Chinese GP - A crowd pleasing race in prospect
Shanghai, 16 April – With seven different teams making it onto the top ten places of the grid for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix, fans of Formula 1 are definitely enjoying an exciting start to the season, leaving aside the dominance of world champion Sebastian Vettel, who completed his (first?) hat-trick of poles this afternoon at the Shanghai International Circuit. However, when one is not yet competitive at the highest level, it is hard to enjoy that excitement. If Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa’s fifth and sixth places sound like the current norm, it does not take into account that Mark Webber in the other dominant Red Bull had a bad afternoon and failed to get further than Q1.
The reason the Prancing Horse cars are not therefore fourth and fifth, is that the Mercedes squad appears to have upped its game, or finds its car particularly suited to the Chinese track, as Nico Rosberg qualified fourth. Almost inevitably Jenson Button and his McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton provided the most effective opposition to Vettel, the two Englishmen finishing up second and third on the grid. However, their challenge cannot be seen as that effective as Button’s best lap was around seven tenths of a second slower than the German’s quickest.
Fernando and Felipe got through Q1 comfortably enough in third and fourth places, but things livened up in Q2 when Petrov’s Renault, stranded in the middle of the track, brought the red flag out to interrupt the session with 2”02 remaining. The restart was more like the start of a race than a qualifying lap, with Felipe battling his way past Perez to get to the front of the field and ensure he had a clean lap to secure the route through to Q3.
Tomorrow, the twenty four competitors will face an interesting afternoon and 56 laps that are hard to predict. It would be easy to see Vettel running away with the race win again, however, at this early point of the year, the effect of tyre degradation, coupled with the use of KERS and the moveable rear wing, especially on Shanghai’s long main straight, means that nothing is certain.
In Malaysia the 150º Italia proved it was on podium pace only for various incidents preventing it from becoming a reality. If a top three finish was just down to the grit and determination of our team and drivers, it would be a foregone conclusion for tomorrow. The Chinese Grand Prix should be a thriller, with fights at the front, in the very closely contested midfield and with Webber trying to carve his way through from eighteenth on the grid in the very quick Red Bull.