F1 » 19 April 2009
Vettel storms to first Red Bull F1 victory in China!
It may have taken them 75 races to get there, but when they finally did so they did it in style, as Sebastian Vettel led team-mate Mark Webber home in a resounding Red Bull Racing one-two triumph in a water-logged Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai today.
In an historic result, Vettel not only atoned for his error in the 2009 curtain-raiser in Melbourne that cost RBR the runner-up spoils Down Under, but he survived a nudge from behind from Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Sébastien Buemi under a mid-race safety car period and demonstrated all the composure of a seasoned Formula 1 veteran to hold his nerve in treacherous conditions that saw many of his rivals spinning off left, right and centre for his second wet weather grand prix victory.
What's more, much as when Jordan broke its own F1 duck in the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps – a race held in similar conditions – Red Bull's success was a double cause for celebration, with Webber taking the chequered flag second to cement the Milton Keynes-based squad's superiority. After two races of Brawn GP domination, the 2009 season has suddenly come alive.
With a wet track, the decision was taken to begin the grand prix under safety car conditions – a controversial move that threatened to play in the favour of the Brawns of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button and work against the top three cars on the grid, the Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber and the Renault of former double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, all of whom were significantly lighter on fuel than the two starting behind them.
Even at low speed behind the safety car, though, there were a number of incidents, with both Ferraris skating off-piste at the same corner and Force India's Adrian Sutil taking a trip through the gravel trap. The young German seized the opportunity to pit, as did countryman Nico Rosberg in the Williams – the first of the leading runners to blink – and then front-row starter Alonso, leaving the trio at the back of the field, but still with the pack and with a pit-stop already in their pocket.
The safety car remained on-track for what must have seemed an interminable length of time for the front-runners, finally coming in at the end of lap eight to release the drivers in a Red Bull one-two, with the menacing Brawns right up behind – and none of them having completed a flying lap in such conditions over the course of the weekend.
Reprising their Malaysian wet weather pace, the Red Bulls rapidly set about scampering away from the Brawn pairing to the extent that after just two racing laps, leader Vettel already had a ten-second advantage over third-placed Barrichello. The gap between the young German and team-mate Webber see-sawed until the first round of pit-stops arrived, when the Brawns took charge, Button now leading Barrichello after the latter had run slightly wide heading onto the pit straight earlier in the grand prix.
Behind the front-runners, it was an inspired Buemi who was the main man on the move, the architect of a truly superb performance that saw him not only hassle but go on to pass the similarly Ferrari-powered Kimi Raikkonen in a gritty and determined display that belied his lack of experience in the top flight.
The young Swiss ace's next target and victim was Jarno Trulli, who went backwards as he struggled for grip in the torrential conditions until his race was prematurely ended by Robert Kubica 17 laps in, with the Pole entering the final corner rather faster than the Toyota ahead of him and the F1.09 riding up over the back of the TF109, destroying the entire rear section of his Italian rival's car and ensuring that the Pescara native's sorry record in China was maintained.
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