In cricket, the number 111 known as Nelson's figure, isn't considered to be auspicious. The famous on-field hop of umpire David Shepherd, when the team score reached 111 or its multiple, has become a part of cricketing folklore. For Nico Rosberg though, number 111 has been his luckiest so far. The German driver registered the first win of his Formula One career at the Chinese GP in what was his 111th race. The 27-year-old, who is the son of the 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg, has had to wait for six years for his first win. And what a win it was!
Starting from pole, he led the race from the start to finish, barring loss of lead to Jenson Button due to a different pitstop strategy. While the other drivers and teams were constantly adjusting their pit stop strategies due to traffic and performance issues, there was no hesitancy as far as Rosberg's performance and strategy was concerned. Nico though is not the only one who would be sensing a sigh of relief for having ended the victory drought.
Mercedes GP team principal Ross Brawn and Mercedes Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug too had big smiles on their faces. And understandably so. In 2010, Mercedes returned to Formula One as a works team after more than five decades. There were lot of expectations from the team that boasted of drivers like Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. Also, the fact that in 2009, Brawn GP, the earlier avatar of Mercedes, had won both drivers' and constructors' championships had raised the expectations.
However, the first two years were disappointing, particularly 2011 when the team couldn't manage a single podium finish, let alone a victory. This year therefore was considered to be a litmus test for everyone in the team including the parent manufacturer company which had returned to the sport at or around the time when other big automobile makers like BMW, Toyota, Renault had decided to pull out because of economic slowdown. Also, in the first two races of this season, the team had managed to score only a single point thanks to a 10th place finish by Schumacher. Nico had finished 12th and 13th at Australia and Malaysia respectively.
However, China was going to be different for Mercedes GP as their cars were better suited to the long straights of the Shanghai track. Their cars were quicker than the competition because of the use of an innovative aerodynamic system which is now being called as 'double DRS'. The difference was apparent on Saturday when Rosberg took pole with a stunning lap.
It was apt that he won ahead of Michael as the former has been consistently outperforming the seven times world champion in the team's 41 races since 2010. In fact, Rosberg achieved three podium finishes (all 3rd places) in 2010, something Michael hasn't managed to do even once so far. In both 2010 and 2011, Nico finished comfortably ahead of Schumacher in drivers' standings as well.
Among the other runners, Schumacher was extremely unlucky to have retired at a stage when a podium finish seemed to be a strong possibility. Though outpaced by Rosberg, Schumacher had a chance of scoring his first podium finish after making a comeback to the sport in 2010. He must be hoping to break the jinx soon. The two McLaren drivers Button and Hamilton put in a solid performance to finish 2nd and 3rd respectively. Button must be wondering as to what might have been, had the team not messed up his final pitstop when he lost lot of time.
Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel would have been mighty pleased with a fifth placed finish considering he started 11th on the grid in a car that had handling issues. His teammate Mark Webber finished in fourth, the same place he had finished in the previous two races.
Lotus GP had a mixed race as its star driver Kimi Raikkonen, who was in second place with 11 laps to go, ended up outside the points table. However, the team would have been relieved by the performance of Romain Grosjean who finished sixth, scoring his first points of the season. Bruno Senna had yet another impressive outing finishing 7th while Malaysian GP hero Sergio Perez finished outside the points.
The Chinese GP meanwhile lived up to its reputation of throwing up different winners every year with Rosberg being the 8th driver to have won in the nine races so far.