SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Nico Rosberg celebrated the first victory of his Formula One career - and the first in 57 years by Mercedes - after a dominant performance from pole position to chequered flag in China on Sunday.
The German’s 111-race wait for a win ended in a joyous champagne drenching as he joined an elite club of F1 drivers who have followed in the tracks of their racing fathers as grand prix winners.
Britain’s Jenson Button finished a distant second for Mercedes-powered McLaren, 20.6 seconds behind, after a pitstop problem wrecked what could have been a winning strategy for the man who won the 2009 title with Brawn.
Team mate and compatriot Lewis Hamilton had to settle for third place for the third race in a row to take the championship lead.
“It’s been the perfect weekend...it couldn’t be better,” declared the 102nd driver and seventh German to win a grand prix since the championship started in 1950.
Rosberg, whose Finnish father Keke won the 1982 world championship with Williams, let out a yell of jubilation almost as long as the pit straight as he crossed the line to deliver the first win for a Mercedes works team since 1955.
“Brilliant race, Nico. Just brilliant,” yelled team principal Ross Brawn over the radio.
Hamilton now has 45 points after three of the 20 rounds to Button’s 43. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, the double champion who had led before Shanghai, finished ninth and dropped to third overall with 37.
McLaren lead the constructors’ standings with 88 points to Red Bull’s 64.
Hamilton, a friend and former team mate of Rosberg before entering Formula One, was quick to congratulate his Monaco neighbour after a race won by the German without a single overtaking move for position after he rocketed away from pole.
”We knew that all weekend they had been quick and if we let these people get away it would be hard to catch him, so fantastic for him, congratulations,“ he said. ”Your first pole and your first win is an incredible feeling.
“I think it was one of the best races so far this season, just because there was a lot of overtaking and there was a train of us - I think seven cars or something - it was incredible. Yeah, fantastic day.”
The last Mercedes works team driver to stand on top of the podium was Argentina’s five-times champion Juan Manuel Fangio when he won the Italian Grand Prix from pole.
Mercedes pulled out of Formula One in 1955 and did not return, other than as a successful engine partner, until 2010 after buying Brawn GP.
Mercedes motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug, who had embraced Rosberg in a bear hug almost as soon as the driver stepped out of the car, joined his driver on the podium and was drenched in champagne with the eager assistance of Button and Hamilton.
Amid the jubilation, there was disappointment for Rosberg’s team mate and compatriot Michael Schumacher who had also started on the front row but became the sole retirement of the race when he pulled off on lap 13 with a wheel problem.
The seven-times world champion, winner of a record 91 races with the last coming in Shanghai in 2006, had hoped for a first podium appearance since that season with Ferrari but a botched pitstop put paid to that.
To the despair of the mechanic on the front right wheel, Schumacher was given the signal to go before the nut was attached properly.
“The front wheel got a bit loose, but I don’t know what happened. I feel a bit sorry for one of my boys, but that’s part of the game,” said Schumacher philosophically.
Button had looked like catching Rosberg in a grandstand finale but a problem with his car’s rear left cost him vital seconds, leaving him stuck in traffic at a crucial point and unable to get enough heat into his tyres to close the distance.
Rosberg lapped at a steady pace as behind him a pack of cars jostled and scrapped wheel to wheel for points, with Finland’s 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen running in second place for Lotus before fading nine laps from the end with heavy tyre wear.
Red Bull’s Australian Mark Webber won a battle for fourth with world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel despite a moment when his car hit a kerb and reared up with both front wheels off the ground.
Vettel went from second to fifth in the closing laps after starting 11th in his lowest grid placing since 2009.
Frenchman Romain Grosjean took his first points in Formula One with sixth place for Lotus, after retiring in the two previous races, ahead of the Williams cars of Brazilian Bruno Senna and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.
Sauber’s Japanese Kamui Kobayashi, who had started third, took the final point for Sauber in 10th.
There were once again no points for Ferrari’s Brazilian Felipe Massa, who led briefly in the pitstops but finished 13th.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Alastair Himmer/Mark Meadows