Nico Rosberg converted his maiden pole position into a first career victory at the Chinese Grand Prix to hand Mercedes its first win as a constructor since 1955. He was followed to the flag by the McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
After imperiously claiming pole position on Saturday, half a second clear of next fastest man Hamilton, Rosberg made the perfect getaway at the start of the race to storm into a lead he would only relinquish while stationary in pit lane during his two stops. While the one-lap pace of the Mercedes has not been in doubt this season, the race pace of the Silver Arrows has been questionable, with difficulties with tyres causing them lose ground during the opening two races.
There was no sign of that fragility yesterday, however. With track temperatures settling around 22 degrees, Rosberg was able to manage his tyres superbly and needed only to stop twice for medium compound tyres to outstrip his rivals. “It’s an unbelievable feeling: very cool,” he said afterwards. “It’s been a long time coming for me, and for the team as well over the past two years and a bit. Now, it’s finally here. It’s just amazing and it’s just nice to see how quickly we are now progressing. “I didn’t expect to be that fast today,” he added. “I expected that we had a good chance to be in front, but I was very happy today with the pace I was able to go in the race. We really struggled in the first two races with race pace but today it all came good.”
Rosberg might have been under more pressure in the closing stages from a hard-charging Jenson Button, but a poor third stop saw the McLaren man lose valuable time in pit lane and the error allowed Rosberg to cruise to the flag. Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher was unable to add to the celebrations, however. After inheriting second place on the grid following Hamilton’s demotion to seventh due to a gearbox change, Schumacher held the position when the lights went out to signal the start of the race.
He held station until his first stop on lap 12, when a glitch with the right front meant he was forced to pull over midway through his out lap, his progress halted because of a loose wheel. Mercedes were later fined €5000 by the FIA race stewards for an unsafe release. “As I did not want to cause any bigger damage to the car, I stopped on the grass,” said Schumacher. “I felt there was something wrong immediately and especially in turn three, when I put pressure on the right side of the car. This was an unfortunate ending to what could have been a nice race, but we all know that's part of the game.”
Team principal Ross Brawn was naturally delighted with Rosberg’s performance. “This is a truly special and historic day. I am so delighted for Nico, he has deserved to take his first victory several times, and has now done so by driving a perfectly judged race from pole position,” he said. “We are proud to deliver the first victory for a works Silver Arrow car in 57 years. I was just one-year-old when Juan Manuel Fangio won in Monza in 1955 – but this victory is something I will remember, and savour, for a very long time indeed!”