Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018

Are Red Bull in the mix? Five Chinese GP talking points

2018 Chinese Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Do we really have three teams in the hunt for victories in 2018? Here are five talking points for this weekend’s race.

Three-in-a-row for Vettel?

Even when Red Bull swept all before them at the beginning of the decade, Vettel never managed to win the opening three races of a season. He has the chance to do so this weekend after a perfect start to 2018 in Australia and Bahrain.

Cooler temperatures in China should shift the balance of power back in Mercedes’ favour. But Vettel still can’t take it for granted that he will have things his own way at Ferrari.

Kimi Raikkonen came close to out-qualifying him in Bahrain and has started both this year’s races from the front row – an encouraging showing from a driver whose traditional strength comes in race trim rather than qualifying. But if he doesn’t get a win this weekend he’ll have logged a century of starts since his last triumph, at Melbourne in 2013.

Are Red Bull victory contenders?

After two races Red Bull remains the biggest unknown in the field. It’s well-known they haven’t got the straight-line speed to compete with Mercedes and Ferrari in qualifying, but in race trim they may be very potent indeed.

In Australia both drivers spent the race in traffic and neither got beyond lap five in Bahrain. Team principal Christian Horner believes they’d have been in strong shape on the optimum, two-stop strategy in the last race. Whether they can deliver on that potential this weekend may partly depend on Max Verstappen toning it down a bit.

McLaren vs Toro Rosso

It’s on now.

Fifth place for McLaren in Australia seemed to vindicate their decision to dump Honda – it was as good a result as they’d managed in the previous three years with the Japanese engine manufacturer. “Now we can fight,” declared a relieved Fernando Alonso after he crossed the finishing line.

Then Toro Rosso went one better in Bahrain. Pierre Gasly invoked Alonso’s words after equalling the team’s best result in almost a decade. Where these two teams go from here is going to be one of this season’s most fascinating storylines – especially with Red Bull keeping a close eye on how well Honda’s power units perform.

Can Williams turn it around?

Bahrain was an alarming race weekend for Williams, who found themselves not only off the pace of the opposition but far slower than they’d been 12 months ago.

Was this a one-off blip of a disturbing sign of things to come? There’ll be anxious eyes on the timing screens during practice on Friday.

Have Liberty won Ferrari over?

The 2021 proposal Liberty Media put before teams in Bahrain went down well with those at the lower end of the grid. But Ferrari, who have already made disgruntled noises about F1’s future plans, stand to lose tens of millions of dollars worth of bonuses.

So far F1’s oldest team has not responded to the news. Will they break their silence in China?

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:

2018 Chinese Grand Prix

Browse all 2018 Chinese Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

27 comments on “Are Red Bull in the mix? Five Chinese GP talking points”

  1. I can only say… if Verstappen tones it down a bit, Lewis will have it his way. Lewis has been playing mindgames after the Bahrain GP, just like Vettel did a while ago… when ever Verstappen gets in your mirror drivers are getting nervous.
    Lewis played it just as hard as Verstappen did, pot/kettle.

    I for one hope the RBR drivers don’t take it to easy, Verstappen exactly did what we all asked for, race.
    DRS will work for Ferrari and Mercedes, not so much for RBR, it would only equal their pace, in order to move ahead RBR need either luck or balsy moves like Verstappen showed us in Bahrain.

    I’d rather see them crash trying than settle for 3rd best.

    1. The cool thing about RBR is that as a team, their drivers cover both approaches – Ricciardo is an assertive driver who’s a generally safe pair of hands, while Max is the more aggressive of the pair which can have spectacular results – of the positive and negative kind.

      I’d said this before and I’d repeat it – On a scale of assertive to aggressive, Max tends towards aggressive, and I think the other drivers now have the measure of how to deal with him – don’t back off. Half the time it’s one of the other drivers who comes off worse, but half the time it’ll always be Max coming off worse.

      1. Fair, but don’t you think Verstappens involvement in a few incidents has just been a passenger?
        Spain, clearly Bottas at fault, people may say going 3 wide is dangerous, but that really happens about every GP start
        Hungary, just being a passenger as Kvuyt went torpedo into Alonso
        Singapore, if going just straight is considered to be a hazard that racing is not your thing

        Last season only Austria was really Verstappen to blame for, this season the spin in Australia led in by a damaged car and Bahrain was split even between Verstappen and Hamilton.

        There are drivers in the top 5 with wors results when it comes to making mistakes/risks

        1. The Bahrain incident was not an even responsibility between VER and HAM. HAM was giving way but VER decided to drive him off the track. The dude just can’t tame his impulses. Compare to how HAM had a great start passing two cars, but then got a bit stuck and just let those two cars pass him again. There are incidents in the past where VER was not to blame but that he could still have avoided by being so prudent. He’ll have to fix this if he ever wants to become WDC.

  2. Three-in-a-row for Vettel? Possibly
    Are Red Bull victory contenders? On pure pace, I doubt it to some extent at least.
    Can Williams turn it around? I hope so, but at the same time, I doubt it.
    Have Liberty won Ferrari over? Too early to judge. We shall wait and see.

  3. McLaren vs Toro Rosso: It’s on now.

    While I’d like to see this happen (and have a softer spot for TR than McLaren), I’m afraid that Honda’s fragility will come to haunt Toro Rosso in the form of grid penalties somewhere down the line this season, impeding their competitiveness. Those races the PU works fine and isn’t hamstrung by penalties, we can expect some good racy fun, but there’ll be other weekends when TR start somewhat back.

