Ferrari’s unexpected victory in Sepang has certainly set tongues wagging for the season ahead, but will we see a repeat performance this weekend in Shanghai? Here, we take a look at a few big questions ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.
Can Ferrari triumph again?
Looking back at their success in Malaysia, Sebastian Vettel won the race thanks to fantastic preservation of his tyres compared to other drivers. It’s why his two-stop strategy worked so well, while Mercedes were forced to make three. The high temperatures were a key factor in this, and along with the long straights found in Sepang, it was a track very suited to the Italian team.
It’s expected to be chillier in China, which may swing the odds back in Mercedes favour, but China is another track with some long straights which will again suit Ferrari. Mercedes will have the advantage, but it’s a very slim one. One thing Ferrari will be hoping for is a clean race for Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn was forced to retire in Australia, and suffered a puncture sending him to the back of the field in Malaysia.
Who’s going to win the midfield battle?
It’s looking like another weekend where Red Bull will be happy just to have both cars finish in the points. They trudged slowly home behind their younger siblings Toro Rosso in Sepang, and they won’t want a repeat this weekend. It will be an interesting scrap between the pair, and if Lotus can turn their quick pace into reliability, they will fancy their chances scoring high points too.
They’ve shown much improvement since 2014, but bad luck has stifled them in the championship so far. Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado both possess a lot of talent, and don’t be surprised if those two make it into Q3 on Saturday and show some real speed come race day. And with a Ferrari powered engine, Felipe Nasr will have his eye on a points scoring position for Sauber. Teams like Force India, and indeed Sauber, know that Red Bull and Toro Rosso will only be this slow for the opening rounds – they must make this weekend count.
Any chance of points for McLaren?
Should they fail to score points in Shanghai, it will be the first time since 1981 that the team has failed to score points in the opening three rounds. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what will happen barring a minor miracle. We saw glimpses of speed from McLaren in Malaysia. Before Alonso and Button retired, they were battling with Force India and Sauber just outside the points. While it’s doubtful they would have finished in the top 10, the signs were certainly promising – especially given their disastrous time in Australia.
Team boss Ron Dennis claimed it would be round five in Spain before McLaren can really show competitive pace. The partnership with Honda is still new and will take time to work, but for China, it will be an achievement to have someone other than the Manor Marussia team behind them.