Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

Will Ferrari dare tell Leclerc to follow Vettel again? Five Chinese GP talking points

2019 Chinese Grand Prix

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Will the 1,000th world championship race see a first-time winner in Charles Leclerc? Are Ferrari going to resort to team orders again?

Here’s the talking points for this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Can Leclerc avenge his lost win?

In only his second start for the team, Ferrari’s young star appeared to have victory bought and paid for. But a short circuit in his power unit conspired to rob him of a dream result.

Nonetheless, he made his mark on the paddock. Rival team boss Toto Wolff hailed a “very impressive” performance by the “humble” and “very fast” Leclerc.

“The combination between the speed, personality and being able to temper your emotions in both directions is a great ingredient,” said Wolff. “I know that many other drivers who have the lion in them like he certainly has would have reacted in a much more controversial way about the third place. None of that we see with Charles.”

Clearly, Sebastian Vettel didn’t have the Ferrari handling to his liking in Bahrain. Had it not been for a slow start from Leclerc, he surely would have scorched away from pole position, untroubled by the other car.

Instead Ferrari again had to manage a situation where Vettel had Leclerc looming large in his mirrors and, for the second race in a row, responded by telling Leclerc to hold his position. But given the turn of speed he demonstrated in Bahrain, not to mention the sensible way both drivers conducted themselves when disputing the lead, surely Ferrari wouldn’t do it a third time?

The new generation

Lando Norris, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Norris dazzled under the lights in Bahrain
It’s not just Vettel who is feeling the heat from the young talent in the other garage. Further down the grid F1’s new crop have made their presence felt in the opening races.

McLaren’s Lando Norris has reached Q3 in both races and led the midfield home in Bahrain. Team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr looks a match on speed but compromised his race by tangling with Max Verstappen last time out.

Robert Kubica has trailed Williams rookie George Russell. However the cars are in such a state, producing wildly different handling characteristics, that comparing the two drivers is a largely pointless exercise at present.

And it won’t have escaped Daniil Kvyat’s notice that Alexander Albon is leading him in the points standings at the moment. Kvyat too has had some misfortune – he was sent out on old tyres in Q2 in Bahrain – but has also been the architect of his own troubles at time.

As for Albon, who had never driven an F1 car until a few days before testing began, he bagged a deserved ninth in Bahrain, the first track on this year’s calendar he has prior experience. Shanghai will be another learning experience for him.

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Who is the midfield leader?

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Luck hasn’t been on Grosjean’s side so far
On pure, one-lap pace, Haas have shown the midfield the way so far. They even gave Red Bull a scare in Bahrain, Kevin Magnussen getting within five-thousandths of a second of Verstappen in qualifying.

He went backwards in the race, however. Meanwhile assorted misfortunes mean his team mate Romain Grosjean is the only driver yet to be classified in a race this year.

Renault have had problems too, posting just one finish from the four race starts so far. Picking a class leader from the congested midfield is extremely tricky at present.

McLaren are on an upward curve, Alfa Romeo are in the mix but seem not to have quite sustained the momentum they had at the end of last season, and Toro Rosso are threatening to come good too. any of these could conceivably lead the hunt for the Q3 places and ‘best of the rest’ honours in China.

Has DRS become too powerful?

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019
Was passing too easy in Bahrain?
There was no shortage of passing in Bahrain. However it seems increasingly clear the reason drivers can race each other more easily this year is less because the new front wings allow them to get closer and more because of the increased power of the larger Drag Reduction Systems and, in the case of Bahrain, an additional DRS zone.

Was there any value in forcing teams to redesign their front wings when the same effect could be achieved with DRS? Shanghai has tended to be one of the easier tracks for overtaking, and this weekend may reveal whether the pendulum has swung too far in favour of ‘push button passing’.

The 1,000th world championship race

As RaceFans readers will be well aware, the Chinese Grand Prix is not the 1,000th F1 race (see below), but the thousandth round of the world championship. Semantics aside, it’s a milestone worth noting, and should give the sport an opportunity for reflection as well as celebration.

