Two weeks after Bahrain celebrated its ten year Formula One anniversary, Shanghai does the same as host of the Chinese Grand Prix. Mercedes claimed their first victory in their current incarnation at this circuit two years ago and it would take a brave man to bet against them this weekend too. The TCF Form Guide doesn’t do that, but it does analyse the chances of the pre-race favourites along with those looking to win the battle for best of the rest.
|6. NICO ROSBERG – MERCEDES (61 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 9th, 5th, 1st, 2nd, 2nd
|Best In China: Winner (2012)
After earning a 25 point head-start over his teammate at the opening round, Nico Rosberg has seen his lead whittled away in Malaysia and Bahrain. The Sakhir defeat will have been especially tough to take for Nico who will feel that was a race he should have won given his tyre advantage in the final stint. If Rosberg is in need of a confidence boost, the memories of his maiden victory here two years ago should do the trick but the German knows he must start beating Lewis Hamilton in a straight fight to remain in the lead of the championship.
|44. LEWIS HAMILTON – MERCEDES (50 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 4th, 9th, DNF, 1st, 1st
|Best In China: Winner (2008, 2011)
Lewis Hamilton’s victory in Bahrain earned him more than just 25 points. The Briton struck a significant psychological blow in his championship battle with Nico Rosberg with his robust defence of the lead, earning himself a victory that really ought to have been Nico’s. The Briton has experienced both emotional extremes in Shanghai with his title hopes being damaged in 2007 before an ultimately decisive win 12 months later, but if current form is anything to go by, his 2014 chances will be strengthened by his latest visit to China.
|27. NICO HULKENBERG – FORCE INDIA MERCEDES (28 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 6th, 8th, 6th, 5th, 5th
|Best In China: 10th (2013)
Force India have been one of the big success stories of 2014 so far with the team sitting second in the Constructors Championship and Nico Hulkenberg third in the drivers’ standings. Although he left Bahrain in such a strong position, Hulkenberg didn’t have the greatest weekend by his standards having failed to reach Q3 and getting outshone by teammate Sergio Perez but expect normal service to resume this weekend, especially if the weather forecasts prove correct and Shanghai is soaked by rain.
|14. FERNANDO ALONSO – FERRARI (26 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 5th, 3rd, 4th, 4th, 9th
|Best In China: Winner (2005, 2013)
Ferrari’s turbulent start to 2014 proved the final straw for Stefano Domenicali who resigned as Team Principal but now is the time to refocus on on-track matters. Fernando Alonso spent much of his Sunday night in Bahrain watching Force Indias breeze past him on the pit straight which doesn’t bode well for the back straight in Shanghai, the longest on the calendar. Fernando was supreme on his way to victory here a year ago but it will take a meteoric drive, even for the Spaniard, to repeat the feat in 2014.
|22. JENSON BUTTON – McLAREN MERCEDES (23 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 10th, 4th, 3rd, 6th, 17th
|Best In China: Winner (2010)
Jenson Button’s 250th Grand Prix start didn’t have a fairytale ending with the safety car working against him before clutch problems eventually ended his race two laps early. Button felt he would have finished in the top six without those issues but McLaren won’t have been happy to be slowest of the four Mercedes-powered teams in Sakhir. Their record over the years in China is reasonably good though and with their aggressive development programme continuing at a pace, Jenson will be among those looking to be best of the rest on Sunday.
| 1. SEBASTIAN VETTEL – RED BULL RACING RENAULT (23 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 1st, 1st, DNF, 3rd, 6th
|Best In China: Winner (2009)
Three races in and already Sebastian Vettel’s grip on the Formula One drivers championship is starting to look decidedly loose. The defending champion is 38 points off the pace and his biggest challenge at the moment appears to be coming from the other side of the garage with Daniel Ricciardo putting him in the shade in Bahrain. Shanghai isn’t a strong circuit for Red Bull either with the team having never won a dry race here and the deficiencies of Renault’s power unit will be shown up in the final sector which includes that 1.1km straight. Another weekend of damage limitation lies ahead.
|20. KEVIN MAGNUSSEN – McLAREN MERCEDES (20 PTS)
|Failed to score for the first time in Bahrain
|Best In China: Debut
After the euphoria of Albert Park, Kevin Magnussen has seen the other side of the coin in Malaysia and Bahrain. The Danish rookie made contact with Kimi Raikkonen for the second race in succession and it didn’t pick up from there, his McLaren being sidelined with a clutch problem two-thirds of the way through the race. Kevin was also comfortably outqualified by Jenson Button in a dry qualifying session but with this weekend’s set to be wet, the stage may be set for more Magnussen heroics on Saturday afternoon.
