Welcome to Shanghai where rain is in the air. Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett in the studio with Will Buxton grid walking in China.
pressdog beer of the race (actually of the DVR replay) is Einbecker Brauherren Premium Pils, brewed in German, just like pole-sitter Sebastian "Wolfgang" Vettel.
Will Buxton said the crowd at Shanghai is up this year, probably due to Mike Schumacher driving. Varsha says TV viewership in Germany, where Schumacher is a GOD, is up MORE THAN DOUBLE so far.
It's raining during pre-race causing much tire consternation. Slicks, intermediate wets ("inters") or full wets? Not raining hard enough to go full wet, but people are thinking inters.
Commercials in here for NASCAR's "Fast Track to Fame" which is kind of a trackside talent show. Next edition is at Texas Motor Speedway. This make me shudder.
Buxton talks to us about the "F Ducts" coming to Ferrari soon. Shows us on the side of a Ferrari where they will be and explains. Two ducts cut into the side of the car up by the main air intake that channel air back to the back wing. Only work when both are hit with the air, so in corners the ducts don't function. Result is increased straight line speed without sacrificing downforce in the corners. Crazy. Excellent, simple, understandable explanation. Viewing enhanced. Seems McLaren pioneered this F-duct thing and now everyone is in super modification mode to make their own version. Example of how creativity, not gobs of money, is improving the car. IndyCar take note.
Bernie Ecclestone gets massive air hugging Filipe Massa. Bernie should be hugging Mike Schumacher with all the gobs of cash he's bringing in.
We go around the circuit with Dave Hobbs, ice tinkling in his Scotch-on-the-rocks the whole time. The track looks like an angry cat (turn 13 is the rear foot, turn 14 is the is the tail sticking straight up in rage. You kinda gotta tilt your head.) Hermann Tilke (track designer) clearly has a thing for curly qs.
Starting grid -- Vettel, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Fil Massa, Bob Kubica, Mike Schumacher, Adrian Sutil, Rubens Barichello, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi, Vitaly Petrov, Kamui Kobayashi, Nico "The Incredible" Hulkenberg, Pedro de la Rosa, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Timo Glock, Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovalainen, Lucas di Grassi, Lucas di Grassi, Karun Chandhok.
Story lines -- Bob Varsha: Can anyone stop Red Bull, dominant so far in practices. Dave: Mick and Nic (teammates at McLaren). So far Nico has had the better of Mike Schumacher. Steve: Weather!
Gridded. Let's light this candle. Lights are out so we're GREEN. HOLY ASHLEY FORCE ... Nando got an incredible start. May have jumped the start. Darts around Webber and Vettel into P1 easily. Circus stays away. We're clean so far.
Spoke too soon. Cue the circus music! Yellow yellow yellow. It's a festival of carbon fiber with dead cars on the track. Kobayashi Maru and Liuzzi are toast. Matchett: "SAFETY CAR." (Insert Steve dancing here.) Full course due to the car shrapnel everywhere.
Replay. Liuzzi ass-around on his own and then mounts Buemi's front wing and then into Kobayashi.
This touches off a festival of pitting. As cars are coming in, Matchett:
"Here we go, boys. Here we go! It's going to get very busy very quickly." Here's where the F1 announcing team is unrivaled. They get excited about the race and express it in ways that get us excited too. Matchett is the master of this. "HE MUST PUSH NOW!" kind of thing. Makes it easy to get excited about even fuel strategy. I think this would be incredibly difficult to do as an announcer, and the F1 guys do it incredible well. Viewing definitely enhanced.
Jenson radios that Alonso jumped the start. Replays. Yep. 'Nando jumped it. Left before the lights were out. Got The Point from the chief steward Charlie. F1 Iron Hand of Justice is gonna have to CRACK DOWN.
Everyone is pitting (virtually). Going some going to inters. Some not. Hamilton is warming his tires and loses it, going into the gravel at pit-in. Maybe on purpose, though since he pulls down pit lane.
Safety Car is in. Matchett does a little marching dance in the booth he's so EN FUEGO for the restart.
Lap 4 -- GREEN. Much inhaling on the restart from the fast guys shuffled into the back by the pitting. Festival of overtaking out there.
Webber looks at Jaime. Mike pits and goes back to soft tires from inters. Alonso will have to do a drive-through for jumping the start.
