Rosberg’s chance to hit back at Hamilton

2014 Chinese Grand Prix preview

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After the thrill of that race-long battle between the two Mercedes in Bahrain had subsided, Nico Rosberg cannot help but have felt a bit deflated.

That was a race he should have won. He put the W05 on pole position but Lewis Hamilton beat him to the first corner and brilliantly rebuffed each and every one of his team mate’s overtaking attempts.

Hamilton’s retirement in Australia means Rosberg holds enough of an advantage that he could finish second to his team mate again this weekend and still lead the championship. But in a title fight which is likely to be contested chiefly between the two Mercedes drivers, Rosberg knowns he needs to put one over his team mate sooner rather than later.

Shanghai could be just the place for him to do it. Rosberg has excellent form at this track: He led convincingly in 2010 before his Mercedes was overhauled by the faster McLarens. He did so again the following year, only dropping out of contention late in the race.

Then came that breakthrough performance in 2012, when Rosberg claimed his first pole position and race victory at the Shanghai circuit.

Shanghai International Circuit

Lap length5.451km (3.387 miles)
Distance56 laps (305.1km/189.6 miles)
Lap record*1’32.238 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)
Fastest lap1’32.238 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)
TyresMedium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Shanghai International Circuit
track data in full

That race ran to a pattern which has become familiar at this circuit in recent seasons. Pirelli’s high-degradation tyres often coax teams into varying and conflicting strategies at this circuit.

This is also because the configuration of the pit lane makes it one of the most punishing of the season in terms of the amount of time drivers lose going in. That gives them an incentive to stay out for longer than usual on tyres that have passed their peak.

Last year the soft tyre compound wore out so quickly teams tended to run very short stints at the beginning or end of the race. Pirelli is bringing the same tyre mix this weekend, but as we have already seen they are less extreme than those used in 2013.

There are no changes to the DRS configuration this year, which features two separate zones, even though Shanghai’s enormous back straight meant there was never really a need for one to begin with.

This race marks the tenth anniversary of the first Chinese Grand Prix. The enormous capacity of the Shanghai International Circuit may not yet have been filled, but steady increases in the number of local fans have noted year-on-year.

It’s an especially crucial market for Mercedes as they pursue car sales in China’s rapidly-growing economy. They have powered three of the last four winners here, and the chances of them doing so again are extremely high.

Chinese Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Red Bull started the week with a disappointment as their appeal against Daniel Ricciardo’s exclusion from the Australian Grand Prix was thrown out by the FIA.

However following his battling drive to fourth in Bahrain, Ricciardo’s keen anticipation for this weekend’s race remains undimmed.

He recalled how the long drag to the hairpin felt rather different in the junior categories he raced in at the track: “I always think back to when I came here as a kid in Formula BMW – massive hair and lots of enthusiasm – and trust me, then, it was the sort of straight where I’d have definitely been reaching for a book if I’d had one! It’s a bit different driving it in an F1 car.”


Rosberg may have good form in China but so does his team mate. “I’ve only finished outside of the podium places twice at this circuit,” said Hamilton, the winner of the race in 2008 and 2011.

But things haven’t always gone so smoothly for him at the Shanghai circuit. “In my first season in Formula One I threw away a championship lead here by going into the gravel coming into the pits,” he rued, recalling a pivotal moment in the 2007 campaign.


The shock news on Monday that Stefano Domenicali had resigned as Ferrari’s team principal means F1’s most famous team has a new man at the helm for the first time in seven years.

Of course no one should expect immediate change now Marco Mattiacci has taken Domenicali’s place.

But Ferrari can hope for a better weekend merely for the simple fact of having moved on to a more standard track instead of Bahrain, whose many straights so brutally exposed the F14 T’s weaknesses. They should be back in the upper reaches of the points places. A repeat of Fernando Alonso’s win of 12 months ago is very unlikely.

And the thought of how their home race might unfold at another ‘power circuit’ in five months’ time must fill them with trepidation.


