Shanghai, April 15, 2012 (AFP) - The McLaren pair of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton may have been well beaten to the finishing line in Shanghai, but the battle for a podium place made for "incredible" racing, they said.
With Nico Rosberg more than 20 seconds ahead as the Chinese Grand Prix reached its climax, a fierce fight was going on behind him in the scrap for championship points.
Second and third place in particular changed hands several times in the last 10 laps, with Hamilton and Button, the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, and the Lotus pairing of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen all vying.
"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," proclaimed Hamilton.
The Briton started seventh on the grid, despite being second fastest in qualifying, because of a penalty for a gearbox change, but worked his way up the field to come home in third place -- for the third time this season.
Rosberg, whose victory was his first in Formula One, said he knew a bit about what was raging behind him.
"I was aware of a bit of that because every lap the name changed of the person behind me. I said, what's going on back there?'"
Button, the 2009 world champion, was more than happy with his second place, particularly after a problem in the pits on his final stop delayed him by about 10 seconds, putting pay to any distant hope of chasing down Rosberg's Mercedes.
"A great race, we went for a three-stop strategy, which was different to a lot of people, it was good fun, even with the problem we had, and the possibility that we could maybe have chased down this guy (Rosberg).
"Even though we didn't have that possibility it was still a great race. I'm very happy to come away with second. I can't remember how many cars I overtook during the race but it was a good fight and most of it was very, very clean, which is good to see.
"I think we put on a great show for all the viewers and especially all the fans here in Shanghai."
The rookie Frenchman Grosjean, who ended a respectable sixth, concurred it was "a very good race, I really enjoyed it".
"To be up there fighting with McLaren and Red Bull is a great feeling and I'm happy to have got my season started properly."