What do the next thousand races have in store? What does the future have in store of the ‘pinnacle of motor sport’? While the sport continues to depend on petrol-electric hybrid propulsion, it should not escape anyone’s notice that China, the venue for the milestone race, is ploughing funds into fully electric motoring.

Is that the real future of motorsport? Or will F1 inevitably become an anachronism, or at least something more akin to horse racing, in a world where humans are about to delegate the act of driving to machines.

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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:

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2019 Chinese Grand Prix

Browse all 2019 Chinese Grand Prix articles

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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...

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34 comments on “Will Ferrari dare tell Leclerc to follow Vettel again? Five Chinese GP talking points”

  1. Can Leclerc avenge his lost win? – Yes.
    Who is the midfield leader? – Renault if they can get their reliability sorted.
    Has DRS become too powerful? – No. I didn’t find it to be too effective in Bahrain. Overall, it was fine there.

    1. DRS is the most mean (silly and expensive nonsense, anti plain leve field) trick one can imagine. Fake overtaking, fiction races.
      Not even a real overtaking, but like on the higway, passing a slower a car in a separate lane along a straight.
      More they manipulate the F1 and more the costs rise, worsening the (already horrorful) status.
      Go back to ’80s. Ideas has to win, not the money. No A teams and B teams.
      Solutions: cheaper engines (simpler), no DRS (tricky cheat), allow electronics (costs less), wider tyres (more lines available).

      1. Unpopular opinion: If the car ahead is faster on merit, it should be able to stay ahead of the 1sec mark, no? And if not that, then re-pass using DRS? All DRS does is speed up the overtaking process, and if you enjoy that battle, then I can see why you don’t like DRS. I rather see cars get on with it (overtaking) and drive as fast as possible. Both have their strategy elements. But I’ve had the above opinion since the beginning of DRS and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

        1. They are cheating you, offering a false overtaking to simulate a thrill. More entertainment (for the masses, occasional viewers), but you believe it. I guess you favourite TV programs are fantasy fictions.

          1. Sounds like they are cheating you! I actually could care less about overtaking. Purely about who is putting in the fastest lap times and who gets to the finish line first.

          2. @rpiian we have that already. it’s called qualifying.

          3. @frood19 Oh really? Thanks I didn’t know.

        2. I rather see cars get on with it (overtaking) and drive as fast as possible.

          Purely about who is putting in the fastest lap times

          It’s called qualifying and we already have it. In the actual race driver also should be able to defend and this is important part of the racing which requires as much skill as the overtaking. With DRS your defence – half of your racing skills – means nothing.

          1. Yes I don’t disagree it takes away from traditional overtaking/defending skills. If that’s a part you enjoy about racing then it is disappointing. My point is the driver being passed is surely being passed for a reason. Because they’re slower. Simple as that. The “Trulli Train” is is other fast drivers stacking up behind a slower driver. And sure, with excellent defending skills the lead (slower) driver can hang on for a certain amount of time. And sure, the mark of a great driver is someone who can get around this slow driver.

            With DRS the slow driver is helpless, but should be able to fight back the second go around, that is his/her defense. If he/she can’t, then the pass was on merit in my opinion. It’s not right in the traditional sense, but what are you going to do about it? Enjoy the benefits, which is exactly what I posted above.

      2. To add another hate point to your DRS list, drivers are less likely to take risks passing in corners when they know they can just wait patiently until a DRS zone comes up and pass there where they have less chance of causing a collision, ruining their tires or locking up their brakes.

  2. I’m expecting Ferrari to be the team to beat here, just like last season. Also, interestingly, Vettel has not won in China since 2009, so it’s not exactly his strongest track. Hence, I really wouldn’t bet against Leclerc finally picking up his first ever race win one race too late.

    1. You do understand that there’s a difference between being the best team and having the fastest car?

  3. “Was there any value in forcing teams to redesign their front wings when the same effect could be achieved with DRS?”