Hamilton and Vettel battle, now into the pits. HOLY PIT ROAD RACING. Hamilton dives under the alleged pit road lane lines as he comes in to try and get ahead of Vettel. Pretty sure that's illegal, but let's not hold our breath for a penalty. Everyone pits and SCREW THE RULE BOOK .. Hamilton racing Vettel cuts down onto the painted slow lane and they may have touched. Dude. Endangering the pit crews, anyone?
We're onboard with Vettel who is dirt tracking on his slick tires. I think in here someone says the stewards will probably have a look at Hamilton's wild stuff on the pit in and pit lane. I can't read my notes because I am laughing so hard at the idea of it. Um, I doubt it since nobody died. Even if they do, they will issue one of those rulings four days after the fact.
Lap 8 -- Di La Rosa is toast. Looks like his engine is BLOWN up, SIR!.
Lap 9 -- Replay of Vettel overtaking Webber.
Rosberg, Button, Kubica, Petrov, Alguersuari, Kovalainen, Schumacher, Sutil
Lap 12 -- Hamilton overtakes Sutil. Vettel tries to follow but NO. Sutil and Vettel battle. Force India is fast in the straights, helping him hold off Wolfgang.
Down the front straight.
CLEAR. Vettel around Sutil. German pleasantries exchanged. Sutil failed to swerve to break the tow in a Hamilton-like fashion, which is perfectly acceptable according to Hamilton, his team and his defenders.
Mike radios in that it is raining again. Pit said it will be about like it was before. Kind of light, off and on, etc. Hamilton is catching Schumacher in P5 at 3 seconds per lap.
Lap 14 -- Rosberg, Button, Kubica, Petrov, Schumacher, Hamilton, Vettel, Webber, Sutil, Alguersuari.
Hamilton looks under Mike. NO. Hobbs -- This is what Hamilton dreams of, overtaking Michael Schumacher. Hamilton drafts Schumacher who fails to swerve repeatedly to "break the tow." Replay --- Hamilton overtakes Schumacher. Now Vettel inhales Schumacher. Webber is next. Raining harder now.
Lap 18 -- Alguersuari and Sutil go two-wide for a few turns. Finally Alguersuari is CLEAR. Button is starting to reel in Rosberg. Button dives inside ... CLEAR. Pass for the lead. Viewing extremely enhanced. Booth guys speculate that Rosberg may have an issue. Replay shows ..
Schumacher and Webber pit. Both get inters. Everyone pits for inters. Raining harder. Slicks won't do it. I think Button is still out on slicks, though. Doing some stacked pit stops here where one car waits in back of the other for service. Crazy.
Right on cue, Button and Rosberg pit from the lead. Both get inters. Alguersuari on the way into the pit drops his front wing and then runs over it causing festive carbon fiber to spray into the air. Booth guys: "WOE!"
Yellow and SAFETY CAR. Why? Why full course? NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Nobody can find anything on the track or monitors that show why full course. Very phantom. Helps Button out though.
Button, Rosberg, Kubica, Petrov, Schumacher, Webber, Hamilton, Vettel.
Massa and Alonso coming in together. Alonso drives below the alleged pit lane road marker just as Hamilton did before in an attempt to pass his own teammate. Dude.
Restart coming. Button slows down causing a major accordion situation. Cars everywhere. GREEN.
Cue the circus music! People are driving on the grass, random run off areas, darting back onto the track, crazy shit. Booth guys sound like they are giving birth .. OOOOO, AHAAAAA, WOE WOE WOOOOOOOE. A tiny ambulance pulls up and 32 clowns dressed as OBGYN doctors tell everyone to "Breathe. Breathe."
Lap 26 -- festival of overtaking. Matchett says he wouldn't be surprised if the stewards looked at allegations that Button went slow on purpose coming to the restart. Me: Hahahahahahahahaaha. Good one. The stewards are going to smack Button who is in the lead. Doubtful. Maybe a harshly worded warning next Wednesday.
Lap 29 -- Hamilton is inhaling people. It's like a Medicinal Marijuana Convention out there (much inhaling).
Lap 30 -- Button, Rosberg, Kubica, Hamilton, Petrov, Sutil, Alonso, Vettel, Mike, Barrichello.
Schumacher working on Sutil. Can't get 'er done. Petrov goes off course. Dude. Just got squirrely coming out of a corner. Petrov manager OKSANA gets air.
Lap 35 -- Bob says the front runners are starting to slow down. Losing two seconds per lap. Lewis is in P3 closing on Rosberg.
Lap 37 -- Button, Rosberg, Hamilton.
Schumacher pits from P10. Button is 7 seconds up on Rosberg. Was 1.5 ahead of Rosberg when Nico and Lewis started to battle. Slowing them both down. Buxton says he had a look at Webber's tires after the last pit and they were toast. Inters were worn slick. Probably happening to everyone out there.
