For all the talk of Ferrari’s pace, it is Mercedes who currently have control in the 2019 Formula 1 campaign. A win for each of their drivers has put them in a decent early position in the Drivers’ Championship standings, with Valtteri Bottas leading the way by a point. But will they stay out in front after this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix?
While the reigning champions are making a strong case this season, this could be a difficult weekend for them. The long straights in Shanghai should suit Ferrari’s speed in this one, which could see Mercedes put under pressure here. Ferrari can claim their first win of the season if things go their way, but can they get the better of their rivals in China?
The Chinese Grand Prix – which started in 2004 – came with one of the most expensive circuits in F1 history. The Shanghai International Circuit was surpassed by Abu Dhabi in 2009, but it remains one of the more impressive track. It has been given an impressive honour, as this weekend marks the 1000th F1 race. Expect plenty of celebrations as the sport hits a significant milestone.
|3/21||China||Shanghai International Circuit||305km / 56 Laps|
|Date||Start Time||Finish Time||Forecast Conditions||TV Coverage|
|Practice 1||Fri 12th April||03:00||04:30||Dry / 15°||–|
|Practice 2||Fri 12th April||07:00||08:30||Dry / 17°||–|
|Practice 3||Sat 13th April||04:00||05:30||Dry / 17°||–|
|Qualifying||Sat 13th April||07:00||08:30||Dry / 16°||Sky F1|
|Race||Fri 23rd March||07:10||09:10||Dry / 14°||Sky F1|
Last Season’s Result (2018)
Last season saw an early shock, as Daniel Riccardo ran out as the winner in Shanghai. That success was a huge blow to both Hamilton and Vettel, with the German slipping down to eighth in a stuttering display. He will be looking to right that this year, but overall it wasn’t a bad race for Ferrari – who finished with Kimi Raikkonen in third place.
It was also an odd race in that both of the two title contenders failed to finish above their teammates. The title race didn’t massively change after this clash last year, with Hamilton cutting the gap to Vettel, but staying nine points short at that early stage. However, this year could be much more impactful, as Ferrari chase a comeback.
|1||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||6||25|
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||5||10|
|9||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault||1||2|
Race News: Leclerc’s Star Rises
While Mercedes won the Bahrain Grand Prix, the big winner was arguably Charles Leclerc. The new signing at Ferrari has worked wonders for his reputation with his push for victory last time out. An engine fault ended up costing him just 10 laps from home, but that can’t overshadow a dominant weekend display from the Frenchman.
There are now suggestions that the changing of the guard at Ferrari could happen in the next few weeks or months, rather than years. While that seems premature, the last race does point to a big future in the sport for Leclerc. As Hamilton approaches the end of his career, we could be seeing the beginnings of his successor.
Analysis: Where Will Ferrari Put Their Trust?
While Ferrari have a huge star in the shape of Leclerc, they may hold back on making him the main contender this weekend. This race could use the experience of their main man, especially as it’s seen as a fair chance for them to get one over rivals Mercedes. With their opponents storming away at the top, it’s probably the time to put their faith in the former world champion.
It’s strange to see Leclerc being built up as the favourite for this one, despite him only taking his first steps with his new team. Vettel is still their big title contender, but he can’t afford to fail to win in the opening three races and still maintain real ambitions of taking the title back from Hamilton. Everything points to Ferrari putting Vettel front and centre here, but will he take the chance?
Final Verdict: Vettel To Win
We’re siding with Vettel in this one, with the German a contender to end his wait for a win here. He does come into this one having topped qualifying last year, while he should be able to follow that up with a strong run in Shanghai. If this is going to be the race when Ferrari go full throttle, then Vettel will be expected to be at his best. He needs to lay down a marker for the months to come.
We think that Vettel will take top spot here, and he’s well priced for glory at 7/4. Mercedes rarely made an impact at circuits which didn’t suit them last year, while Vettel’s status as Ferrari’s main man should push him on. It seems like the perfect race for him, but the bookies are still being generous with that pricing. We’re backing him for victory, while we see him as a decent option for fastest qualifier at 7/4. Meanwhile, Verstappen – fresh from two top four finishes – is a great option for a podium finish in this one, also priced at 7/4.
