Round three of the 2015 Formula 1 Season is at the Shanghai International Circuit in China, and F1 arrives with Ferrari’s renaissance being widely spoken about up and down the paddock.
In a straight fight in Malaysia two weeks ago, Sebastian Vettel claimed his first victory as a Scuderia Ferrari driver, beating both Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS drivers onto the lower steps of the podium, upsetting the formbook completely.
The 5.451KM Shanghai track hosted its first race back in 2004, and saw Rubens Barrichello take victory for Ferrari, and for the first seven years, seven different drivers won the event, before Lewis Hamilton broke that sequence in 2011 with his second victory, having taken his first in 2008. Indeed it is Hamilton who has the most wins at the track with three, followed by Fernando Alonso on two.
After proving that their pre-season and Australian Grand Prix form was genuine, Ferrari will be looking to continue their winning ways in China, with Vettel, himself a winner of this event back in 2009, eager for more champagne this weekend.
Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, another former winner in 2007, also had a strong performance in Sepang two weeks ago, but was only fourth due to a lowly grid slot due to the inclement weather during qualifying, and then an early puncture. He will be hopeful of a clean weekend to show that he is truly back at the pace we all know Kimi Raikkonen possesses.
The Mercedes drivers did not know what hit them in Malaysia, and both current World Champion Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg will be looking to get back to winning ways this weekend in Shanghai. Rosberg took his maiden pole position and victory at this circuit back in 2012, and will need to start winning races sooner rather than later to get the confidence back that has been lacking somewhat so far in 2015.
Whereas Ferrari have improved significantly over the winter, the Williams Martini Racing outfit have seemingly gone slightly backwards in comparison, with both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa finishing over a minute behind Vettel in Malaysia despite having the Mercedes power unit in the back of their FW37’s. Neither driver will be happy this weekend if that gap remains as large.
Williams’ issues are nothing in comparison however to the problems faced by Infiniti Red Bull Racing, who have seen Daniel Ricciardo finished lapped in both races so far, as was Daniil Kvyat in Malaysia. Neither driver has been complimentary about the driveability of their RB11 so far, which has struggled with both its Renault power unit and a few chassis niggles so far in 2015.
Whereas Red Bull have been outspoken about their Renault power units, sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso have had a far better start to the season, with Carlos Sainz Jr scoring points in both races so far, while Max Verstappen became the youngest points scorer in F1 history in Malaysia. Both drivers will be eager for more of the same in China.
Marcus Ericsson had a breakthrough weekend in Malaysia, at least in qualifying, when he made it through to Q3 for the first time. Neither he nor Sauber F1 Team team-mate Felipe Nasr scored points in Sepang, and both will be eager to get back to Australian Grand Prix form this weekend in China.
The Lotus F1 Team will be hoping to score their first points of the season in China, with Romain Grosjean’s eleventh place in Malaysia the only time one of the team’s cars have seen the chequered flag. Pastor Maldonado will also be hoping to get through turn one intact after two first lap incidents that have cost him in both Australia and Malaysia.
China will also see the free practice debut of 2014 GP2 Series champion Jolyon Palmer, who will take to the track for Lotus in FP1.
The Sahara Force India team had a disappointing Sepang weekend, with both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez finishing outside the top ten after both picking up in-race penalties for causing collisions. In China, both will be hoping for clean races and more performance from their VJM08, which remains playing catch up to the rest of the field following a delayed debut during pre-season.
McLaren-Honda are another team trying to make up for lost time, and will not want to repeat in China what happened in Malaysia when both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were forced into early retirement. Both are confident progress has been made with their MP4/30, and both are hopeful that progress continues into Shanghai.
Finally we reach the Manor F1 Team, who finally made their 2015 track debut in Malaysia. Roberto Merhi was allowed to race despite not making the 107% time in qualifying and will be looking to get within that time this weekend, while Will Stevens will be just hoping to get his first chance to go qualifying and to race after fuel system issues in Sepang.
2014 Chinese Grand Prix Podium
2015 Chinese Grand Prix Race Victory Odds
|Lewis Hamilton||4/6||Kimi Raikkonen||10/1|
|Nico Rosberg||3/1||Valtteri Bottas||40/1|
|Sebastian Vettel||4/1||Felipe Massa||50/1|
|All odds courtesy of Ladbrokes and are correct as of 08 April 2015. Odds may change before event. Other drivers quotes available.|