Grand Prix 2013 Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Qualifying & Race Discussion

Formula 1 just got even more interesting.

After the inter-team shenanigans that unfortunately was the main talking point of the Malaysian weekend, Formula 1 returns to the concrete wilderness that is the Shanghai International Circuit in, er, Shanghai for surely the most anticipated race weekend of the season. Inevitably, the chat will be about team-mates; or more specifically the relationship (or lack of it) between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. It remains to be seen as to whether the two Red Bull drivers will kiss and make up or whether their relationship will deteriorate further. (I don't want to sound dictatorial but it would be useful if we mainly talk about the upcoming race weekend, rather than having this thread hijacked by arguments relating to the team order fiasco of the last one).

But there is much more to talk about. We can't really conclude much at the moment, as we have had two unpredicatble weekends in terms of the weather. But we can conclude that the Red Bulls are rather fast, the Lotii are rather adept at conserving their tyres, Massa has raised his game to Alonso, Mclaren may be showing green shoots of recovery, Marussia Jules Bianchi has impressed and Caterham are nowhere.
However there are still many questions to be answered. Can Red Bull maintain their pace advantage over the others? Can Mercedes win again at the scene of their first victory since the 1950's? Will Mclaren start sorting their season out? Can Marussia catch up to the midfield? Will Force India be able to carry out a pitstop in under a minute? And can Paul DiResta ever give an exciting interview? All these questions will (hopefully) be answered in just over two weeks' time.

If grey is your favourite colour, then the Chinese Grand Prix is the event for you. The expansive concrete paddock, along with the overstated grandstands, the large run-off areas and the ever-approaching city ensure that the Chinese Grand Prix is one of the more corporate events on the calendar. But at least the race can advocate the open, liberal society that is China, so that's alright. A quick word on attendance for the race - they were dwindling but the Chinese seem to have given the event a proper go which is good (for Bernie at least).

However, don't be fooled by the initial uninspiring characteristics- this event has thrown up some brilliant races. How about Nico Rosberg's maiden win last year, in which Kimi Raikkonen went from 2nd to 14th in one lap? Or the tyre-influenced drama of 2011, where Lewis Hamilton overtook Vettel for the lead with four laps to go? Throw in a couple of stonking wet races, and Lewis Hamilton's pit lane heartbreak in 2007, and you have some memorable races. All at a circuit which is flat, soulless, uninspiring and was built to look like a Chinese character (that's true by the way).

Here are these past race highlights (UK users only, although I'm sure that there are some nice videos on Youtube):
2006 -
2007 -
2009 -
2010 -
2011 -
2012 -

It's too early for a weather forecast, although we have had sun, rain and cloud in the past so who knows what type of race we will have.
In terms of coverage, it will the the BBC's first live weekend of the year so for those of us who don't have Sky, remember to get up early!!

For superb circuit write-ups, overtaking stats and other useful stuff, there are some nice clickable buttons at the top of the page, called Race Hub and Overtaking. They won't bite.

All that remains is for me to say Ready, Steady, Discuss!
I'd say this is Merc's best shot yet to beat Red Bull. They took their first win here last year and it's a track Hamilton has excelled at in previous years. A should-have-been win in 2007, a win in 2008, 6th in 2009, 2nd (almost a win) in 2010, a win in 2011 and 3rd place in 2012. Possibly Hamilton's best track along with Montreal. Meanwhile Rosberg has finished 11th in 2006, 16th in 2007, 15th in 2008, 15th in 2009, 3rd in 2010, 5th in 2011 and got his maiden win in 2012. Definitely a mixed bag for Rosberg.

Red Bull must enter the race as favourites, I suppose there will be a brave face put on there. Ferrari and Lotus are difficult to gauge too, who knows how Ferrari would have fared in Alonso's hands last race assuming he kept his wing. Lotus looked great in Melbourne with the fastest lap and one fewer pit stop, then Kimi let them down in Malaysia while Grosjean didn't do bad to say he had the old parts.

Could be interesting at the front...
If Mercedes had enough fuel in Malaysia, I think they would have beat Red Bull, but as Lotus and Ferrari should be back at the front, it's could be a four way battle for the win/podium
If Merc had more fuel in Malaysia they wouldn't have been as close to the Red Bulls come the last pitstop and even if they had Red Bull wouldn't have told their drivers to turn their engines down (I know only one did) so I don't see it. However China has always been a Merc track.....or is it a Rosberg track? Whichever it doesn't matter as Hamilton's pretty handy round here too so would not be surprised at a Merc win.

A very angry Webber could be the fly in the ointment as he's always took a shine to China too. Vettel has not had as much fun here it has to be said.

They should be the one's I go for but for some reason I have a sneaking feeling about Alonso.
Agreed with some of that. However, had Lewis and Nico had free reign to use their equipment to the maximum degree how can we be sure they couldn't have beaten the Red Bulls? Considering the mental states of Mark and Sebastian on the day the extra pressure from a concerted Mercedes attack would at the very least have made the latter stages of the race more entertaining. I suspect the Mercedes duo would actually have capitalised on that and pulped Red Bull into submission.

Red Bull now have just under a fortnight to get the whole team's mindset back together. My money is on Mercedes having the upper hand because psychological issues take a lot of time to fix. If Ross Brawn sees it the same way I would hope he takes the gloves off even if it is just to see what will happen.
You could be right Fenders.

I think its important we don't forget Ferrari and the Enstone outfit. I do think Alonso would have been in front of the Mercs but for his first lsp error and I kinda think Kimi had a bad day at the office. I fully expect them to both be amongst it come China.
If the temps are low like last year... my bet is an Alonso v Kimi showdown... it would appear (if one race is a gauge) that the Merc's need to run hair thin on fuel for their advantage... the usual suspects will be in and around the top 6 ... but I see this as a 'nando recovery drive after his little brain fade...

If the temps are normal / high ... I think we are in for a stonkingly good race...
If Merc had more fuel in Malaysia they wouldn't have been as close to the Red Bulls come the last pitstop...

I don't, necessarily, agree and Lewis and Nico don't agree at all. If they had more fuel then they could have run the engine higher for the entire duration of the race. Whilst carrying more fuel will give you a speed disadvantage this could well be negated by the extra performance you can extract with the affordance given to you by having that extra fuel, so I'm not convinced. I can't make a solid judgement on this one.
If Mercedes fuel their cars to be able to run the race at full speed they will be slower at the start so, somehow, I doubt they will be challenging for the win but top 6 is perfectly feasible.
If it was as simple as "Put more fuel in, go faster for longer" I am sure they would have done so.

A driver would always drive as fast as he is allowed to by circumstances. Besides, in order to ensure you have enough fuel to max the car all through the race, you would be carrying more than required, and disadvantaging yourself.

Or it could have been a tactical decision, that if made differently would have made little difference.
Yes but then there was the rain that they were clearly factoring for as well. Teams also need to save their engines and the engines don't get so much punishment in the wet. It's not just fuel, it's also how much abuse you want to put your powerplant through. If there is a sniff of a victory then they might run the engine maxed out which is a rik they would not take if they thought they were off the pace. I am still not convinced. That's not to say I am arguing against you but I'm just not sold on the argument that if they had fueled for a dry race that they would not have been in the hunt.
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