Next stop on the F1 calendar is Shanghai, home to the Chinese Grand Prix. The Shanghai International Circuit has been on the calendar since 2004 and has produced some great races down the years.
Held in the spring, weather conditions in Shanghai can often be mixed and changeable throughout the course of a race weekend. It’s also not uncommon to see track temperatures change significantly from one day to the next, which makes car set-up particularly tricky for the teams.
At the beginning of last season, Nico Rosberg completed a hat-trick of wins with victory at the Chinese Grand Prix, but the win was made a little easier as Lewis Hamilton was forced to start from the back after an issue in qualifying.
With Rosberg and Jenson Button now retired, there are only four previous winners of the Chinese Grand Prix remaining on the grid. Let’s take a look at them…
Lewis Hamilton (2008, 2011, 2014, 2015)
Despite finishing second in Melbourne, Hamilton will be the favourite to take the win on Sunday. His Mercedes car still looks the quickest in qualifying trim, and he has the benefit of having won here four times (more than anyone else) and with five pole positions along the way too.
The most recent of his four wins came in 2014 and 2015, and he started on pole here every year between 2013 and 2015. Despite his significant success here, Hamilton will probably remember this circuit most for one of the times he did not win – the memorable 2007 Chinese Grand Prix – his first season in the sport.
Fernando Alonso (2005, 2013)
Second on the current grid for most Chinese Grand Prix wins is Fernando Alonso. His most recent success came here in 2013 while at Ferrari, with his only other win coming way back during his championship year in 2005. Alonso finished third here back in 2014, but since then he’s failed to finish in the points during two frustrating years with McLaren.
Unfortunately for Alonso, the most he can hope to achieve this year is to add to his ten points scoring finishes at this track – a sixth Chinese Grand Prix podium might be tricky unless we have a remarkable race.
Sebastian Vettel (2009)
The man with the best chance of stopping Hamilton from adding to his tally is Sebastian Vettel. Fresh from his win in the opening race, Vettel will be looking to prove that his Melbourne win was no fluke.
Vettel put his Red Bull on pole position here three years in a row between 2009-2011. He has four podium finishes to his name, but only one win – the rain-affected race back in 2009, when he led home his team-mate, Mark Webber, to clinch a Red Bull 1-2 and only his second ever career victory.
Like Hamilton, Vettel has nine points finishes here in ten race starts, so it is a track he tends to go well at. He’s second favourite to take the chequered flag on Sunday, and a fourth Chinese Grand Prix pole position isn’t out of the question either.
Kimi Raikkonen (2007)
The only other winner of the Chinese Grand Prix on the current grid is Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen won the race in his first spell at Ferrari back in 2007 – the year he clinched the championship at the final round in Brazil.
Not renowned for being the fastest qualifier, it’s no surprise to discover that Raikkonen has never had a pole position here, although he did start on the front row in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2013.
Only Hamilton on the current grid has finished on the Shanghai podium more times than Raikkonen, although his last top-three finish was back in 2013 while racing for Lotus.
What happened last year?
Nico Rosberg continued his perfect start to the season with victory at the Chinese Grand Prix, finishing 37 seconds clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton had to start from the back of the grid after an MGU-H failure in qualifying, but could only finish fourth after fighting his way through the field.
Vettel was furious with Daniil Kvyat (then at Red Bull) for a first-corner overtake that Vettel later described as “suicidal”.
In attempting to avoid Kvyat, Vettel made contact with team-mate Raikkonen, which dropped both Ferrari drivers out of the points in the early stage of the race.
Kvyat ran second to Rosberg for the majority of the race, but Vettel was able to catch and pass the Russian to reclaim second place after the final round of pit stops.