Pastor Maldonado left Bahrain with both Esteban Gutierrez and Jean-Eric Vergne unimpressed with his driving and a five-place grid penalty for carelessly blundering into the Sauber of the former driver.

However there was a glimpse of performance from the E22 in between his incidents which showed points might be possible sooner rather than later.

The post-Bahrain test was a stark reminder of how much work the team still have to do. Maldonado and Romain Grosjean covered just 16 laps each as problems persisted with the Renault Energy F1 power unit.


McLaren believe the cause of the clutch failures which halted both their drivers in Bahrain was a one-off problem.

Jenson Button said China is “not necessarily a track that perfectly suits our package” but anticipates a close battle behind the flying Mercedes pair.

“Bahrain showed that, the top two cars aside, the racing this year is fast, fraught and very evenly matched,” he said.

“The margins are so slim that it’ll require us to get everything right: a focused practice, problem-free qualifying sessions and a clean race to try and establish ourselves at the forefront of that chasing pack.”

Force India

Sergio Perez’s fine podium in Bahrain and Nico Hulkenberg’s consistent points-gathering has propelled Force India to a best-ever second in the constructors’ championship.

The pair fought hard on the Sakhir circuit, but Vijay Mallya is content to let his drivers fight as the Mercedes duo did:

“I was asked a lot in Bahrain whether there were any team orders, but we preferred to let our drivers race and compete with each other,” he said. “They both raced hard, but fair.”

“In the final part of the race we saw great teamwork as Nico held back the charging Red Bulls who had the advantage of soft tyres. Ricciardo did eventually get ahead, but Nico helped Checo escape up the road and build a gap. So I was very proud of my drivers – they were outstanding in the race.”


Giedo van der Garde will have another run in first practice – this time in place of Adrian Sutil – as Sauber introduce further updates to try to score their first points of the season.

Meanwhile Esteban Gutierrez will have a new chassis after being rolled over by Maldonado two weeks ago.

Toro Rosso

Shanghai marks another new venue for Daniil Kvyat who impressed with another mature performance in Bahrain.


Shanghai often sees mixed weather conditions but Felipe Massa says it would be to the benefit of him and his car if it stays dry:

“We hope to have a few new parts which should help with grip and other areas that we need to improve. We still need to improve the car in the wet, so we are hoping the weekend will be dry, I also prefer the dry, but there is hard work going on to improve the car.”


Marussia moved back in front of Caterham in the last race but they would be having an easier time of things if Jules Bianchi, by far the quicker of their two drivers, stopped getting involved in so many incidents. Collisions in the last two races have left him leading the penalty points table.

“I am hoping all my bad luck is behind me now and that China will mark a turning point for a better rest of the season,” said Bianchi, who tangled with Sutil in Bahrain.


Caterham are also bringing a small upgrade to China but as with most teams a bigger step is planned for the return to Europe in Spain.

2014 driver form

DriverG avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Sebastian Vettel8.004.50362/3Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo6.674.00441/3Form guide
Lewis Hamilton1.331.00112/3Form guide
Nico Rosberg2.331.67123/3Form guide
Fernando Alonso6.005.67493/3Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen7.339.677123/3Form guide
Romain Grosjean17.0011.5011122/3Form guide
Pastor Maldonado18.0014.0014141/3Form guide
Jenson Button8.678.673173/3Form guide
Kevin Magnussen6.675.50292/3Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg8.335.33563/3Form guide
Sergio Perez11.336.503102/2Form guide
Adrian Sutil17.3311.0011111/3Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez16.3312.0012121/3Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne9.678.00881/3Form guide
Daniil Kvyat10.3310.009113/3Form guide
Felipe Massa9.677.00772/3Form guide
Valtteri Bottas12.007.00583/3Form guide
Jules Bianchi18.6716.0016161/3Form guide
Max Chilton19.6713.6713153/3Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi17.3314.0013152/3Form guide
Marcus Ericsson20.3314.0014141/3Form guide

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2014 Chinese Grand Prix

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Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Red Bull/Getty, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Force India, Williams/LAT, Renault/LAT

