Mercedes’ early dominance of the 2014 Formula One World Championship looks set to continue at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 08:00 BST, live on Sky Sports F1).
Lewis Hamilton was the winner in Bahrain two weeks ago, prevailing over teammate Nico Rosberg in a fair but competitive fight for victory. The Mercedes was again the clear class of the field, securing its third consecutive pole position and third consecutive victory.
Sergio Perez underlined Force India’s promising early-season pace by finishing third, while his teammate Nico Hulkenberg continued his run of consecutive top six finishes by coming in fifth. They were split by the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, who worked his way through the field from 13th to finish two places ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Williams were unable to take advantage of their good practice and qualifying pace, finishing seventh and eighth after losing out in the reshuffle caused by the deployment of the safety car. Ferrari finished ninth and 10th to continue their uninspiring start to the year. Their woes were compounded by a failure to record significant running in the post-race test.
The Shanghai International Circuit is a medium-to-high downforce track with a good variety of corner types. The long back straight race, one of the longest on the calendar, provides the most obvious overtaking opportunity, but there are a couple of other sections where a well-timed move can be successfully completed. Tyre wear is relatively low.
Nine of last year’s top 10 finishers utilised a three-stop strategy and that is again likely to be the strategy of choice this time around. Current weather forecasts suggest rain is possible on both Saturday and Sunday.
Mercedes have taken pole position in each of three races so far this season and there is little reason to suggest they will not extend that run on Saturday.
Nico Rosberg has a very good qualifying record in China, having taken pole position in 2012 and out-qualified his teammate of the time in four of the last five races. Lewis Hamilton qualified ahead of Rosberg last year in their first season as teammates, but was twice out-qualified by Jenson Button (pictured) during his time at McLaren.
Rosberg beat Hamilton to pole position in Bahrain two weeks ago and is capable of doing so again on Saturday.
Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne qualified in the top 10 for each of the first two races of the season, thriving in changeable conditions to get himself into the final session of qualifying on both occasions. After a disappointing weekend in Bahrain, he will be keen to secure a good qualifying position on Saturday.
Toro Rosso enjoyed a strong post-race test in Bahrain, posting the second fastest time on the second day and have a car that should be well suited to the Shanghai International Circuit. They will be down on power in comparison to the Mercedes runners on the long back straight, but have a neat car that should perform well in the tighter sections of the circuit.
Vergne does not have the best record in China, having been out-qualified by his teammate of the time in each of his two previous visits, but with a good car underneath him and the possibility of rain should be fancied to reach the final session on Saturday.
The margin of superiority enjoyed by Mercedes in Bahrain was such that it is difficult to see anyone challenging them for victory this weekend. The fastest race laps of Hamilton and Rosberg were both over a second and a half quicker than those of any other driver and Mercedes continued their dominance of the time sheets in the two-day post-race test.
Rosberg achieved the first victory of his Formula One career in China in 2012, while Hamilton is a two-time previous winner of the event. They were closely matched in Bahrain and it is hard to get a clear picture as to which of them should be regarded the most likely victor on Sunday.
In the circumstances, backing the pair of them on a dual forecast seems the best option. The bet will pay out if they finish first and second, irrespective of which of them takes victory.
McLaren endured a disappointing weekend in Bahrain, with both cars retiring due to clutch problems. They did, however, receive some encouragement from Jenson Button’s strong race pace prior to his late retirement and will be hopeful of enjoying a better weekend in China.
Button has finished on the podium in four of the last five Chinese Grand Prix and ahead of his teammate of the time in all but one of the 10 races at the circuit since the inaugural event in 2004. It was in China that Button produced McLaren’s joint second-best finish of last season, coming home fifth after qualifying eighth.
This year’s McLaren is a lot faster than its predecessor and with Button’s excellent record at the Shanghai International Circuit he should be capable of taking it to a top six finish on Sunday.
Formula One Chinese Grand Prix Betting Tips
- Back Nico Rosberg to qualify on pole position @ 7/4 with BetVictor.
- Bet on Jean-Eric Vergne to reach qualifying session three @ 9/4 with BetVictor.
- Back Lewis Hamilton / Nico Rosberg on a Dual Forecast @ 1/2 with Ladbrokes.
- Bet on Jenson Button to finish in the top six @ 6/5 with BetVictor.