Ferrari's Michael Schumacher has taken victory at the one track he had yet to add to his record collection - taking a provisional lead in the 2006 F1 drivers standing at the same time.
Schumacher's 91st victory came under weather dampened conditions, the soon-to-retire German clinical in his race-track efforts. Michael and Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro timed their pit stops to perfection, making the right tyre choices as the track dried, while Michael's championship rival made life difficult for himself by changing to a new set of intermediates at his first pit stop, when others stayed on worn sets.
His victory draws him level on points with current F1 champion Fernando Alonso, who finished second. With both drivers on 116 points Schumacher takes the lead by virtue of the greater number of race wins he has had this season.
"I am so happy! I want to thank the team for this result, as they did a fantastic job. After the start, I was surprised to find that I could match the pace of those ahead of me, which was better than I had expected. After a while, I was able to close up on Fisichella. I thought that if I could pass him, even if I could not win, then at least I would only lose two points to Fernando and given where I started that would have been a good result. It was very important to reduce the gap to the Renaults when the track began to dry. The crucial moment came with the switch to dry tyres. I knew that even if Fisichella managed to stay ahead of me after his stop, I would have the chance to pass him going into the first corner as he would be in trouble with the temperature of his tyres and that is what happened. In the final laps, I drove very carefully. I had a good gap but the track conditions were getting difficult, however, I was never worried about getting caught. Now we go to Suzuka, a track that I love. But it is difficult to make any predictions and as usual, tyre performance will be crucial," said Schumacher.
Starting from pole, Alonso suffered during two crucial periods of the race, costing him vital track time. The first came at the end of the stint when, after discussions with Fernando and Michelin, the team chose to change the severely worn front tyres only. As Fernando returned to the track, he was unable to regain his previous level of performance - and was rapidly caught by Giancarlo Fisichella and Michael Schumacher behind. As a result of this he elected to stop early for dry tyres and fuel to the finish on lap 35. However, a pit-stop problem when a wheel nut came loose from the gun cost him vital seconds. The team is currently investigating the origin of the problem. After the leaders had stopped, he was 25 seconds behind with 15 laps to go. Although he subsequently closed the deficit rapidly, time ran out before he could catch leader Michael Schumacher.
"This was a difficult race for the team because we lost a very good opportunity today. I built up a good lead in the first 20 laps, but my front tyres were badly worn - and the conditions were difficult as the track was drying very slowly. We made the decision to change the fronts for a new pair, and it was the wrong one - as we saw with Fisi and Michael, who kept all four tyres on the car and were much quicker," said Alonso.
Chinese Grand Prix results
01 M. Schumacher Ferrari
02 F. Alonso Renault + 3.100
03 G. Fisichella Renault + 44.100
04 J. Button Honda + 1:12.000
05 P. de la Rosa McLaren + 1:17.100
06 R. Barrichello Honda + 1:19.100
07 N. Heidfeld BMW + 1:31.900
08 M. Webber Williams + 1 laps
09 D. Coulthard Red Bull + 1 laps
10 V. Liuzzi Scuderia Toro Rosso + 1 laps
11 N. Rosberg Williams + 1 laps
12 R. Doornbos Red Bull + 1 laps
13 R. Kubica BMW + 1 laps
14 T. Sato Super Aguri + 1 laps
15 S. Speed Scuderia Toro Rosso + 1 laps
16 C. Albers Spyker MF1 + 3 laps
17 S. Yamamoto Super Aguri + 4 laps
Did not finish
18 R. Schumacher Toyota + 7 laps
19 F. Massa Ferrari + 12 laps
20 J. Trulli Toyota + 18 laps
21 T. Monteiro Spyker MF1 + 19 laps
22 K. Räikkönen McLaren + 38 laps