Nico Rosberg’s victory at the Chinese Grand Prix made it three different winners in three races so far this season — but not one of them has been the Red Bull of reigning champion Sebastian Vettel.
It is a dramatic decline in fortunes for a driver and a team, which at the same stage last season had bagged two grand prix victories and three pole positions, as Vettel rampaged his way to a second world title on the spin. Fast forward 12 months and it’s a dramatically different picture.
However, Germany’s Vettel, 24, said he was pleased to finish fifth in Shanghai, after the indignity of starting a lowly 11th on the grid.
“The first lap wasn’t great, but with the strategy we managed to come back,” said Vettel. “I think the weekend was good for us.”
Christian Horner, Red Bull’s team principal, was also putting a brave face on a result that leaves the team trailing rivals McLaren in the constructors’ championship, while Vettel is languishing in fifth in the drivers’ standings.
“Our race pace was pretty strong and we got amongst the McLarens,” said Horner. “Unfortunately, the front left tyre on Vettel’s car took a real hammering and he didn’t have anything left tyre-wise by the end of the race. But nonetheless, having been 15th on the first lap, fifth is still a strong result.”
Rosberg not getting carried away
In contrast, Vettel’s compatriot Rosberg and his speedy Mercedes appear to be going strong after the German claimed the first grand prix win of his career.
But Rosberg was keen not to get too carried away, with the controversial Bahrain race going ahead on Sunday.
“I had a great race but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be like that at every race,” he cautioned. “We still need to push hard and continue progressing. Bahrain could be a little bit of a different story again. We need to wait and see.”
Meanwhile, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso has made no attempt to hide his dissatisfaction with the car.
“Obviously this does not leave me very optimistic for the next race,” said Alonso, who finished ninth. “Once again it will be mainly a case of damage limitation. I don’t want to think of the classification because the priority is to improve the performance of the F2012.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2012.