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65 comments on “Rosberg’s chance to hit back at Hamilton”

  1. when I came here as a kid in Formula BMW – massive hair and lots of enthusiasm – and trust me, then, it was the sort of straight where I’d have definitely been reaching for a book if I’d had one

    Ha ha ha.. Brilliant quote by Ricciardo! We don’t have Mark Webber, but the other Aussie is just as awesome while talking to the media

    1. “Marussia moved back in front of Caterham in the last race but they would be having an easier time of things if Jules Bianchi, by far the quicker of their two drivers, stopped getting involved in so many incidents”


      Loved this quote!

  2. Maybe this is on Rosberg, he’s in a good form, a great pilot and has the best car…
    As for RBR hope to see if they’re getting any better and next to Mercedes…

    1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      16th April 2014, 12:52

      Rosberg has a very good chance of winning, his form at this track is very good, even if the result haven’t necessarily been there.

      Having said that, Rosberg has got to be a bit frustrated that Hamilton beat him in both races where both cars have finished. Especially at Bahrain, where Rosberg was in the better position almost all the race, only to be outclassed by Hamilton.

      But yeah, it’s incredibly tough to pick a winner. It could go to Rosberg just as easily it could go to Hamilton.

      1. Nevertheless Rosberg is the first in the Championship, and for that shouldn’t take any extra risks for know…the 2nd place at Bahrain not beeing the place he wanted was for him a place where he could remain beeing 1st in the championship…

        1. @Hipn0tIc Rosberg only leads because Hamilton had a car problem, had Hamilton no car problem then iam sure Hamilton would also win in Australia and it would be Hamilton with 75 point and Rosberg with 54 points.

          1. Thats a bold statemant, considering Hamilton’s car couldnt do a single lap.

          2. Let me quote the reigning world champion here “would could should” . His car failed in Melbourne . Best thing is to get on with it . He has done that . So should we ;-)

      2. I agree . Even though the momentum is with Lewis , Nico leads the championship and has vowed he will get back in China . I think he can better Lewis . Lewis will have to dig deep now to gain some pace from the car . But I am looking forward to this !!

    2. Either Lewis or Nico will need the be able to build a gap to the follower. Lewis couldn’t do that last time around but his good defending drive was enough to keep P1, will it work in China?

      1. actually Lewis played to a strategy that established an 8 second lead before the safety car came out… without the safety car i don’t think Rosberg would have caught Hamilton and if he did he still would not have been able to get passed

  3. Will have to see which is the second best team in China… We all know which team is going to win in China unless they mess up big tym

    1. In China, in Spain, in Monaco and so on….
      The second best is a tricky manner, but for me and for now Force India is looking pretty solid, they had the consistent of Hulkenberg and Perez combative driving, looking forward to see Monaco GP because of Perez ;P

      1. Not sure about Force India’s performance in China, I think its going to be RBR or Ferrari

        1. I’m actually quite sure that it is going to be Force India. They have been strong there before and with the awful straight line speed that RBR and Ferrari have this season they won’t stand a chance against Mercedes teams.

          1. So you mean to say we can expect another 20 second gap from the lead two to the third driver?

          2. Dont count out Redbull. With the first two sectors needing lots of aero grip, it is almost as if it is tailor made to RBR’s strength. They should be able to easily claw back the time they lose in the straight.
            Also, as they are so strong in sector 2, they will be out of the DRS range.
            I think it is Merc-RedBull-Ferrari-Mclaren-FI-Williams-

      2. @hipn0tic
        I’m not so sure about Monaco the where the downforce counts more than the aerodynamic efficiency counts less, the RB10 has a terrific amount of downforce to the point that they were running wings similar to Canada specs wings

  4. But as you point out, Hamilton is strong here too. Hamilton destroyed Rosberg in getting the teams first pole of 2013, the only year they drove the same car. He was still convincingly ahead when Rosberg retired. And I do wonder if 2012 would have gone differently if Hamilton hadn’t had a grid penalty. Rosberg soundly beat him in qualifying, but Hamilton’s grid position meant that he was mired in traffic almost constantly, which seemed to be a factor in Rosberg not being challenged at all. Rosberg was certainly in great form, and his car gelled very well with the track, but maybe we missed something of a contest.

