Fernando Alonso (Q, 3. R, 1)
Alonso recorded a textbook race, sneaking quietly into the lead and making no mistakes along his journey to the chequered flag. It was an important victory for the Spaniard who, before China, hadn’t yet put a score on the board in 2013. He’s still behind Massa in the standings, but has taken an important 20 points out of the Brazilian in one swoop. It’ll have dented Felipe’s confidence to see his team-mate perform such a commanding victory while he was unable to out-pace a Toro Rosso in the late stage of the race. Ferrari look to be a force and their rivals will struggle to contain the charging Spaniard at the Sakhir circuit.
Lewis Hamilton (Q, 1. R, 3)
It was an important result for Hamilton after the drama of Sepang. Most importantly, Rosberg’s retirement put a gap of 28 points between the team-mates after just three races. Nico’ll jump back to near the front before too long (probably in Bahrain), but Hamilton made important ground this weekend. It’s races like these that show the Mercedes hierarchy which of their two drivers should receive preferential treatment in the long haul.
Daniel Ricciardo (Q, 7. R, 7)
Ricciardo’s race was not only impressive because of the car he was driving but because he was forced to change a damaged front wing early on, thereby extending his first pit stop. He received the applause of Button following qualifying and made no mistakes on the way to coming home a strong seventh in the race. A similar qualifying performance in Bahrain last year saw him 19th by the end of the first lap, but he wasn’t didn’t show any signs of making the same mistakes this time around. With Webber rumoured to be leaving Red Bull Racing at the end of the year, a few more results like those in China won’t have done Ricciardo any harm by the time the boys in Milton Keynes consider Mark’s replacement.
Nico Hulkenberg (Q, 10. R, 10)
It was another race in which Hulkenberg managed to sneak towards the front – if only for a brief few laps. Nico’s impressive ability to put his car (be it Williams, Force India or Sauber) into a race-leading position will have consistently impressed the bigger teams around him. While he lead the pack, his team-mate had already plunged ungracefully out of the race, taking Adrian Sutil with him. After missing the opening round, Hulkenberg has had two strong races in succession. With questions over seats at Red Bull and Ferrari at the end of 2013, Nico will want to keep up these performances until Brazil.
Mark Webber (Q, 22. R, RET)
Mark did brilliantly at the beginning of the race, completely negated his pitlane start and put himself ahead of his team-mate after the first stops. A clumsy crash with Jean-Eric Vergne resulted in a wheel nut failure that saw him park his car at turn 14 with only three wheels. Webber was due in for new tyres around the time of the incident, so the pit-stop mistake can’t be attributed as completely fault. Vettel moved 15 more points ahead and with Bahrain next – a track not typically favoured by Webber – Mark’s best chances come in the next few European races. Who would bet against him at Monaco?
Esteban Gutierrez (Q, 18. R, RET)
Three rounds in and Gutierrez is still looking out of sorts. Making a tit of himself at the hairpin was probably the least of his worries as he re-entered the Sauber motorhome to meet the glaring eyes of his colleagues. Esteban had best hope he has a watertight contract, otherwise results like these might see his season terminated prematurely.
Nico Rosberg (Q, 4. R, RET)
Rosberg conceded more ground to Hamilton in China, though through no fault of his own. Out-shone in qualifying, Hamilton surged ahead while Rosberg retired with a roll-bar failure. Nico showed a lot of strength in Malaysia and he’ll want that energy back for Bahrain before the gap gets out of hand. He set the fastest lap of the race on his debut at Sakhir, but he’ll need more than that to beat Lewis in a week’s time.
Williams (Q, 14, 16. R, 13, 14)
Another race goes by and the Williams misery continues. Fortunately for the Grove squad, with every passing race the European leg draws closer. They sit 14 points behind Force India going into the fourth round of the year and they’ll want a quick turnaround to crush their rivals’ lead. Maldonado and Bottas have the speed – they just need the car to deliver it (and a car that doesn’t break down wouldn’t hurt). They’re a team that’s been less than well-off for much of the last decade and sponsors aren’t going to be coming to them if they don’t deliver results.
Sergio Perez (Q, 12. R, 11)
Sergio, Sergio, Sergio. After a great 2012 campaign, the Mexican is looking decidedly second-rate against Jenson Button. The Briton, who eventually finished fifth while Perez crossed the line in 11th, has now lead at least one lap of the last two races, albeit by virtue of strategy. If things don’t pick up soon, McLaren are going to look quite silly with the two-season contract they’re tied into. The mid-point of the season has typically been Sergio’s strongest and he’ll need to start showing his cards quickly if he has any hope of securing his first race victory in 2013.