Nico Rosberg finally claimed his first career Formula 1 race victory, and a first win for the modern incarnation of the factory Mercedes team, with a commanding drive in a thrilling Chinese Grand Prix.
The result made Rosberg the first new winner since Mark Webber took victory in the 2009 German Grand Prix. The last triumph for a works Mercedes was back in the 1955 Italian GP with Juan Manuel Fangio.
McLaren duo Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton completed the podium, ahead of Red Bull's Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel.
At a track where he had led only to fade in each of the last two years, Rosberg ensured he stayed at the head of an absorbing race in which myriad tire strategies played out through a lead pack that sometimes grew to a dozen cars.
Not only did drivers vary between two and three pit stops, but there were huge differences in stint length. Despite Mercedes' tire difficulties in the opening two 2012 races, this time the team handled the rubber perfectly, allowing Rosberg to deploy a textbook two-stop strategy and keep himself ahead of most of the action.
The German pulled away from his teammate Michael Schumacher in the opening laps, soon establishing a four-second lead. Schumacher's chance to feature in the lead battle then ended when he retired with an incorrectly fitted right-front wheel immediately after his first pit stop.
Button was Rosberg's main threat thereafter. A great start immediately took him to third, and he was catching Rosberg on a three-stop plan for a while, only for Rosberg's pace immediately after his final stop to secure his victory even before Button's lost several seconds with a left rear wheel issue at his final pit stop.
Kimi Raikkonen's two-stopping Lotus held second going into the closing stages, but trying to do half the race on his third set of tires proved too optimistic, and he tumbled from second to 14th in just a handful of laps.
Vettel, following a similar strategy, was first to pass Raikkonen, and looked like he might salvage second from his qualifying disaster. He could not hold off the McLarens or Webber with their fresher tires from a three-stop strategy, with Button getting through five laps from the end and Hamilton and Webber doing likewise amid a thrilling tussle over the last two laps. Webber took fourth despite his first pit stop coming as early as lap six, and two trips off the road – one of which featured a wild flight over the Turn 13 curbs.
While Raikkonen fell back, his teammate Romain Grosjean did a two-stop plan with a very long middle stint and was able to battle to sixth, ahead of Williams duo Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado.
Former championship leader Fernando Alonso was ninth for Ferrari, having lost a little ground running off-track trying to pass Maldonado.
Sauber was a factor in this pack but could not repeat its Malaysian heroics. Kamui Kobayashi fell back with a poor start and finished 10th, just ahead of teammate Sergio Perez, who led for a while on a two-stop plan. Paul di Resta (Force India) and Felipe Massa – who also led for a spell in his Ferrari – followed them home.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS
The Chinese Grand Prix
56 laps; 305.066km;
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Rosberg Mercedes 1h36:26.929
2. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 20.626
3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 26.012
4. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 27.924
5. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 30.483
6. Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 31.491
7. Senna Williams-Renault + 34.597
8. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 35.643
9. Alonso Ferrari + 37.256
10. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 38.720
11. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 41.066
12. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 42.273
13. Massa Ferrari + 42.700
14. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 50.500
15. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 51.200
16. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 51.700
17. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:03.100
18. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
19. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
20. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 1 lap
21. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 1 lap
22. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
23. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 3 laps
Fastest lap: Kobayashi, 1:39.960
Driver Team On lap
Schumacher Mercedes 16
World Championship standings, round 3:
1. Hamilton 45 1. McLaren-Mercedes 88
2. Button 43 2. Red Bull-Renault 64
3. Alonso 37 3. Ferrari 37
4. Webber 36 4. Sauber-Ferrari 31
5. Vettel 28 5. Mercedes 26
6. Rosberg 25 6. Lotus-Renault 24
7. Perez 22 7. Williams-Renault 18
8. Raikkonen 16 8. Force India-Mercedes 9
9. Senna 14 9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 6
10. Kobayashi 9
11. Grosjean 8
12. Di Resta 7
13. Vergne 4
14. Maldonado 4
15. Ricciardo 2
16. Hulkenberg 2
17. Schumacher 1
All timing unofficial