|77. VALTTERI BOTTAS – WILLIAMS MERCEDES (18 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 8th, DNF, 5th, 8th, 8th
|Best In China: 13th (2013)
Just as in Malaysia, Valtteri Bottas collected a mere four points for eighth place but Bahrain was a weekend that promised so much more for the Finn. In a dry qualifying session, we finally saw how quick the FW36 was with Bottas qualifying third but the team’s decision to run a three-stop strategy ultimately cost them. With their car far less competitive in the wet, Valtteri will be dreading the prospect of starting mid-pack again but wherever he starts, his raw pace should carry him to a fourth points finish out of four this year.
|11. SERGIO PEREZ – FORCE INDIA MERCEDES (1 PT)
|Last 5 Races: 7th, 6th, 10th, DNS, 3rd
|Best In China: 11th (2012, 2013)
When Sergio Perez struggles, he often disappears in races but when he’s on it, the Mexican is simply sensational. Bahrain was unquestionably an example of the latter. For the first time this year, Sergio had a clear edge over his highly-rated teammate Nico Hulkenberg and was rewarded with a thoroughly deserved podium, his first since Monza 2012. The task now for Sergio is to show that Sakhir wasn’t just a flash in the pan and use it as a template for his performances throughout 2014, starting in Shanghai.
|3. DANIEL RICCIARDO – RED BULL RACING RENAULT (12 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 11th, 10th, DSQ, DNF, 4th
|Best In China: 7th (2013)
He may not have g0t the eighteen points back from Melbourne but Daniel Ricciardo should arrive in China full of confidence after a stunning performance in Bahrain two weeks ago. The Australian had already shown he was capable of keeping Sebastian Vettel honest but in Sakhir he did more than that, he beat him. With disqualifications and grid penalties out of the way now, Daniel can race on a level playing field once again and with rain likely to have an effect on qualifying, he could put the Red Bull further up on the grid than it has any right to be.
|19. FELIPE MASSA – WILLIAMS MERCEDES (12 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 12th, 7th, DNF, 7th, 7th
|Best In China: 2nd (2008)
Bahrain promised so much for Felipe Massa after his electric start catapulted him up to third by the first corner but like his teammate, the Brazilian went down the three-stop route and was beaten by the two-stopping Force Indias and Red Bulls. Bahrain did at least prove that the Williams pre-season pace was genuine although like Bottas, Felipe will be nervously watching the skies on Saturday and praying that qualifying remains dry. The pace of the FW36 isn’t reflected in the points table and Massa will be keen to change that.
|7. KIMI RAIKKONEN – FERRARI (7 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: n/a, n/a, 7th, 12th, 10th
|Best In China: Winner (2007)
Kimi Raikkonen is usually one of Formula One’s most reliable and dependable performers but his 2014 campaign is becoming increasingly difficult to predict. In Bahrain, he looked all at sea during free practice but responded like the champion he is to outqualify Fernando Alonso. A poor start undid that hard work though and he eventually followed his teammate home in tenth. With Ferrari’s form even harder to predict than Kimi’s at the moment, we will be looking to Alonso for the best barometer of his performance again this weekend.
|25. JEAN-ERIC VERGNE – STR RENAULT (4 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 16th, 15th, 8th, DNF, DNF
|Best In China: 12th (2013)
For the second race in succession, Jean-Eric Vergne’s race hardly got off the ground with his car literally taking off in Bahrain after contact with Pastor Maldonado on lap one. The Frenchman lost any hope of points after the incident and the crash damage later resulted in his retirement, putting a dampener on what had potential to be a strong start to 2014. Many drivers won’t be happy with the forecast for qualifying but wet-weather specialist Jean-Eric certainly won’t be among those and don’t be surprised if his Toro Rosso causes an upset.
|26. DANIIL KVYAT – STR RENAULT (3 PTS)
|Outqualified teammate Vergne for the first time in Bahrain
|Best In China: Debut
It’s a sign of how well Daniil Kvyat’s Formula One career has started that the Russian teenager was disappointed to finish eleventh in Bahrain, just one place and eight seconds outside the points. In his first dry qualifying session, Kvyat outqualified his teammate so the weekend wasn’t without positives and he continues to show speed and maturity beyond his years. The pecking order is clear with Toro Rosso the seventh quickest team at present so Kvyat may require mishaps ahead to score points this weekend but the 19 year old clearly has lofty ambitions, and the top ten is where he’s looking.