Button still has only pitted once. Bob -- Button is known for silky smooth driving, so maybe he can spare his tires and stay out for the rest of the way.
Right on cue, Button pits. Was 7 seconds up on the pack when he pitted. Likely Nico and Hamilton will have to it too. Yes, Rosberg pits right behind Button. Button should get out with ease in P1. Yes. Here comes Hamilton though. P2. Rosberg gets out behind Hamilton who I think pitted just briefly before Rosberg.
Lap 39 (of 56) -- McLaren team boss will have to decide of Hamilton and Button will battle for real up front or what.
Replay -- Webber locks up the front left and goes off.
Hamilton is in P2 despite FOUR pit stops to Button's two. We have many ads for porn cable/dish channels during this race broadcast Crazy.
Lap 41 (of 56) -- Vettel in P6 has 15 laps to carve the field. Webber right behind in P7.
Button lapping. Around Chandhok who makes it easy. Props to Chandhok. Button radios to be kept informed of what Hamilton is doing. Button is 2.6 ahead.
Vettel is all up in Bob Kubica's business. Petrov and Massa both inhale Alguersuari.
Lap 46 -- Alonso is P4 and working on Nico. Hobbs says Nico is the slowest car of the top 7. Rosberg losing 1.3 seconds per lap to 'Nando.
Lap 47 -- Button is gapping Hamilton. Has 5 seconds on him. Hamilton may have no tread left on his tires, especially front left.
Lap 50 (of 56) -- Hamilton is now -10 seconds to Button. Rosberg may now be closing on Hamilton. Booth guys do a masterful job here of keeping me aware of the gaps so I can follow the action, potential for overtaking, etc. Again, nobody does better at painting the picture in these kinds of situations than the F1 peeps.
Lap 51 -- Rosberg may have picked it up in response to Alonso pressure. I think that cars with a big gap easy off to save their tires, then get back on it when they have to, but only after the pursuer has chewed up his tires to catch him. Alonso dirt tracks out of a corner. I think he can do that any time he wants.
Replay. HOLY SCHNIKES. Button goes off. Gets right back on, but loses about four seconds to Hamilton.
Petrov INHALES Schumacher. That was an industrial shop vac level inhaling. Wow. Hobbs gives Petrov major props during this race. All the booth guys are impressed with him, and rightly so. First ever Russian F1 driver.
Lap 52 -- Lewis' tires are toast. Driving on four bald radials out there in the wet.
Lap 53 -- Rosberg is 7 seconds behind Hamilton. Lewis has picked it up a little bit in response, but probably won't catch Button barring some brain freeze from Button. Alonso is part badger, I swear, because he's still working on Rosberg.
Lap 54 (of 56) -- Massa tries Schumacher on the outside and Mike hip checks him right off the track. NEIN! Petrov is catching Bob Kubica at the rate of 3 seconds per lap. Driving enraged.
Hamilton closing on Button, but it's too late barring major brain lockup by Jenson. Petrov goes inside Webber. BAM. CLEAR. Comrade Freaky Deaky is throwing it down.
Hamilton is driving like a man possessed, but probably just trying to freak Button into being stupid. Not going to get there otherwise.
WHITE (do they use the white flag in F1?) Button will win barring air strike or brain lock. Massa and Schumacher still going at it. Fil --- CLEAR. Under Mike for the position. Mike comes back at him .... NO.
Hamilton doesn't have enough. Button wins. Hamilton, Rosberg holds off the Badger (Alonso). Petrov P7. Insane drive in the wet.
Button on the radio. Much celebratory yelling. "We earned that one." Says sorry for the scare at the end and that his tires are shot. Festival of Union Jacks in the crowd as Her Majesty's subjects Button and Hamilton go 1-2.
Finishing order -- Button, Hamilton, Rosberg, Alonso, Kubica, Vettel, Petrov, Webber, Massa, Schumacher, Sutil, Barrichello, Alguersuari, Kovalainen, Hulkenberg, Senna, Chandhok Trulli, di Grassi, de la Rosa, Buemi, Kobayashi, Liuzzi, Glock.
Driver points ... Button 60, Rosberg 50, Alonso 49, Hamilton 49, Vettel 45.
Constructor points ... McLaren Mercedes 109, Ferrari 90, Red Bull Renault 73, Mercedes GP 60, Renault 46.
Next race -- Spain. Sun 09 May 8:00 eastern.