Welcome to the 2013 UBS Chinese Grand Prix weekend. The third round of the season, the Shanghai International Circuit is set stage an exciting, unpredictable event. C0ming off the back of a controversial race, the Formula One paddock will be keen to settle down to business quickly and clear their minds of the events of three weeks ago. The Sepang circuit was host to one of the more controversial races of the past few seasons and little is known about whether or not Red Bull have managed to clear the air between their two star drivers. Fights all throughout the field in Malaysia showcased just how close the 2013 grid is and with the Chinese’s circuit’s many different demands on cars and drivers alike, it’s anybody’s guess who’ll come out on top on Sunday.
2013 marks the tenth running of the Chinese Grand Prix and previous winners include World Champions Lewis Hamilton (2011 and 2008), Jenson Button (2010), Sebastian Vettel (2009), Kimi Raikkonen (2007) and Fernando Alonso (2005), as well as Nico Rosberg and Rubens Barrichello (2012 and 2004 respectively).
The Chinese circuit is less abrasive than the teams were up against in Malaysia, but Pirelli are still expecting the constructors to run three-stop strategies during the race.
The year’s second round turned very controversial in regards to tyre degradation rates, with calls from around the world, drivers included, for Pirelli to intervene and alter the dynamic of their compounds. Despite this concern, Pirelli have announced they will not be considering investigating their compounds until the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. This doesn’t mean Pirelli intend on changing them, just that they do not intend on looking into the supposed issues before April 21.
Mark Webber told reporters in the aftermath of the Malaysian Grand Prix,
“You still have to drive the Grands Prix these days at eight tenths. It’s not like the old days when Grand Prix drivers are driving flat-out and leaning on the tyres like hell because the tyres are wearing out. It’s not the most satisfying thing for us as grand prix drivers these days.”
Jenson Button complained before the race,
“It’s not like last year in terms of getting the tyres into the working range, but looking after the tyres is pretty tricky.”
Pirelli will bring the Soft and Medium compounds to this weekend’s Grand Prix. This will be the first race for the Soft tyres, while the Mediums will have featured in every race so far.
Drag Reduction System
Two DRS zones will be available to the teams this weekend. The activation points are located on the straights between turns 16 and 1, as well as between turns 13 and 14.
After a frustrating end to the Malaysian Grand Prix, Red Bull will be hoping to put the squabbles at Sepang behind them. The team secured a strong 1-2 victory and were well ahead of their competition. Can they make it two in a row? They look the most likely team to take the chequered flag at this point.
Alonso’s retirement on the second lap in Malaysia was a blow to Ferrari’s chances of staying in the hunt early on, but the team know the season could yet pull up many surprises. Massa qualified strongly in Sepang and, despite a poor start, held his own against his peers. Felipe now sits ahead of his team-mate in the standings, but for how long? Expect a strong effort from Ferrari in Shanghai.
McLaren suffered a disappointing race in Sepang, with Button retiring after having run fifth and Perez struggling to do any better than low-points positions. The team need updates quickly and will be looking well ahead to the European leg of the season. Without any major upgrades in China, expect the Woking squad to struggle again here.
Lotus’s drop in form was disappointing in Malaysia. After the highs of Albert Park, it looked like the Enstone team who had taken the new tyres by the reigns. Handling issues plagued their entire weekend in Sepang and a frustrated Raikkonen aired his anger about Hulkenberg’s aggressive defensive maneuvers. The drivers will need a much stronger race in China if they hope to be fighting for gold at the end of the year.
Mercedes provided the surprise package in Sepang, with Hamilton and Rosberg lurking seconds behind the first-placed position. Late fuel struggles and inter-team politics left them behind their Milton Keynes rivals at the conclusion of the race, but the squad showed their potential. There’s no reason to think Hamilton and Rosberg – both previous victors here – won’t be fighting near the pointy end this weekend.
A strong comeback from Hulkenberg showed Sauber’s potential for 2013, but it’s questionable how long the team will be able to stay that close to the front. Nico’s race showed great form, but Gutierrez is still adapting to the car. Sauber need two strong drivers to sustain a fight for sixth in the championship and won’t be able to manage if Esteban continues to struggle. Expect Hulkenberg to be ahead of Esteban again in China.
The Force India drivers showed a lot of promise in Sepang. Their races cruelly cut short by dual wheel-nut failures, di Resta held a healthy advantage over Sutil and made ground in repairing the damage Sutil did to the Scott’s reputation in Albert Park. With the team continuing with their pit-stop setup, they can only hope their issues do not return. If a problem-free race presents itself, Force India look strong for points in Shanghai.
Another race, another retirement for Maldonado. Another race, another non-points finish for Bottas. The Williams duo will be reveling in the idea of returning to England after the Bahrain Grand Prix, with the team hopefully providing major overhauls of their 2013 challenger. Their pre-season started off very promisingly and Williams will be disappointed if their early-season issues cost them places in the standings at the end of the year.
Following a pit-stop mis-hap last race, Vergne climbed his way to a solid tenth place. Ricciardo’s race showed great speed, with the Australian holding himself in the points for much of the event. Another exhaust failure meant the end of Daniel’s race and he’ll be looking for better luck in China. If they can manage a problem-free weekend, the STR duo look very strong for points places.
Malaysia was another struggle for Caterham, who again were the slowest team on the grid. Pic’s best efforts couldn’t keep them ahead of Bianchi’s Marussia, but the Malaysian team were closer to their rivals than in Australia. They’ll need a big turnaround in Shanghai to make any impressions, so don’t be surprised if Caterham are again at the bottom of the order.
As mentioned, Bianchi’s performance in Malaysia was nothing to be frowned upon. Easily out-pacing his team-mate again, he managed put himself ahead of both Caterham cars at the chequered flag. Marussia are looking better than ever and, in Bianchi’s hands, look closer to the points than they’ve previously been. Chilton’s first two races have been disappointing and he’ll need to quickly start making improvements if he doesn’t want another pay driver taking his seat before the end of the season.