|8. ROMAIN GROSJEAN – LOTUS RENAULT (0 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 2nd, DNF, DNF, 11th, 12th
|Best In China: 6th (2012)
Slowly but surely, Lotus are making small steps on their road to recovery. Romain Grosjean narrowly got the better of teammate Pastor Maldonado to reach Q2 and in Romain’s hands, the E22 completed another trouble-free race distance to finish twelfth. The next step for the Enstone squad is to break into the points and Grosjean is clearly their best bet given Maldonado’s grid penalty. The task will be to win his mini-race with the Saubers and Toro Rossos and then cross his fingers for mistakes up ahead.
|99. ADRIAN SUTIL – SAUBER FERRARI (0 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 13th, 11th, DNF, DNF
|Best In China: 11th (2010)
Having gone eighteen months without a double retirement, Sauber achieved it for the second time in a week after more problems in Bahrain. Adrian Sutil’s weekend was already going badly wrong when he failed to make it out of Q1 but being taken out by Jules Bianchi really put the finishing touches on it. The German has never scored in Shanghai and the place doesn’t hold great memories for him on or off the track. With the C33 lacking raw pace, hopes aren’t high for this weekend either.
|21. ESTEBAN GUTIERREZ – SAUBER FERRARI (0 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 13th, 12th, 12th, DNF, DNF
|Best In China: DNF (2013)
Esteban Gutierrez’s spectacular exit from the Bahrain Grand Prix had everyone talking but thankfully, despite a brief visit to the hospital, the Mexican escaped his accident with Psstor Maldonado uninjured and is fighting fight for Shanghai. Like his teammate, Esteban will have to keep his expectations under control but having outqualified Adrian Sutil in each of the last two races, he will be desperate to maintain the initiative within the Swiss outfit and see where that takes him on Sunday.
|4. MAX CHILTON – MARUSSIA FERRARI (0 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 21st, 19th, 13th, 15th, 13th
|Best In China: 17th (2013)
The 100% record remains intact for Max Chilton after a 22nd consecutive race finish in the Bahrain Grand Prix. Staying out of trouble may be considered the bare minimum but Chilton succeeded where his teammate failed, ensuring he made it to the chequered flag in thirteenth and regaining tenth in the constructors’ championship for Marussia. Qualifying remains a weakness though with Max six tenths slower than Jules Bianchi in Bahrain and the Briton will surely have to raise his game once Bianchi’s bad luck runs out.
|10. KAMUI KOBAYASHI – CATERHAM RENAULT (0 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: n/a, n/a, DNF, 13th, 15th
|Best In China: 10th (2011, 2012)
Kamui Kobayashi will have seen Bahrain as a missed opportunity after being beaten to the flag by Max Chilton’s Marussia. The Japanese driver was forced to save fuel in the final stint despite the appearance of the safety car and subsequently was powerless to stop Chilton demoting him and his team in the championship standings. At least in qualifying, Caterham have the edge over their tail-end rivals and Kamui wasn’t far away from reaching Q2 at Sakhir. Could he make that final step in Shanghai?
|9. MARCUS ERICSSON – CATERHAM RENAULT (0 PTS)
|4th Grand Prix (Best Finish: 14th)
|Best In China: Debut
Having tested at Sakhir, Marcus Ericsson would have fancied his chances of getting closet to Caterham teammate Kamui Kobayashi and despite qualifying eight tenths behind, the Swede ran ahead at certain stages of the Grand Prix. An oil leak eventually put paid to his chances but Ericsson is showing that he belongs in his elevated company and should continue to progress. Closing the qualifying gap to Kobayashi will be top of his list of targets, wet or dry.
|13. PASTOR MALDONADO – LOTUS RENAULT (0 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 17th, 16th, DNF, DNF, 14th
|Best In China: 8th (2012)
Pastor Maldonado is well rehearsed in the role of pantomime villain and the Venezuelan had the Formula One world talking again with his antics in Bahrain. The collision with Esteban Gutierrez was rather clumsy although the barrel-roll made it look slightly more dangerous than it perhaps was. Pastor rightly carries a five-place grid penalty into this weekend and will therefore start somewhere near the back so will need his elbows to make up ground on Sunday. The rest of the grid will be delighted.
|17. JULES BIANCHI – MARUSSIA FERRARI (0 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 18th, 17th, DNF, DNF, 16th
|Best In China: 15th (2013)
The pattern of Jules Bianchi’s season remains unchanged after another messy weekend for the Frenchman in Bahrain. In qualifying, he comfortably beat his Marussia teammate Max Chilton but a collision with Adrian Sutil early into the race, where Jules ran into the back of the Sauber, prevented him from truly show what he was capable of. His run of bad luck/bad judgement is sure to end at some stage and with Marussia fighting a close battle with Caterham for tenth in the constructors championship, they will hope that time is now.