I am feeling increasingly optimistic about the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend. There were some extremely positive stories coming away from Melbourne. Sebastian Vettel proved himself a match for Lewis Hamilton while Ferrari defied belief to beat Mercedes. What does this mean for the title race?
First of all it means we are going to at least get a competitive leaderboard. There will be no plain sailing at the front, the contest between teams and drivers is extremely close. Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas and Raikkonen all showed impressive pace at various stages of the race.
It also means that this season is bound to see some pretty epic competition from start to finish. The development race is going to be huge. Teams are going to be pushing than they have done for a long time to try and gain an extra advantage.
A chance to shut down the pessimism?
Pessimism has shrouded the journey to China. A guaranteed lack of overtaking, McLaren doomed to sit dead last and a boring, predictable 1-stop race. It’s painful to hear people talk like that. I wouldn’t say the race in Melbourne was bad, Hamilton and Vettel were racing flat out for the entire race. Ok, so Hamilton’s race was compromised by Verstappen, but only because his Mercedes car was just plain slower than the Ferrari. The resumption of that fight in Shanghai promises to excite the fans.
Since we have now lost the entire of Friday practice due to some pretty shocking weather, the prospect of an unpredictable and thrilling weekend is growing. I have said before that, while practice is necessary for the teams, it takes away the element of unknown. With so much track time, the teams can basically calculate exactly how the race will unfold. By Sunday morning, the race is virtually a formality for the teams. Only accidents and unreliability pose a problem.
By taking away their Friday running, those calculations and simulations cannot be made. Suddenly the teams are in the dark. I like that. It is all going to come down to the performance on the day.
Look and learn, Liberty
I hope our new leaders are going to take note over the remainder of the weekend. An entertaining race on a Sunday could create a clearer picture of the direction the sport should take.
I would love to see the safety net taken away. Force the teams to think on their feet, use their own skills and knowledge to gain an advantage. Let the best people win, not the best computers.
My China Predictions
This bad weather looks set to remain for the duration. We don’t know yet how these cars perform in the wet. Only some half baked running on an artificially wet Barcelona track provided any kind of idea. Based on previous evidence, I will put Hamilton on pole, with Vettel beating Bottas to second place. Based on my foolish predictions previously, I will not be betting against Mercedes this week.
Mercedes have had the best car for the last theee years. They struggled in Melbourne, but I believe they will have the superior package this weekend. The circuit seems to suit them.
With that in mind, I will pick Hamilton to win the race also. He is imperious and unmatched in wet conditions. If his car is up to it, I can’t see anyone getting close. I am fairly confident Bottas and Vettel will be fighting for second place. Vettel was back to his best last time he up, and confirmed himself as a title contender. Bottas was also impressively quick through the second stint, he could well have challenged Lewis for second place. I just can’t bring myself to include Raikkonen in that battle just yet. He was a long way behind in Australia.
Time to be otimistic
The race on Sunday looks set to be dramatic. Here’s hoping we are treated to another man on man battle at the front of the pack. I want to see these guys pushing each other hard.
(Emma Walker CC BY-SA 2.0)
(Emma Walker CC BY-SA 2.0)