It was a good race, some good overtaking out there and nice to come away with some good points in second place.”

Hamilton, who started seventh, watched Rosberg break away from the standing start with the help of No. 2 qualifier/teammate Michael Schumacher and quickly extend his lead.

“We knew all weekend he (Rosberg) would be quick and that if he got away it would be hard to catch him,” said Hamilton, World Champion in 2008. “So, fantastic job and congratulations. Your first pole and your first win is an incredible feeling. But I’m very happy to have made it up to the podium. The team did a great job through the pit stops and with the strategy and I think it was one of the best races so far, a lot of overtaking.”

Hamilton’s third podium, in fact, allowed him to overtake Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso _winner of the Malaysian Grand Prix but ninth in China_ in the driver’s championship after three of 17 events. Hamilton has 45 points, two more than fellow-Englishman Button and eight ahead of Spaniard Alonso heading into next weekend’s Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.

“I’d also like to congratulate Nico,” Button said. “We all know how special it is for your first win. I’m sure he’ll get many more, just hopefully not too many more this year.”

Red Bull Racing/Renault teammates Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel – the two-time/reigning World Champion – finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Romain Grosjean registered his first points of the season for Lotus/Renault in sixth, while Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado placed seventh and eighth, respectively, for Williams/Renault. Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber /Ferrari earned the last available point in 10th.

Schumacher, the seven-time World Champion and Rosberg’s countryman, was saddled with his second result of 20th or worse in three starts. Schumacher was running second entering his first pit stop when a problem changing the car’s right front tire forced him to slow with a loose wheel moments after returning to the circuit. Schumacher opened the season with a 20th-place finish after an off-course excursion in Melbourne.

The Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix _ to be played-out against a background of the social unrest that forced cancellation of last year’s race _ will be televised Sunday at 7:30 a.m. (EDT) by SPEED.

The FIA-sanctioned series will return to the United States for the inaugural Formula 1 USGP at Circuit of The Americas, a $300-million facility under construction in Austin, Texas, Nov. 16-18.

FIA Formula 1 Grand Prix of China results with car number in parentheses, driver, country, chassis/engine and time/laps differential:

1. (8) Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes AMG, 1:36:26.929

2. (3) Jenson Button, Great Britain, Vodafone McLaren/Mercedes, plus 20.6-seconds

3. (4) Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain, Vodafone McLaren/Mercedes, plus 26.0-seconds

4. (2) Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull Racing/Renault, plus 27.9-seconds

5. (1) Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Red Bull Racing/Renault, plus 30.4-seconds

6. (10) Romain Grosjean, France, Lotus/Renault, plus 31.4-seconds

7. (19) Bruno Senna, Brazil, Williams/Renault, plus 34.5-seconds

8. (18) Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Williams/Renault, plus 35.6-seconds

9. (5) Fernando Alonso, Spain, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, plus 37.2-seconds

10. (14) Kamui Kobayashi, Japan, Sauber/Ferrari, plus 38.7-seconds

11. (15) Sergio Perez, Mexico, Sauber/Ferrari, plus 41.0-seconds

12.  Paul di Resta, Great Britain, Force India/Mercedes, plus 42.2-seconds

13. (6) Felipe Massa, Brazil, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, plus 42.7-seconds

14. (9) Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Lotus/Renault, plus 50.5-seconds

15. (12) Nico Hulkenberg, Germany, Force India/Mercedes, plus 51.2-seconds

16. (17) Jean-Eric Vergne, France, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Ferrari, plus 51.7-seconds

17. (16) Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Ferrari, plus 63.1-seconds

18. (21) Vitaly Petrov, Russia, Caterham/Renault, plus 1 lap

19. (24) Timo Glock, Germany, Marussia/Cosworth, plus 1 lap

20. (25) Charles Pic, France, Marussia/Cosworth, plus 1 lap

21. (22) Pedro de la Rosa, Spain, HRT/Cosworth, plus 1 lap

22. (23) Narain Karthikeyan, India, HRT/Cosworth, plus 2 laps

23. (20) Heikki Kovalainen, Finland, Caterham/Renault, plus 3 laps

24. (7) Michael Schumacher, Germany, Mercedes AMG, wheel

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 16 2012
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