JENSON BUTTON BEATS LEWIS HAMILTON TO CHINA VICTORY
Jenson Button stormed to his second win of the season as he headed team-mate Lewis Hamilton to a McLaren one-two at the Chinese Grand Prix.
Rain played havoc in China as Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg held off Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to finish third with Renault's Robert Kubica in fifth.
Button's win means he leads the drivers' championship by 10 points.
Despite starting at the front of the grid, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber finished sixth and eighth.
Kubica's team-mate Vitaly Petrov completed an impressive day for Renault when he overtook Webber late on to take seventh position and earn his first points in Formula 1.
Chinese GP – Top three drivers
Button had won the Australian Grand Prix after an early swap to slick tyres proved crucial and it was again superior strategic decisions by the 2009 world champion which led to him dominating for much of the race.
“It was a tricky race and we called it right. It's not just about being quick – it's about reading the conditions,” said Button.
Meanwhile, Hamilton once again proved his class when climbing the field.
The 2008 world champion made four pit stops throughout the grand prix in comparison to Button's two but still managed to fight back and pick up a vital 18 points.
“Jenson made the better choice on the tyres. It wasn't easy making the call when to change the tyres. I chose very late halfway around the last corner. Clearly it wasn't the right choice,” said Hamilton.
Rosberg, challenged hard by Alonso in the closing stages, again out-performed team-mate Michael Schumacher who finished tenth, while Webber and Vettel will be hugely disappointed with their race performance.
A disappointed Schumacher said: “It is one of those races that you call frustrating. There were some good emotions but there were too many bad. Quite honestly the whole weekend did not work out for myself.”
Elsewhere, Felipe Massa fell from leading the driver's championship to sixth place overall after finishing ninth in China.
Closing laps were tricky – Button
With rain starting as the drivers lined up on the grid, the race got off to a manic start.
Third-placed Alonso immediately sprung to the front, overtaking the Red Bulls who had started at the front of the grid – but it was a jump-start by the Spaniard, who subsequently had to serve a drive through penalty.
On the first corner Force India's Vitantonio Liuzzi careered across the track to wipe out Virgin's Timo Glock, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Sebastien Buemi in the Toro Rosso, which led to the safety car being deployed.
That yellow flag bunched the cars and within minutes a complete re-jig of the grid order followed, as rain forced the vast majority of drivers to go in for intermediate tyres before, two laps later, the same cars headed back in to swap to slicks.
Those double pit stops allowed Rosberg, Button and Kubica, who did not pit and instead stuck on soft tyres, to charge into the podium positions and establish a 50-second lead.
Vettel incident just part of racing – Hamilton
Behind the leaders a thrilling battle ensued between Hamilton and Vettel as they fought to climb back into the top spots.
First the duo tussled on entrance into the pit before, as they were released out of the pits at the same time, the pair went wheel-to-wheel in a tense exchange which left Vettel narrowly ahead.
The face-off continued and at the hairpin on Turn 14 Hamilton cut inside Force India's Adrian Sutil and Vettel with an impeccably timed pass which put the McLaren up to sixth position.
That early yellow flag also handed Alonso the opportunity to recover from his drive-through penalty and power his way through the field with a stunning drive, which included a canny overtake of team-mate Massa at the entry to the pit lane.
And still the rain came and went unpredictably, throwing up a season's worth of drama in one grand prix.
At the end of lap 22 debris from a disturbance to Jaime Alguersuari's Toro Rosso front wing forced the safety car out for a second time, bunching the pack once more.
That ruined the lead Button had been working hard to establish after overtaking Rosberg – and the Englishman subsequently slowed the field as racing restarted, bringing everyone incredibly close around the final hairpin.
“When the safety car was clearing debris off the circuit I had my heart in my mouth,” said Button.
“We had built up such a good gap and then everyone caught up, it was very tricky.”
With large clouds of rain rising behind the cars, the second half of the race saw the ever-daring Hamilton dash for the lead.
Button's 'fantastic' drive delights Whitmarsh
The McLaren man charged past the Renaults before launching his challenge on Rosberg, until a fourth pit stop again relegated the Briton's position.
However, Rosberg's second pit stop handed Hamilton the opportunity to pull through in front of the German, whose general pace was slower, and set his sights on his team-mate.
But with degenerating tyres both McLarens were forced to nurse their way through the closing stages, albeit with a couple of violent swerves, to finish one second apart and seal a convincing victory for their team.
“Towards the end of the race, when we put the intermediates on, the car felt really good,” said Button.
“I wasn't pushing the tyres too much but then it started raining again.
“I made a mistake on the hairpin and ran wide and from then on I couldn't get any heat into the tyres. Any water I touched I aquaplaned so I had to back off.”
For Button a second win in only his fourth Grand Prix for McLaren means he will lead the championship going into the Spanish Grand Prix.
And Button can take extra confidence in the knowledge that in the last 20 seasons the driver leading after four rounds has won the championship on 15 occasions.