After a surprise victory for Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia, reigning Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will hope to return to the top step of the podium at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 07:00 BST, live on Sky Sports F1).
Vettel and his Ferrari team displayed impressive pace throughout the weekend in Sepang. He ran Hamilton close in qualifying and then emerged victorious in the race after taking full advantage of his rival’s higher tyre degradation to do one less stop and take the win.
Hamilton came in second ahead of his teammate Nico Rosberg and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who did very well to recover to fourth after suffering an early puncture. Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa came in fifth and sixth for Williams, although Bottas admitted afterwards that the team have a lot of work to do if they are to close the gap to those ahead.
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The 17-year-old Max Verstappen became the youngest points scorer in Formula One history by finishing seventh for Toro Rosso ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr, while the Red Bulls of Daniil Kyvat and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top 10. McLaren showed better pace than in Australia but were forced to retire both cars due to engine problems.
The Shanghai International Circuit has played host to the Chinese Grand Prix since the inaugural event in 2004. It 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 a well-timed move can also be completed elsewhere.
Pirelli have chosen their soft and medium compound tyres for this weekend’s event. Current weather forecasts suggest that it will be a cloudy weekend with a slight possibility of rain. The temperature will be much cooler than in Malaysia two weeks ago.
Ferrari’s victory in Malaysia has raised the prospect of Mercedes receiving a genuine challenge to their supremacy this season. It must, however, be noted that the win came in very particular circumstances. The extreme temperatures amplified Mercedes’ tyre wear issues, while their decision not to split race strategies proved to be a costly mistake.
The truth is that Mercedes’ pace advantage is probably not as clear as it seemed to be in Melbourne – a circuit that does tend to exaggerate differences between teams – while Ferrari are unlikely to be quite as quick as they were in the hot and humid conditions of Malaysia at every circuit on the calendar.
Mercedes had won eight races on the bounce prior to Vettel’s victory in Malaysia and the break in their dominance has resulted in a loosening of the F1 betting odds on them prevailing in both qualifying and the race in China. Hamilton has a stellar record at the circuit, with four pole positions and three race wins to his credit, and he can be fancied to dominate this weekend.
Felipe Nasr drove a highly impressive race to finish fifth on his Formula One debut for Sauber in Australia. He was not as quick in Malaysia, qualifying 16th and finishing 12th, but the temperature and track layout at the Shanghai International Circuit should be better suited to a car that ran well in similar conditions during the final pre-season test in Barcelona.
Sauber were just behind the Red Bull and Toro Rosso cars on long-run pace during that test, making them the sixth quickest team overall. However, the superior power generated by their Ferrari engine in comparison to the Renault unit in the back of the Red Bull and Toro Rosso should give Nasr a key advantage down the long main straight this weekend.
The Brazilian therefore has a good chance of returning to the points-scoring positions on Sunday.
McLaren have struggled with reliability issues so far this season. Kevin Magnussen failed to make the grid in Melbourne due to an engine failure, while an ERS cooling issue and turbo failure respectively saw off the cars of Fernando Alonso (pictured above) and Jenson Button in Malaysia. The team’s partnership with Honda has certainly not got off to the most promising of starts.
Further problems can be expected this weekend at a circuit featuring two full-throttle straights that will place considerable strain on a previously fragile power unit. In the circumstances, it seems unlikely that McLaren will be able to get both cars to the finish on Sunday.
Formula One Chinese Grand Prix Betting Tips
- Back Lewis Hamilton on the pole position/race winner double market @ 11/10 with Paddy Power.
- Bet on Felipe Nasr to finish in the points @ best odds of 13/8 with William Hill.
- Back Fernando Alonso not to be classified and Jenson Button not to be classified as single, equal-weighted bets @ 6/4 apiece with Bet365.