    1. this was the story of hamilton’s 2012. too many missed opportunities like that (think of spain that year too).

      1. @frood19 Malaysia too, as many people seems to forget.

        1. Hamilton destroyed Rosberg in getting the teams first pole of 2013

          To be fair Rosberg didn’t have FP3 that weekend. We have yet to see a totally fair contest between the two around this circuit.

          However, I will say that IMO Rosberg impressed me more than Hamilton did around China in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

          1. I remember that 2011 was a bit chaotic, but not much else. What was so impressive about Rosberg that race? Or did Hamilton qualifying behind Button detract from his performance for you?

          2. As I’ve opined elsewhere though, that was then and this is now, and both drivers are in solid and drastically different cars that are win-capable and dominating, tires not being a lottery factor, and so far there is little between them, so I think we just have to wait and see.

          3. @matt90 is that the same qualifying where he saved an extra set of tyres in Q3 in a race he went on to win?

          4. It might well have been.

  5. It’s a pretty hard call between Hamilton and Rosberg, either one of them is capable enough of attaining and then leading from pole or alternatively racing their way to victory. Lewis has got the momentum but Nico has something to prove, so its gonna be marginal. I can’t wait!

    1. In 2013 maybe it was hard to choose between HAM or ROS for the win in equal conditions. For me it’s pretty clear that nowadays the bet is on Lewis for the win. In Australia Rosberg won amid Ham’s technical troubles but the last two glitch-free races for both Merc drivers showed pretty clearly who has more speed. I’m pretty sure Nico will drive at 200% this weekend just to prove he’s not slower than Lewis, but if there’s a time for completely destroying his team-mate it’s the next 2 races and HAM knows it.

      1. Perhaps. In terms of speed and race craft I think Hamilton does have the edge, but there are other factors. All it takes is a mistake from Hamilton is his last qualifying lap and then a bad getaway at the beginning on the race and Rosberg can easily capitalise and lead from there. I still think Hamilton is a better driver but he also has to be consistently on the ball because otherwise he opens the door to a dangerous teammate.

      2. I don’t really see LH destroying NR in the next two races. Even if LH prevails in both, NR will likely get good points too, and there will be tons of racing yet to go. After 2 more races have been completed, NR is still going to have a race-winning and WDC level car for the first time in his career, so he is likely revelling in that prospect. It’s a journey, and if LH heads NR after 2 more races, so be it…that will be what it will be for NR to then answer to…one race at a time…for that is all he can do. He’ll just be ever so stoked that he finally has the equipment necessary. So in that sense this is brand new territory for NR and a well deserved opportunity given how well he seems to do with WDC’s as teammates. I think NR would be a little down (but not destroyed) if LH headed him and the car was a struggle for him to get working well in order to answer to LH, but that is not the case this year.

        1. Ros is an all round great guy real team player and fair driver and all that is great for good close wheel to wheel racing and makes great viewing BUT… if he wants to fight Ham he will have to replace nice guy, with tenacious determination i have always believed in Hams talent still believe he is the best in F1 today but for the championship the spectacle i hope Ros can challenge and keep it interesting

      3. This race might be close to call, so I won’t even try. China seems to be a place where the two are evenly matched, but over the course of the season there are many tracks where Hamilton is very comfortable and simply untouchable — Canada, USA, Hungary, Singapore — and I think NR’s opportunity to stamp his authority on this season is fading quickly.