    1. And it is those tough races for them where they will take the engine penalties; what’s the difference is you finish 14th by taking the penalty vs 12th for not taking it … ?!

      1. @ianbond001

        what’s the difference is you finish 14th by taking the penalty vs 12th for not taking it … ?!

        that’s a rather off-topic question

  4. McLaren vs Toro Rosso

    The very fact that this battle is on indicates that Mclaren have lost this battle. They were supposed to be fighting the other Dietrich Mateschitz owned team, not this junior team with rookie drivers and average chassis.

    Nevertheless, I think TR are likely to have an engine failure this weekend.

    1. Don’t underestimate the reliability of this season Honda PU. Remember in pre-season testing, they managed to do most laps behind Mercedes and Ferrari, without any major issue.

      1. That’s because they used a new power unit every day for the first test.

        1. 2 power units for the first test (planned) and a single PU for the 2nd test.

    2. I think the Toro Rosso chassis is usually slightly above average. It’s the McLaren that is quite mediocre and has been since 2013.

    3. If TR do have an engine failure this weekend, it would be bad for the team but I think Pierre Gasly needs to see reality. Yes it was a good race for him in Bahrain but if you think about it, he would have been 7th if it wasn’t for Kimi, Ricciardo and Verstappen having problems. I would think differently if it were the drivers fault for running into the problems.

      1. This was following on from what sumedh said.

      2. And Alonso would have been 9th had Verstappen, Bottas and Haas not had issues in Australia. There are ifs and buts both ways

        1. ….and 10th in Bahrain!

  5. Three-in-a-row for Vettel? Maybe but looks very close between the top 2 teams
    Are Red Bull victory contenders? We might find out
    McLaren vs Toro Rosso I think Mclaren might win out across the season but there are a lot of teams very close
    Can Williams turn it around? Yes they’re not that far away so as fortunes fluctuate they will score points but the Mercedes engine does not seem to be as advantageous as it used to be
    Have Liberty won Ferrari over? Liberty have to convince Ferrari they are getting a smaller slice of a bigger pie and that taking that smaller slice will directly cause the pie to get bigger.

  6. It’s probably not Ferrari Liberty needs to win over, but Mercedes. They stand to lose the most on both the commercial side as the engine side.

    1. Liberty need to win Ferrari over and not so much Mercedes, Mercedes leaving is just another team leaving, but should Ferrari leave Liberty’s share price will tank straight away.
      Before you argue other wise just think of all the supercars only Ferrari is in F1 Lamboghini is not in F1 and they are doing fine same for Porsche.

  7. The calendar shuffle this year flatters Ferrari. They won Melbourne and Bahrain last year as well, and Melbourne didn’t even need luck. China, Baku and Spain should all pretty much be in the bag for Mercedes. But they need Bottas to keep Vettel in third to hurt his championship.

  8. Vettel always does excellent in Asian circuit.. even in 2014 when he was totally lost with the new regulations and car feeling.. he almost took the pole in Malaysia against that beast Mercedes… China.. we’ve all seen what he can do.. if not for the SC or raikonen blocking him last year he might had a chance to challenge Lewis in the finals laps .. so yeah.. his chances for China are good of nothing external happens

  9. Ferrari loading up on ultra-softs for China compared to Merc may ultimately determine how it goes. I don’t think we’ve quite seen how much the tryes will be involved the strategies this year.

  10. Yes, I think red bull should be in the mix as soon as things go right for them, from what little I could see the first 2 weekends, a bit behind in qualifying but competitive in the race, I mean, verstappen overtook hamilton who was also trying to climb the grid! True he left him too little space in the end, but the overtake happened, he was faster than hamilton.

    Ricciardo was attacking raikkonen in the last stint in australia, verstappen would’ve qualified 2nd in australia if not for a small mistake he admitted, ricciardo got the fastest lap, the car looks strong on pace, surely better than the start of 2017, more like their most competitive races in the end of 2017, example malaysia or mexico.

    1. I agree. I think Red Bull are in the mix. As you mentioned, Ricciardo was hounding Kimi for a dozen laps at the end of the race. Max also made ground on Lewis at the start of the Bahrain GP.
      I don’t think Red Bull has the quali pace though. They just don’t have the ability to crank up the engine like Mercedes and Ferrari, and that will always keep them 3 to 4 tenths off pole, and probably 3rd row starts most of the time. Circuits that do lend themselves well to high downforce/aero is where Red Bull should be locking out the front row. I think Monaco is the first time we’ll see a Red Bull on pole.

  11. Looking at the Shanghai circuit layout, RBR should be in the mix in my opinion. It’s true that there are two of the longest straights on the calendar which suggest that power is critical but the average speed in China is below to what we’ve seen already in Bahrain and that’s due to the slow corners that suits RBR chassis very well. Ferrari’s under-steer behavior will be probably amplified in those corners especially for Vettel. The only things that I can see preventing RBR from getting a podium at least are reliability and Verstappen keeping his head cool.

    As for Mercedes, their car tends to work better in cooler conditions and Lewis Hamilton golden right foot could be decisive again as it did last year when he made the pole in the tricky last corner.

    1. Ferrari’s under-steer behavior will be probably amplified in those corners especially for Vettel

      Forgot to mention that there are rumors that suggest that Ferrari will introduce a new floor in the Chinese GP in order to fix that issue (or at least reduce it) for Vettel.

Comments are closed.