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GP Week : Issue 149
As was the case in Shanghai last year, the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix proved to be a thrilling strategic battle, with tyre strategy determining much of the final outcome. The battle of the brains on the pitwall led to a nail-biting race in which rubber was king, winners and losers made by the number and timing of stops and the condition of rubber in the closing stages of the grand prix. For much of Sunday’s race, Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen appeared to be one of the winners. The Finnish driver started in P4, and held his position until lap 10, the first of his two stops. Returning to the action in P6, Raikkonen sat comfortably within the points until his second and final stop on lap 28, having climbed up to P2 before heading for the pits. With 28 laps left to the flag, few observers expected the Lotus driver to be running till the end – none of the other two-stoppers were on the same pit strategy, as the lateral loads in Shanghai lead to relatively high degradation on both compounds, no matter how cool the air and track temperatures. That two-stop strategy proved to be Raikkonen’s downfall, as he was unable to defend his position on his ailing Pirellis. With what was presumed to be the final round of pit stops out of the way, Raikkonen looked to be on course for a likely podium, and a certain finish in the points. But it was not to be, as the Finnish driver slid from P2 to P12 in the course of a single lap. Passed by Sebastian Vettel on lap 47, Raikkonen then slid onto the marbles and let half of the field past as he struggled to regain grip. The ensuing battles for position in the top ten led to one of the most exciting grand prix finishes in recent memory. “We tried to run two stops as it looked to be the fastest strategy and up until the last ten laps it was looking good, but we ran out of tyre performance at the end,” the Finnish driver explained. “I was stuck behind Felipe [Massa] for quite a while and couldn't get past as I wasn't fast enough in the right parts of the track to make a move. “Even if I'd got past I don't think it would have made the greatest amount of difference to the final result. We had good pace in the race, we tried a different strategy and it didn't pay off today; it's is simple as that.” Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, scored his first Formula One points for Lotus, having finally broken out of his ‘score Saturday, retire Sunday’ streak. STRICKEN RAIKKONEN BEHIND THRILLING CHASE TO THE FLAG 29 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> CHINA