        1. You forgot the big one… Abu Double.

          1. You’re totally right! Ham was usually best of the rest after Vettel.

          2. ^ Check out 2012 , He destroyed everyone in qualifying

    2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      16th April 2014, 14:30

      @kibblesworth – But whilst Rosberg is one the grid’s stronger driver at Shanghai, along with Button and particularly Raikkonen, Hamilton is easily the best driver driver through the long and demanding high speed corners of Shanghai. On the basis on his gap to Rosberg last year, and on the basis of how utterly brilliant he was there in previous races, I can quite easily Hamilton “destroying” Rosberg this race, sorry and @robbie. Personally, I think Rosberg’s best chance to “hit back” at Lewis is Barcelona, which tends not to be a great track for Hamilton, but that said, Rosberg’s strongest track is probably Bahrain, and look what happened there…

      1. Personally, I think Rosberg’s best chance to “hit back” at Lewis is Barcelona, which tends not to be a great track for Hamilton

        Not sure I’d agree. 2nd in 2007, 2011, and 3rd in 2008. As well as what should of been a 2nd in 2010 and probably a win in 2012 (based on his practice and qualifying performances). A fairly good track for Hamilton I’d say.

      2. @william-brierty lol, no ‘sorry’ necessary. You might well be right, but I just hesitate to compare to last year with it’s lottery tires and Merc with it’s issues dealing with them. I look to see how NR does now that this is a new chapter in F1 and he has a win-capable car. But same goes for LH. If Barcelona has not been a great track for LH, that could change this year with this car.

        Not that I am expecting the same epic battle we just witnessed at the last race to occur every time now, but I just think we will in general remain able to throw a blanket over these two, and it is way too early in the season for NR to be ‘destroyed’. He’s got too much car to be made to feel that way just yet. Sure if he consistently cannot get past LH or keep him back by mid-season, then yeah doubts are going to start to creep in, but then they’re trained to not get too high on the highs nor low on the lows, so it’s going to fascinating. It goes without saying LH is the one who has had competitive cars and been in this position far more than NR, so nobody knows more than NR what the lay of the land is. My curiosity lies in seeing how NR does on this new-for-him turf that he is on…this uncharted territory that finally presents him the opportunity to surprise us, or confirm his worthiness.

        1. dont forget Hamilton has always been kind of weak mentally..

  6. Renault says, that they expect a significant performance boost from their power unit due to mapping and MGU-K. It’ll be interesting to see whether Red Bull will trim performance gap to Mercedes and by how much. If they can qualify within 0,5 secs from Mercs, it’ll be a huge boost for them and for championship. Because I think Red Bull will be the closest challenger to Mercedes once again in terms of pace. They’re definetely the second best team on the grid and I can’t see changing that.

    1. I agree, RBR likely to be 2nd best. If i had to guess the pecking order i would say MER-RBR-FI-FER-McL-WIL. Although positions 3-6 could be any order, Williams are quick but ate their tyres in Bahrain so might still have that issue. Ferrari will be weak on the straight so if they can qualify 3rd row they might manage to stay top 6, but if they end up behind any Mercedes runners i doubt they can overtake.

  7. quite frustrating for a Hamilton fan to see that Rosberg still leads the champ and will still lead after China if he finishes 2nd. the table doesnt reflect the true performance of Lewis.

    1. I don’t think you need to be frustrated. I don’t think anyone is doubting that LH is strong and has a great WDC shot this year. Of course NR is also in a season that has him finally for the first time in his F1 career, with the equipment capable, so hopefully they will continue to shadow each other and thrill us with a great rivalry.

      1. I think Lewis is a better pilot all-around but Nico is not too far from him and Mercedes having the best car makes Lewis the safest bet for WDC, that’s why his retirement in Australia kinda added some extra interest to this (so far) Merc dominated season because the best driver needs to go after his team mate whose round one 25 points advantage gives him a very good chance to claim the WDC himself.

  8. Expect the running order to be closer to what we witnessed at Sepang rather than Bahrain. There is more time to be found navigating the long turns than on the long straight.

    1. Rosberg interview said he aim for 350kmph in long straight. Is that achievable?

  9. Question: Does any track suit the McLaren haha. Pretty sure they’ve said that each race this season. Just say your car isn’t fast enough and it needs work. We’re not morons!

