Vettel takes Chinese GP wire-to-wire

Updated: April 19, 2009, 10:25 AM ET
Associated Press

SHANGHAI -- Sebastian Vettel gave Red Bull its first Formula One victory on Sunday, leading throughout a soggy Chinese Grand Prix to end the team's drought in its fifth season and 74th race.

Having finally broken through, Red Bull also celebrated a one-two finish with Mark Webber notching his best ever finish.

[+] EnlargeSebastian Vettel
Mark Thompson/Getty ImagesRed Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel celebrates on the podium after winning Sunday at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Brawn GP's Jenson Button was third at the Shanghai International Circuit, stretching his championship lead to six points over teammate Rubens Barrichello, who was fourth.

Red Bull's 1-2, elevating it to second in the constructors' championship, was a credit to the team's crew, which fixed a drive shaft problem that hampered the cars in Saturday's practice, restricting their running in qualifying.

"It was a fantastic strategy and extremely good effort by the team to get both cars reliable after the trouble we had yesterday," said Vettel, who had his second career win after triumphing in wet conditions in Italy last year. "It's an enormous job by all of Red Bull."

The exultation in the Red Bull garage was in severe contrast to the gloom at Ferrari, which again finished out of the points, making it their worst start to a season since 1981. Felipe Massa had an electrical failure, while Kimi Raikkonen was 10th.

"We need to stay cool," Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said. "There is no reason to get in a panic mode because that would be worse."

Ferrari rival McLaren had its best showing of the year, with Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton fifth and sixth, respectively, ahead of Toyota's Timo Glock. The trio all benefited from a strategy that required only one pit stop while most others had two. Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi was eighth.

Vettel effectively led all race, but his drive was not without drama. The German survived being hit from behind by Buemi while coasting behind the safety car about one-third into the race, and also had to contend with a track made treacherous by standing water.

"It was close sometimes to keep the car on the track, especially entering Turn 1 sometimes there was a bit of a river running down the track and you just lost the car, snapped oversteer, just caught it and hoped for the tires to stick again," Vettel said.

Webber and Button had an entertaining battle midrace, with three passing maneuvers. The Australian eventually prevailed with an impressive pass around the outside on the seventh turn, which he described as "one of the best moves of my career."

"It was incredible to get the car home," Webber said. "To get maximum points after the missed opportunity in Australia and Malaysia, it's a great day for the team."

Though Brawn now has a real rival in the championship races, Button was pleased to get another podium position in the conditions, where visibility was poor due to the spray when trailing cars.

"It's very, very scary in a way," Button said. "Being third ... is such a relief and such a great feeling to come away with these points."

The hard luck story of the race was Force India's Adrian Sutil, who was in sixth place with five laps to go and on course to give his team its first points finish when he spun off on worn tires.

"It's hard to believe when you are in the car and then suddenly you lose it and it's all over from such a great position," Sutil said. "But you have to get over it. We had a great performance today."

It was the third straight race this season in which the pole sitter took the victory.

The first seven laps of the race were behind the safety car, which had to re-emerge after BMW's Robert Kubica crashed into the back of Toyota's Jarno Trulli on the 19th lap.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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