It was coming on 12.30pm and I was getting edgy. Time was moving too slow. I sighed, loud enough for my mom to look up, amused. “Ok, so, who is going to win today?” I looked at mom and then back at the television. Bernie Ecclestone was busy walking up and down the pitlane. “Well?” asked mom. “I don’t know Ma. I just don’t know,” I said. Twitter was confused as well. Predictions? There were none. Yes, it was going to be one of those races – you know what I mean; the kind we haven’t seen in a long, long time.
Then the five lights turned red and they were off. Around the first corner, and in that second everything changed. The cars went from being completely organized to a mass of hotchpotch former world champions and young ‘uns battling to get to the first.
But leading the way was the man of the moment, or rather, the man who had been waiting for this moment, a long, long time. Nico Rosberg set an incredible pace, one that outdid everyone on the grid, and left Sebastian Vettel gasping for breath. Well, by the looks of it, Rosberg wasn’t the only one who left Vettel gasping for breath. A few minutes to go to the chequered flag, and he got lapped first by Jenson Button, then by Lewis Hamilton, and finally, by teammate Mark Webber.
But this was just one of the many magnificent moments. Ice Man Kimi Raikonnen held his own till the 47th lap, beating off Vettel, Button, Romain Grosjean, Webber, Hamilton, Bruno Senna, Pastor Maldonado and Fernando Alonso. They were breathing down his neck. But then the Ice Man ran into trouble as the tyres finally gave up on him. In two laps, he fell, though very gracefully, to the 12th position. Meanwhile, Senna fought a worthy battle flying to the top 10, ending at the 7th position, and bringing home valuable points for the Williams team.
Perhaps one of the toughest things is writing about a race that is best watched. There are only a few adjectives that can describe Shanghai and I am afraid, I have run out them. How do I describe the million moments of edge-of-the-seat excitement? How do I recreate that instant, as I caught my breath, while watching several cars battle for a position, often nose to nose and nose to tail? Or Norbert Haug’s happiness as he hugged Rosberg, Hamilton, and Button on the podium? It is difficult. But perhaps, the one person who best described it was Rosberg. In the post-race conference, he said of the battle going on behind him, “I was aware of a bit of that because every lap the name changed of the person behind me – I said ‘what’s going on back there?’ Read the complete interview here.
Yes, these days F1 is about the technology. It is about the cars, the DRS, and the tyre and pitstop strategy. But today, it was about something else entirely different. It was about a group of talented drivers, racing with a passion. They brought the shine back to F1. And they have left the scoreboard open to interpretation. Hamilton may be leading the pack with 45 points to the championship. But he isn’t alone. Chasing him is teammate Button, Alonso who is pushing the Ferrari hard, and Red Bull’s Webber. The World Champion title is still up for grabs. Will Bahrain be the decider? Honestly? I hope not.
The What-Just-Happened Moments
* When Michael Schumacher’s mechanic waved frantically as the former world champion pealed out of the pitstop. Moments later, Schumi pulled off to the side because of an incorrectly bolted front right wheel. The team was fined €5,000, but it didn’t matter. After all, this was Mercedes’ first ‘works’ win since Juan Manuel Fangio’s 1955 victory at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.
* Jenson Button’s long pitstop, thanks to a few problems with the rear wheel. He ended up in traffic bang at the back of the grid, but fought his way to a well-earned 2nd.
* Nico Rosberg’s one-finger victory wave. Copyright Vettel no longer!