Nico Rosberg is the third son of a winning grand prix driver to win a grand prix. Got that? He’s also the only son of a living world champion to win a race, and he’s the first driver of a works Mercedes F1 car to win a race since Juan Manuel Fangio in 1955. In short: it’s been a very emotional day for the Rosberg family in Shanghai!
And it’s going to be a long night. As much as the whole team wants to celebrate this historic moment, the freight has to be packed up this evening because it leaves the Shanghai paddock at midnight. Dismantling the garage is an all-hands-on-deck affair and only when it’s done can the celebrations begin.
Ross Brawn, the team principal of MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS, and Nico have organised an impromptu party once the team have finally finished work to celebrate. The team will then fly to Bahrain tomorrow, along with all the other teams in the pitlane, and they will start work at Sakhir on Tuesday morning ahead of next weekend’s race. With the circuit characteristics being similar to Shanghai, Mercedes must feel quietly confident about their chances in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“If Nico wins by 20s again next weekend,” says Mark Webber, “then the rest of us know we’ve got
While Nico’s win was a first for him, something occurred in the Paddock Club today that had never been seen before. A Chihuahua wearing a pearl necklace (no jokes please - Ed) was smuggled into the track by one of the Chinese guests and it proceeded to help its owner eat her expensive lunch. How did it get past Paddock security, we hear you ask? In a diamond embroidered handbag!
With so little time to pack up before leaving the Shanghai International Circuit, team catering staff were thinking of ways to dispose of food quickly this evening. Someone had the bright idea of feeding the fish in the lake next to the hospitality units and it proved a hit with the coy carp. They were going mad for bread and even chicken curry!
Nico Rosberg’s first pole position in Formula One - and the first for a Mercedes-Benz works car since Monza in 1955 - couldn’t have come at a better race. China is Mercedes’ third biggest market (after Germany and the USA) and sales are up 24 percent in the first three months of 2012.
After the qualifying session, when the smiles were still broad, Michael Schumacher - who will join Rosberg on the front row for tomorrow’s race - had to rush to the former Expo site in downtown Shanghai for the launch of the C63 AMG Coupé in China. Michael was joined on stage by former adversary Mika Hakkinen, who’s an official ambassador for AMG in the People’s Republic. Mika retired from F1 at the end of 2001, so he never got to race an F1 car here, but Chinese racing fans got to see him driving an SLS AMG in November’s Zhuhai Six Hours. The launch was deemed a huge success, with more than 1,000 guests and Chinese media turning up to the event. All MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS needs todo now is repeat its starting positions in tomorrow’s race!
The first race of the weekend has already taken place, however, when more than 100 paddock pass holders took part in the second UBS Group Run of the year (the first being in Melbourne). UBS gave €300 to Make A Wish Foundation for each lap successfully negotiated and going into tonight’s race, they had already spent $38,000.
Elsewhere, Sky’s Georgie Thompson wasn’t happy with the money she shelled out for a ‘Rolex’ in Shanghai’s Bund market earlier in the week. She thought she’d struck a bargain when she paid a stall holder £250 for her Swiss replica, having knocked £200 off the asking price. Then she was told that other people had paid £50 for exactly the same watch… Doh!
It’s the Grand National horse race at Aintree in the UK this afternoon and many of the British teams couldn’t let it pass without a sweepstake. Williams mechanic ‘Pikey’ took the betting particularly seriously, charging 50 Yuan (€6) per horse and paying out on the first and last horses. Sounds almost as much of a lottery as the Malaysian GP three weeks ago!
China you say? If you read the press clippings generated by the Formula One media this week, you'd have thought we were already in Bahrain. The 'will-they, won't-they' saga surrounding the Bahrain Grand Prix is all everyone can talk about in Shanghai.
Everyone except the teams and drivers of course. Finding anyone to say anything meaningful about whether or not the race should take place has been near impossible, although Mark Webber tried hard to articulate his thoughts. “At the end of the day,” he said, “it’s only a car race.”
Japanese and Finnish TV networks have already said they won’t send their crews to Bahrain, choosing instead to produce their shows from Tokyo and Helsinki respectively. Who else will follow?
In the end, it took F1’s commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone to knock the story on the head. After meeting the team principals today, he asked for the speculation to stop. “We’re definitely going,” he said. “If there are any problems, we’ll sort them out on the ground.” End of.
There have been problems of a different kind here in Shanghai and most of them have involved drivers. Not F1 drivers, but road drivers. Kimi Raikkonen suffered the worst fate on Thursday, when he left his hotel and expected his chauffeur-driven car to deliver him to the F1 paddock. After two hours of driving, he was eventually dropped at the airport!
At that moment, Kimi’s recent experience in rallying came to the fore. He grabbed a map and made some pace notes, which involved drawing landmarks that the driver should follow. He eventually arrived at the track three hours after he’d set off… The upshot? He’s pulled rank and pinched the chauffeur of Lotus’s third driver Jerome D’Ambrosio for the remainder of the weekend.
On a different note, the F1 paddock was graced by the presence of Williams’ new development driver Susie Wolff today. The DTM star (and wife of Williams shareholder Toto Wolff) put on some overalls, answered questions and tried to sit in Bruno Senna’s seat for a feature on Sky TV. She just about managed it, but was shocked to discover that Bruno has narrower hips!
While on the subject of Sky, their chief pundit Damon Hill is nowhere to be seen in China. He’s contracted to do only 11 of this year’s 20 races for F1’s newest broadcaster and he’s been replaced this weekend by three-time grand prix winner Johnny Herbert. Let’s hope Johnny be good.