Chinese Grand Prix preview: Can lightning strike twice?

After Mercedes picked up where they left off in Melbourne with a dominant one two victory, you could say that Sebastian Vettel winning his first race for Ferrari in Malaysia was somewhat a breath of fresh air. This weekend we will find out if Ferrari’s Malaysian pace was a flash in the pan or something that is here to stay and keep Mercedes on their toes.

Chinese Grand Prix 2015

Vettel eased to victory in Malaysia. Lewis Hamilton led from pole position however he decided to pit under an early safety car which handed Vettel the lead. The German never looked back and cruised home to take the win. Although it was Vettel and the red cars of Ferrari that took the spoils last time out a repeat performance in China with cooler temperatures means the chances of an all out dog fight between the two teams seems unlikely; the stage looks to be set for an in house battle between the championship leader Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

The Chinese Grand Prix has been held at the Shanghai International Circuit every year since joining the calendar in 2004, the track remaining mostly unchanged from last year’s race which was won by the Mercedes of Hamilton, who has the most wins around the sixteen turn 3.3 mile circuit. Whilst Hamilton has tasted victory three times in Shanghai in 2008, 2011 and 2014, not all memories in China are happy ones.

Lewis Hamilton

In 2007, Hamilton seemed to have the race under control until be beached his McLaren in the gravel on the entry to the pit lane and saw his championship dream in his rookie season crumble before his eyes in the rain. Thankfully there will be no chance of that happening with the gravel  now having been replaced with asphalt. The high-speed circuit is one that Hamilton enjoys and he is looking forward to hitting the track this weekend.

The circuit in some aspects is similar to Sepang. The first couple of corners are almost a carbon copy of what the drivers faced in Malaysia. The middle sector of the lap will test the overall downforce of the cars and push them to their absolute limits. The swooping left hander of Turn 7 and the right hander of Turn 8 are corners in which time can be easily gained but also easily lost.

Turn Twelve is also a very important corner that sends the drivers along the long straight and DRS zone that rewards teams with a good power unit – expect to see the Silver Arrows fly here. Turn Fourteen is perhaps the most important corner of the track. The drivers struggle to bring the cars from 200mph down to as little as 60mph at the hairpin at the end of the straight, expect plenty of lock ups and plenty of overtakes into here on Sunday morning.

Fears for McLaren

Whilst it seems that Mercedes and Ferrari will be leading the pack McLaren fear that the cooler temperatures could mask all the hard work that the team have been putting in to desperately turn around their fortunes after a torrid start to 2015. Although neither Jenson Button or Fernando Alonso are still to score a point this season they are pleased with the leap in performance that the team have made even if from the naked eye it isn’t visible this weekend in China.

Not only do McLaren fear the cooler temperatures could hinder them this weekend, the cool air could cause havoc with the tyres and contribute towards high tyre degradation. This year Pirelli have opted for the medium (prime) and soft (option) tyres for the Chinese round and we will see in free practice two just how well the tyres hold up, especially the options on high fuel on Friday afternoon.

The likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams will be pleased to know that the chance of rain on race day currently lies at just 10%, teams at the back of the grid will be hoping for perhaps a shower midway through the race on Sunday to bring them closer to the front of the pack. Rain in China can always catch anybody out and throw up some classic races, 2010 instantly springing to mind when Button led home then McLaren team-mate Hamilton in a thrilling race.

After being beaten by two Toro Rosso’s in Malaysia, Red Bull are looking for an instant response. Red Bull currently occupy sixth place in the constructors’ championship and seem to have fundamental problems with the RB11, on a circuit that rewards a combination of grunt from the engine and downforce, the four-time champions could be in for a difficult weekend.

A quick look at some of our favorite shots of Daniel and Dany’s pre #ChineseGP activities. #F1 pic.twitter.com/P8DersOt2P

— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) April 9, 2015 

With Force India playing down their chances of a strong result until their ‘B spec’ car arrives in Austria, Williams seeming to be out on their own not fast enough to fight Ferrari but also with no direct fight from anyone behind; a fifth place finish seems to be where the team are heading this weekend, however, they could make inroads on Ferrari thanks to the Mercedes power unit on the back straight and they could be dangerous to the red cars in the early stages of the race. 

Lotus much like McLaren are also still looking for points. Lotus believe that once they get off the mark that they will be regular points scorers this season. They could so far count themselves unlucky, Pastor Maldonado has been caught up in lap one incidents at both races this season. Brit Jolyon Palmer will have his first outing in the car this weekend as the GP2 champion will take part in FP1.

Will we see Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz continue to impress the paddock this weekend? The form that the youngsters have shown this season has been nothing short of exceptional at times and are deserving of their current place position in the championship. If current from is anything to go by points look to be on the cards once again.

Do you think we will see a Mercedes back on the top step of the podium on Sunday or maybe a Ferrari will take the spoils? Maybe you think a different team will spring a surprise, leave your comments below.