    Absolutely. The two do not represent the same effect at all. DRS is meant for making passing easier and more frequent. The new wing is meant to make for closer racing which is much more desirable and enjoyable to watch than easy passing of defenceless opponents.

  4. I don’t think the question should be whether Ferrari “dare” to tell Leclerc to stay behind Vettel… instead …are Ferrari “dumb” enough to tell Leclerc to stay behind Vettel.

    1. Different situations can make for the same questions having different answers and solutions. The situation in AUS was different to the one in BAH, in which LEC ignored a temporary ‘hold position call’. It´s highly probable LEC would´ve gotten the fiat to pass VET anyway in BAH, after those 2 laps (in which I think FER would look whether VET would be able to step it up sufficiently).
      In AUS I think they found it just to have LEC held back, bc VET was managing the car long time before bc of his problems, the much earlier pit stop by the team and the fact that he was on the worse tyres. VET was much faster before their stops.
      So all in all, I think FER handled it well.

    2. Ferrari has no say in it really as Charles demonstrated in Bahrein. He simply ignored the order and overtook Vettel. And rightly so. Vettel is not fighting for the title more than Charles so.. fair play and may the best man win.

  5. Now that we established that Leclerc will be ahead of Vettel. Can someone also tell me who is going to win? Some bets to make people

      1. @todfod I’m putting my house on it!

        1. Just your house, @johnmilk? Why not @todfod‘s too?

          1. And yours @jimmi-cynic come on board the hype train

          2. The way of F1, win as a team, lose (massively) as individuals, @johnmilk?

          3. @jimmi-cynic good point. I will thank you at the end. Maybe even send you a lousy t-shirt

    1. According to Scarbs Leclerc was faster in Bahrain because the track suits his driving style and does not suit Vettel’s driving style. In China it should be the other way round. Some tracks will suit the one driver over the other. The point is, don’t bet too much on LeClerc winning China as it is not a given that he will. I still hope he does though.

      1. @aliced I mean Vettel did win in 2017 and 2018 (the latter being a great victory as well). I’ve always remembered him being pretty good around Bahrain…so when he says that he wasn’t comfortable with his car in the race (from the first lap onwards), I’m willing to believe him. However, there is no escaping from the fact that Leclerc just outdrove him and put in a far, far more convincing performance overall, regardless of whether the track suited him more. Vettel was the one who looked like a Ferrari newcomer…and that’s saying something.

        1. @neutronstar

          I thought he won it in 2012 and 2013 … and was in the lead to win it in 2010 as well. If anything, I would think this is the one track where Vettel is really strong at.

          1. @todfod, Vettel finished in 5th place in 2012 and in 4th place in 2013, whilst in 2010 he did not lead a single lap (the highest position that Vettel was in during the 2010 race was 3rd place, which was only for the first lap).

            I would have to agree with @mashiat that Vettel’s record in China hasn’t been that great in the past. He has only won one race and finished four times on the podium, which is probably lower than you’d expect when you consider that he has usually had a car that could potentially contend for a podium over the past decade.

            It is true that, in more recent years, he has taken more podium finishes, and he probably would have had at least a podium finish in 2018 if the race had run in a more normal fashion, but in the past he’s generally not had great success here.

          2. @anon

            I was talking about Vettel’s record in Bahrain. As I mentioned, Bahrain is a track that he was really strong at.

      2. @aliced Vettel wins in Bahrain: 4. Vettel wins in China: 1. So I very much doubt China suits him more.

  6. BerniesSecretAccount
    10th April 2019, 18:01

    what i dont understand, is how people STILL DONT UNDERSTAND the necessity of DRS. When we have low overtake races everyone complains. To set up a pass in a non DRS era one would need more laps than there are in any race.

  7. Yes they will, they have had only one race to evaluate the situation. So if Leclerc is faster again the Italians will have another challenge.

Comments are closed.