  10. It’s interesting but Nico being this strong should keep Lewis focused. The margins are so slim that any mistake by driver or pit-stop crew etc., can mean the difference between a win and second place.

    It certainly makes the racing more exciting, even if I back Hamilton.

  11. “In my first season in Formula One I threw away a championship lead here by going into the gravel coming into the pits,” he rued, recalling a pivotal moment in the 2007 campaign.

    I think it’s fair to say he threw away the whole championship with that. Big shame too.

    1. I think it is not fair, and Lewis is being to hard on himself. The fault lies squarely with McLaren and Ron Dennis; who were clearly suffering from “Analysis Paralysis”.
      They left Lewis out far too long; when everyman and his dog were screaming for them to bring him in.
      It is indeed a miracle that Lewis managed to keep the car on the track till that moment. His right rear was worn down to the thread, and had almost delaminated! Saying that, he actually lost the championship at the next race with mysterious gearbox “glitches”!

    2. Lewis definitely mucked that one up, but the real mistake was made on the pitwall a few laps earlier when McLaren decided to leave him out there fighting with Kimi on tires worn to the cords. Lewis had been telling them that his tires were gone, but Whitmarsh & co waited until he got a flat before pitting him. I still remember screaming at the TV, literally begging them to call him in & bag the championship… not really one for conspiracy theories, but it wouldn’t surprise me if McLaren were forced to throw those last two races. My Spidey senses haven’t stopped tingling…

      1. I agree. That was a strange year, and the gearbox ‘glitch’ that got going again. Has that ever happened to any other driver since? It will never be proven, but its likely McLaren were advised not to win the WDC that year if you take my meaning. Who knows.

      2. I totally agree…but either way, it means he didn’t muck it up. The pitwall is either at fault, or they threw the race. I believe the threw it at the next race. It is exactly the kind of punishment Mosley would dream of. I doubt Macca paid any $100 Mill either. This was simply their punishment.

  12. Looking forward to see how everything develops. Rosberg vowing to get back at Hamilton, who will be the 2nd best team. Will Lotus really make up pace with their changed nose, what will the others manage. Yes I am looking forward to this, although reading about the straight and DRS made me feel a bit disappointed because of possible great moments lost by drive by passes.

  13. Given the nature of the Shanghai track this should be another Mercedes-only contest. I only hope the people calling the shots at the pit wall will again allow us to see real racing between teammates.

  14. It could go either way between the two, but i predict it will all end in tears this time if they are allowed to fight the same way they did at Bahrain. Rosberg has something to prove, so he will me more desperate this time; and Lewis will not give a quarter, so he is more likely to come off worse. I hope Mercedes lets them race, but not enough to result in a DNF or damage for either of them.

  15. Fun fact: if Hamilton wins this weekend (or whenever he next wins), Fangio will no longer be in the top 10 drivers with most wins, which will be the first time since he won the second ever round of F1.

  16. I think we should add something to the prediction championship: how far does the first non Mercedes GP car finish behind the leader. I’m guessing 32 seconds.

  17. I know Mallya gets a lot of stick for his business practices, but as a team principle he’s exemplary. He understands racing.

    Difficult to choose a winner this weekend, it’s Rosberg’s best track so if he doesn’t win here I expect him to struggle for the rest of the season.

  18. I am hoping all my bad luck is behind me now and that China will mark a turning point for a better rest of the season

    Here is your issue mate, it’s not called bad luck it’s call bad decisions.

  19. Lewis will make it a hattrick for sure. He has to. Would be his first one.

  20. I wonder whether longest straight in F1 will be decisive. If performance btwn LH and NR comparable could it be the one who times it right to make last pounce on long straight will determine winner

  21. I wish ForceIndia make their second podium here – they have been strong in China previously, but the upgrades other teams are bringing could change equations especially with McLaren coming back. For me, the line up looks like Roseberg, Hamilton, Button, Hulkenberg, Perez, Ricardo, Massa, Vettel, Alonso and Kimi.

  22. Oh no, the Mercs could lap all cars twice if they chase each other like they did in Bahrain.

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