So with the break between Malaysia and China diminished it’s back to the F1 circus, and another double header. With Bahrain just round the corner, you’d think the sport would be able to handle itself in political circumstances, but the Red Bull team orders debacle is continuing to rumble on nearly 21 days after it happened.
Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel are both unrepentant from their sides of the story, and Christian Horner seems planted on the fence for the world to see. Couple the internal arguments with the team’s staunch dislike of the 2013 Pirellis, Red Bull seem to be fighting anyone, everyone, and each other. Could all of this strife play into the hands of the World Champion’s rivals?
Speaking of which, who will be strong in Shanghai?
With the weather cool and the Chinese tarmac smooth, it could play into the hands of Lotus. Their car performs well in these conditions and add into it the fact that the track is slower than Malaysia – in terms of corners – then it could be a return to the front for the black-and-gold-machines. But don’t forget last year; Kimi Raikkonen tried to pull the same trick as in Oz this season by attempting one less stop, and fell from 2nd to 14th in just a few laps.
You’ve also got Mercedes to consider. Coming out of Malaysia, they were the second best team on track and boast not only the 2012 winner Nico Rosberg, but also the track’s only two-time winner in Lewis Hamilton. A strong showing is possible.
Ferrari have a teammate battle on their hand as well, don’t forget. Felipe Massa has now out-qualified Fernando Alonso in the past four races – no teammate of the Spaniard has ever managed 5. The front wing gamble for Alonso in Sepang has managed to give him a larger setback than he’d like starting 2013, and the glaring fact that he hasn’t won in 12 races might just play on his mind. Or not, as we all know the case may be.
Force India will look to capitalise on the fact their car likes the new Pirelli compounds while also making sure their wheels stay on. Williams will bring a raft of updates to sort out their woes, but interestingly, and impressively, so will Marussia. The “new” team has the measure of Caterham and, with the right sprinkles of luck and judgement, could reach the promised land of a World Championship point.
McLaren continue to play down the fact that they’ve built a car they just don’t understand. It’s almost like they put it all together without reading the instruction manual – let’s face it gentlemen, we’ve all done that – before finding it buried underneath the sofa three months later. All the while they’ve had nothing but praise for Sergio Perez’s approach to joining the team. Now, if only they could give him a car he could deliver in.
Mark Webber takes Jake Humphey round Shanghai before the 2012 race.