About the Chinese Grand Prix
The Chinese Grand Prix is hosted by the Shanghai International Circuit, which is based in Jiading, shanghai. It’s been open since 2004 and cost $450million to construct. The work took just 18 months to complete, which considering it went from total swamp land to one of the finest race circuits in the world, is highly impressive.
The track is another that has been designed by Hermann Tilke, who has played a major role in a number of other tracks that are littered throughout the F1 calendar. It’s design is pretty unique, in that it represents a Chinese character shang, which means above or ascend.
The track, which opened in 2004, is famed for is its change in acceleration and deceleration, contained within its long and winding corners. Built on marsh land, the 5.4km track, is stabilised by more than 40,000 stone pillars and is reasonably flat.
The architecture of the circuit is immediately recognisable, such as the unique paddock and the pavilions based on the lack, which teams are able to use as their headquarters for the meeting. The on track action is always spectacular, which makes for one of the more exciting races of the F1 season.
The Shanghai International Circuit is 5.4km in circuit. The first corner is very long and the drivers are needing to take the first part of the apex at high speeds before then moving across the track to get the best racing line. What makes this track really unique is how long that the first corner is.
The drivers then struggle for traction as it drops downhill and use the kerb to maintain speed into the second corner. There’s a small elevation change the drivers go through the kink and then breaking heavily as they move down into turn six at speeds of around 70kmph. The drivers need a good use of the apex before getting a great drive from 6 before getting into one of the high-speed sections of this racetrack.
The drivers then need to make sure they get onto the white line of the corner otherwise they will get out of position for turn 8 and lose all momentum in the early part of the lap. Through 9 and 10 the drivers can use a bit of the exit kerb. The positioning of the car is highly important as the drivers come through turn 11 and then through turn 12 as they come to the end of the first section.
What’s noticeable about the track is the length of the corners, which means that it plays a massive role in how the tyres perform. They are then required to get onto the back straight making use of the DRS and focussing on nailing the breaking zone coming into turn 14. Turn 15 doesn’t really exist as drivers are still pushing the car hard out of 14 and then driving into the last corner.
Turn 16 is a short apex turn and drivers really struggle for grip here as they are keen to get on the power as soon as possible and through the start finish line. This is also the final DRS section of the track and move across from one side to the other to gain the best racing line back into turn 1.
The track was funded by the Shanghai Jiushi Group, Shanghai National Property Management Company Limited and Shnghai Jia’an Investment and Development company Limited. The first plans were set afoot in 2003 and as stated above, took just 18 months to complete before opening and hosting the inaugural Chinee Grand Prix in 2004.
The track has needed a fair amount of structural work done to it over the years, mainly because of its location on swamp land. Turns 1, 8 and 14 have all been sinking and an inspection was needed in 2011 to deem to track safe to drive on.
Initial attendances at the track were good, with over 265,000 people visiting throughout the opening weekend. But attendances have dropped significantly since then with just 155,000 turning out in 2010.
2004 – BARICHELLO WINS FIRST CHINESE GRAND PRIX
It was the Ferrari of Rubens Barichello that won the first ever Chinese Grand Prix in 2004, beating that of Jenson Button by just over 1 second to clinch a thrilling race. His win propelled him back into the fight for the Drivers’ championship, putting him just 28 points adrift of runaway leader Michael Schumacher after he failed to score a point finishing in 12thplace.
2018 – RICCIARDO WINS FROM 6TH
Australian, Daniel Ricciardo started the 2018 race in 6thplace on the grid. The Red Bull’s were given very little chance before the start of the race and even in qualifying their pace looked way down on the field. But, Ricciardo was able to past 3 cars within 6 highly fuelled laps of racing, to leap frog both of the Mercedes and Ferrari’s to his first victory of the season and put him right back in the mix for the Drivers’ Championship once again.