Chinese Grand Prix - Allianz Preview 12-04-2012
By Michelle Fortune of Setanta Sports
This weekend sees the third round of the Formula One season take place in Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix.
Two races in and it is Fernando Alonso who is leading the way in the drivers' championship following his unanticipated win in Malaysia.
The Shanghai International Circuit, which has played host to the nine Chinese Grand Prix races to date, is a track that provides strategic prowess as it is the first built-for-F1 circuit that the drivers have faced in this season to date.
Having been successful in wet conditions in Malaysia, Ferrari would relish some more rain and the weather forecast suggests they may get their desire.
Although the team have had a number of weeks to work on improving their F2012 model, technical director Pat Fry believes that this Ferrari is slightly slower than its main rivals.
Fernando Alonso also intimated that he is not expected the car to perform miracles in China:
"Nothing has changed since Malaysia and so I expect a tough weekend. There will be no big surprises, as although the car has some small improvements, there is nothing big coming for this race," he told reporters in China.
These comments may be taken with a pinch of salt as Alonso said something similar before the race in Malaysia and ultimately ended up triumphant, although he did benefit from a mistake by Sauber's Sergio Perez.
Despite being dominant in last season’s campaign, Red Bull have failed to reach the same standards as yet in in 2012 and will need an improved performance in the qualifying sessions in order to avoid being down the grid come Sunday.
Red Bull chief technical officer Adrian Newey admits that the team have not performed to the standards they would have liked in qualifying but remains satisfied with their race pace so far. To date, Mark Webber has shown a partiality for the RB8 and is in positive mood as he looks for his first victory of the season.
"It's going to be interesting to see how the long straight will affect people's strengths and weaknesses in terms of top speeds; the flow of the rest of the circuit is something that I really enjoy," he said.
On the contrary, Lewis Hamilton has shown himself to be unassailable in qualifying this season thus far; landing pole position in both Australia and Malaysia, but Hamilton has failed to transfer that ascendancy into wins. A couple of third place finishes has left the Briton sitting behind Alonso in the table and facing an increasingly difficult mission this weekend after being hit with a five-place grid punishment for a required gearbox change.
It is still feasible that Hamilton wins the race but would surely be hampered by another wet track.
"We have still got a great chance to win," Hamilton said. "We have still got a quick car and we will try and put ourselves in the best position possible to have the right strategy and to be quick enough that we can still fight for the lead.
"But I would settle for a podium. I always say I want to move forward. That is the key."
Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus enjoyed solid pace in Malaysia and hopes are high within the team that the Finn can produce a high-quality effort now that his power-steering issues have been fixed.
The former world champion is much more contented with his car and he is in no doubt that he can enjoy a good weekend.
"The E20 certainly feels good. We're working to get the steering exactly right for me - and we're almost there. The speed in the car is good - and this applies to qualifying and race pace," he said.
All eyes will be on Mercedes to see if their W-Duct delivers the expected results on a track which should bring out the best in the design of the car. Their straight-line pace could be a massive advantage and it will be intriguing to see how it shapes up against their rivals.
The Shanghai International Circuit is a testing circuit with two very long straights which are prefaced by slow corners and heavy breaking zone.
The SIC is one of the most challenging on the calendar with its tight turns and high-speed straights but there are plenty of overtaking opportunities - Turns 6, 11 and 14 - meaning there should be lots of drama to keep spectators engrossed.
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Date:April 12th, 2012