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Analysis: Chinese Grand Prix to give Ferrari a chance of first Formula 1 win in 2016?

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Analysis: Chinese Grand Prix to give Ferrari a chance of first Formula 1 win in 2016?
Apr 13, 2016, 11:52 AM

This weekend's third round of the F1 World Championship in Shanghai, China, will be closely scrutinised, not least by senior management at Ferrari.

This weekend's third round of the F1 World Championship in Shanghai, China, will be closely scrutinised, not least by senior management at Ferrari. The suggestion in Italy is that Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne is set to make his first appearance of the season this weekend to 'be close to the team', having put pressure on over the winter to win races from the outset.

Bloomberg reported yesterday that Marchionne will soon take over as CEO of Ferrari, in addition to his role as chairman and his CEO role at the wider FCA business.

XPB.cc Sergio Marchionne

He has chosen a good weekend to come as the signs in Bahrain were that Ferrari had taken a step closer to Mercedes, especially on the power unit side and China, with its idiosyncratic layout, could offer a chance to the Scuderia to challenge the Silver Arrows.

Race strategy will again be crucial, as will qualifying. Sebastian Vettel was in touching distance of the Mercedes after the first runs in Q3 in Bahrain, but then they opened out a half second margin in the second runs. They denied that it had anything to do with advanced engine modes, saying that the cars were at the maximum from Q2 onwards.

But the Ferrari's end of sector time speeds were encouraging, especially in the race and give grounds for hope. They still have a reliability concern, especially on the turbo, but new fixes are on the way.

Sebastian Vettel

Strategy wise, this race has been a two or three stop traditionally. The cooler temperatures in Shanghai play to the medium and the super soft tyres, which are from the lower working ranges. The game in Shanghai is not run out of tyres, as Kimi Raikkonen did a few years back. This could happen on a two stop strategy if you had been pushed into making an earlier stop than ideal by an aggressive three stopper behind you.

Three stops can be the faster way, but the risk is that you come out into traffic and behind your competitors at the fins stop. As it's relatively easy to overtake in China, thanks to a 1.17km straight which follows a 270 degree corner, cars that are struggling with tyres are there for the taking in the closing stages.

The front tyres are the limitation, especially the left front which gets hammered by the two long corners T1 and T13. With the three different tyre options available for the race, we'll see a mixture of different strategies again. We can see already who tends to be aggressive (Red Bull, Haas) and it should be another fascinating his speed chess game.

https://twitter.com/pirellisport/status/719945357308862464?lang=en-gb

Chinese Grand Prix - the key numbers

Mercedes heads into the third Grand Prix of 2016 chasing yet more F1 milestones. The Chinese event will also mark the German manufacturer’s 400th race as an engines supplier and the works team is on the verge of securing its 30th 1-2 finish.

If a Mercedes driver wins this weekend it will extend the team’s best ever run of race victories to nine in a row, with its last defeat coming at the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix thanks to Vettel.

Chinese Grand Prix 2015 Lewis Hamilton

Nine F1 wins in a row has only been achieved three times in the sport’s history – by McLaren, which won 11 in 1988, Ferrari’s 10 consecutive victories in 2002, and Red Bull’s nine on the bounce in 2013.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ motorsport boss, reckons that Ferrari’s close presence means his team has little margin for error, despite its recent run of wins.

He said: “There is a long way to go and we have by no means been flawless in every area so far. With Ferrari increasingly breathing down our necks, as we saw in Bahrain, there is zero room for error.

“Remaining energised is now more important than ever - and we all have plenty to keep us on our toes in that respect.”

Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg will overtake Sir Stirling Moss’ total of 16 F1 victories if he wins in Shanghai and he would become the fourth driver, after Alberto Ascari, Michael Schumacher and Vettel, to win more than five races in succession if he does so.

The German driver took his maiden F1 win back at Shanghai in 2012 for Mercedes, but his teammate Lewis Hamilton holds the record for the most wins in China, with four wins at the track since 2008.

XPB.cc Romain Grosjean

Haas F1’s impressive points finishes in Australia and Bahrain, courtesy of Romain Grosjean on both occasions, means the American squad has become the first totally new F1 team to score two top six results in its first two races since Shadow’s George Follmer finished sixth and third at the South African and Spanish races in 1973.

Both McLaren drivers, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, have finished every single Chinese Grand Prix since the Shanghai circuit joined the calendar in 2004.

Alonso, who is not guaranteed to race this weekend, has won twice in China but finished 12th last year, his worst result at the event. Button won the 2010 edition, but has not finished in the points in Shanghai since 2013, when he was fifth.

Chinese Grand Prix 2015 Jenson Button

Do you think Ferrari can mount a challenge to Mercedes this weekend? Are you expecting an exciting race in China? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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