After the first race of the season it looks like we’ve finally got a championship fight on our hands between at least two teams. What will round two reveal?
Can Ferrari sustain their winning start?
Not since 2010 have Ferrari managed to win two races consecutively. Coming off the back of their Australian Grand Prix victory, a win in Shanghai would give them real conviction that they can end their nine-year title drought.
As was the case in Melbourne, Sebastian Vettel is playing down the progress they have made. But it was clear in Australia the team had a great race car – Vettel was chasing Lewis Hamilton hard for the lead in the early stages before manoeuvring his way ahead through the pit stops.
Although Vettel was out-paced in qualifying his Ferrari looked very beautifully composed, especially through the quicker corners. Shanghai has more of those than Melbourne, so they could be in good shape here.
Did Melbourne flatter Mercedes again?
If that trend continues this year then Mercedes really are going to have a fight on their hands with Ferrari. Another team which historically has fared better once the championship has moved on from Australia is Red Bull. Look for them to also be closer to the pace at a track which requires more fundamental grip, although the long straight will hurt them.
How much quicker will the cars be?
Formula One’s overhauled cars knocked 1.3 seconds off the quickest lap around Albert Park two weeks ago. Yet some, including the driver who set the new record, had expected more spectacular gains.
Could Shanghai deliver them? Several of its corners are much quicker than Melbourne and it is these bends in which the more aerodynamic powerful 2017 cars really shine.
However in Albert Park the drivers also had the benefit of tyres which were one stage softer than those used last year. In Shanghai the softest tyre available will be the super-soft, as was also the case 12 months ago (though note this year’s compounds are harder than last year).
Is overtaking going to be any easier?
“What overtaking?” was the reaction from drivers when asked how hard overtaking was in Melbourne. Just a handful of on-track passes were made in Albert Park.
But that is not unusual for Australia’s round of the world championship. Shanghai, however, has a huge straight with a heavy braking zone at the end of it which provides an excellent passing opportunity. Last year’s hectic race saw frequent passes for position.
Does that mean we’ll get a better race this weekend? And if not, will F1 make changes to DRS to encourage more action?
- Pass or fail: How will Liberty respond to calls for more overtaking?
- F1 to consider DRS changes after Chinese GP
Will Giovinazzi seal the deal?
Antonio Giovinazzi impressed with his hurried debut in Australia at a track where he hadn’t raced before.
But in China he will have the benefit of running in both practice sessions and doing so at a track he has prior experience of.
A strong performance will strengthen his case for a full-time seat. He came close to out-qualifying team mate Marcus Ericsson last time out, so the Q1 battle between the pair should be fascinating. A dream result for Giovinazzi would be to clinch a point for the struggling Sauber team.
What might a wet race reveal?
The early weather forecast for the race indicates a strong chance of rain in the morning. If we do get our first wet race of 2017, there will be several new variables to keep an eye on.
The first is the complex new rules governing wet race starts. The race director has new powers to use a standing start if conditions improve sufficiently. However it is still possible for rolling starts to be used on safety grounds.
Then there is the question of how well Pirelli’s new wet weather tyres will perform. They were criticised again following last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix and have been modified again since they were testing in Spain last month.
Finally, how will the increase in downforce alter wet weather races? Drivers should benefit from more grip and wider tyres should clear the racing line of water more effectively. We may also see a drivers having to make greater compromises between ‘full wet’ and ‘partially wet’ set-ups depending on the forecast, as the new cars offer so much more downforce.
- Expect new wet weather standing start rule to mean more laps behind the Safety Car
- Drivers slate “terrible” Pirelli wet weather tyres
Are you going to the Chinese Grand Prix?
If you’re heading to China for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you.
Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Chinese Grand Prix? Have your say below.
And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying: