A great race to watch, but the betting did not go so well. In short, my judgement was entirely wrong and the hedge didn't get matched. It was a tricky call, but I clearly leapt the wrong way.
Raikkonen had a shocker of a start and the two Ferraris had a flyer, as is so often the case. Webber started from the pits with brand new soft tyres.
The varying strategies makes it hard to give a proper chronological account of the race, but I'll try to cover the major points.
Hamilton looked off the pace, a little, at the start. He couldn't break away from Alonso (then second, with Massa third) and both Ferraris passed him at one corner. After the first stops of the soft chaps Hulkenberg led (annoyingly, this may've prevented the Vettel hedge getting matched) with Vettel second and Button third.
Alonso pitted before Massa, but when the Brazilian came out of the pits he was well down the field and, although he recovered somewhat, that did mark the end of his challenge for a podium.
Rosberg had a dire day. He fell down the order early on and then had some sort of mechanical issue and had to retire. Just as bad was Webber. He made good progress early on with his new soft tyres, but after a pit stop either something broke or a tyre was incorrectly attached. He was slowly returning to the pits when a rear tyre broke free and rolled across the track, right in front of Vettel.
To add insult to injury, Webber has a 3 place grid penalty for Bahrain due to a failed pass attempt on Vergne which resulted in a collision. It was perhaps a shade clumsy but I felt it was a racing incident.
Sutil also retired after he was taken roughly from behind by Gutierrez, whose approach to cornering speed at the hairpin can be most positively described as creatively optimistic.
Meanwhile at the front (in real terms if not track position) Alonso was flying, and a mile ahead of everybody else. He was told not to push after setting two or three fastest laps in a row, and reported back that he wasn't, which shows just how good the Ferrari was. Important to remember that China is all about wear on the front tyres. Maybe this will bode well for Hungary which is a circuit dominated by front end grip.
Behind Hamilton and Raikkonen were tussling for second and third, with the Finn ahead in the closing stages. Vettel was second on track but had to pit late on for the soft tyre. The last few laps were very exciting as he rapidly closed by 3-4s a lap on Hamilton, but just didn't make it by two-tenths on the line.
In the end, Button was fifth. That's pretty good considering the relative pace, of lack thereof, of the McLaren to the other top teams. In addition it's worth pointing out that Button went for 2 stops, whereas Vettel (just ahead) and Hulkenberg (tenth) went for 3. Hard to say which strategy was better in the end. It may be that Button's driving style and/or the degradation on the Red Bull dictated the strategy.
Massa got sixth, which is ok but no more than that, and Ricciardo should be very happy with seventh. Di Resta got a solid eighth, with Grosjean ninth and Hulkenberg tenth.
Hulkenberg may be a bit disappointed given he was running with Vettel for much of the race. This season Grosjean has had quieter starts, but also quieter races. He seems to have lost some pace, although that could be down to the new car/tyres.
After three races here are the standings:
Given Alonso had a DNF in Malaysia he'll be very happy to be just nine points off the lead. I suspect the top three, possibly with Hamilton as well, will end up fighting for the title again.
Red Bull 78
Because the Mercedes is perhaps half a step back on pace and Grosjean is a bit slow so far I suspect the title will be down to Red Bull and Ferrari, with Lotus and Mercedes battling for three and four. Personally, I'd be inclined to back Ferrari over Red Bull. The cars are comparable in terms of pace, but I think the two Ferrari drivers are working well and working together.
I'm a bit disappointed that my judgement was entirely wrong, but betting's very black and white, so at least I don't lose double my stake for being enormously incorrect. After a good start (with an uncharacteristic pre-qualifying race tip) the season has returned to the slightly dodgy tradition with which I tend to start F1 betting. However, I do think I've got a better handle on where the teams stack up, and there's unlikely to be such a vast yawning chasm between the two compounds in Bahrain, which should make the race, hopefully, easier to forecast.
Incidentally, half the field (about 6 cars) are under investigation for passing under yellow flags, which waved for a few laps near the hairpin at the end of the long straight. This includes both Red Bulls. Not sure of the penalty, if there is one, but a grid penalty or time added to the China result seem likeliest.
Bahrain is just next week, and as P3 ends at 10am I'm hoping to have a qualifying tip as well as one (or more) for the race.