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Martin Brundle column

Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel

Martin Brundle
By Martin Brundle
BBC Formula 1 broadcaster

The Red Bull cars seem to come alive in the wet and they were right on the money in what turned out to be an epic race in China on Sunday.

Sebastian Vettel produced the perfect drive to capture the team's first win in their fifth season and the second of his short career.

I like to see the Formula 1 drivers fully tested and the rain, combined with a race that lasted only two minutes short of the two-hour limit, put them through the wringer.

It is challenging to fully express what it is like driving through intensely wet conditions.

The best way I can describe it is to compare it to the split second when you pass a truck in heavy rain on the motorway and the spray momentarily obliterates the windscreen.

606: DEBATE

In F1, the driver's windscreen is his visor and sometimes they cannot even see their steering wheel and dashboard.

Their peripheral vision becomes hyper alert and they start listening out for the cars around them because they sure as hell cannot see them.

Approaching a hairpin bend at 190mph with virtually non-existent visibility is pretty challenging stuff. Do other sports people face that kind of danger and pressure for two hours? Probably not.

It is very hard to keep your head in those conditions and that is what is so impressive about Vettel. He is only 21 years old and yet he soaks up all the pressure.

His maiden victory - for Toro Rosso at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix - was also carved out in miserably wet weather and that will have given him the belief that he could do it again in China.

Both of Vettel's wins have come when he started on pole, which for a fair amount of the race ensures him better visibility in the wet.

Sebastian Vettel
Vettel produced a drive beyond his years in winning in the wet in Shanghai

Mark Webber, who finished behind his Red Bull team-mate in second, must have been frustrated not to be the first man to win for the team.

He went off the road over the river that formed throughout the race into the final turn when he was battling with Jenson Button's Brawn but the Australian can take pleasure from the fact that he has a fantastic car underneath him.

He has more chances to come this season, while Vettel has the all the hallmarks of a future world champion.

So what happened to Brawn and Button, the double act that won in Australia and Malaysia?

Red Bull won on raw pace in China; strategy just didn't come into it.

On paper, the Brawns of Rubens Barrichello and Button had qualified as one and two on the grid once fuel levels were taken into account.

If it had been dry in Shanghai then we would have seen the Red Bulls peeling off to the pits six laps before the Brawns, who would have had enough fuel in the tank to put on a spurt and take the lead.

So Brawn GP's race strategy was fine, it was they just did not have the wet pace in the end.

Ross Brawn's team have built a strong car but the problem is his drivers have not done much running in the rain.

The few wet laps they laid down in Malaysia before the race was red-flagged were all they have ever done because of their late emergence this winter.

In contrast, Red Bull seem to be able to easily find the extra grip in the wet and under Shanghai's leaden skies they were in a class of their own.

Sebastien Vettel approaches the final corner

Highlights - Chinese Grand Prix

And it was important for Red Bull to chalk up their first victory.

Team principal Christian Horner and his team need to show that they can get the job done. Austrian owner Dietrich Mateschitz has spent hundreds of millions of euros funding Red Bull and Toro Rosso and he needs some payback.

Yes, Toro Rosso won in 2008, but in some ways that was a negative because they were supposed to be the junior team. Red Bull Racing's win in China is the icing on the cake (although that was marred when the officials played the British rather than Austrian anthem).

McLaren, meanwhile, have definitely made a step forward - even if Hamilton's car was bizarrely lifting front wheels during heavy cornering in qualifying.

The Briton also had three off-track excursions in the race, so team-mate Heikki Kovalainen outperformed him, without doubt.

A final mention for one team desperately in need of a sweetener - Ferrari.

Shanghai was a disaster for the Italian team and I cannot imagine what kind of pressure they must be under at the moment.

It is just about as bad as things can get for Ferrari, who have yet to win a point this season.

Can the new age of Formula 1 blow up another storm in Bahrain? We will find out next week.



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see also
Vettel seals first Red Bull win
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Buoyant Vettel eyes more F1 glory
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Hamilton faces long wait for wins
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Ferrari predict end to poor form
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Button 'really happy' with third place
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Chinese Grand Prix as it happened
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Kubica and Trulli explain collision
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Chinese GP photos
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1


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