The Australian Grand Prix wasn’t a classic in terms of racing, but how about this weekend’s Chinese round? Here’s what to watch for…
1) We’ll find out if F1 2017 cars can really overtake
Melbourne wasn’t a true barometer of a regular Formula 1 circuit – being in the top five of hardest-to-pass venues – but Shanghai most definitely is.
It contains a sequence of flowing bends, which will test the cars’ ability to follow each other closely, before an oh-so-long back straight.
Question is, can the cars stay close enough to be within one-second at the detection point for the DRS to become available on that straight?
If so, we’ll see a lot of passing into the hairpin that follows. If not, we’ll be set for a procession – not only in this race, but likely the rest of the season.
2) Hamilton will aim to strike back
There wasn’t a lot Lewis Hamilton did wrong in Melbourne.
Nailed the pole with a brilliant lap, and led convincingly until what turned out to be a premature pitstop got him bottled up behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull – allowing Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to scamper away to victory. Should Lewis have nailed Max on fresh tyres early on? Well, that was his best chance – but it didn’t happen for whatever reason.
On the bright side, he had teammate Valtteri Bottas covered (apart from Q2) and his Mercedes seemed to be as competitive as ever. So even if Ferrari does bring the fight, as it promises to do, he’s still in good shape to get back on top.
And he’ll be fancying his chances to do that right here.
3) Ferrari needs to prove Oz win was no flash in the pan
Vettel’s victory in Australia was great news for the sport, with the expected Mercedes dominance already broken. Now, can it repeat the trick here?
Vettel seems revitalised this year, carrying over his decent late-season form through a solid winter test campaign. As we’ve already ascertained, Shanghai is a different proposition to Melbourne, and we’ll get a better perspective on where Ferrari really is compared to Merc.
If Ferrari finishes on top again here, you feel it needs to continue to rack up those big points in these early races. Because as we move on through the year, the thorny subject of in-season aero development will be the next big question Ferrari has to answer.
4) Honda is braced for another tough time
“We need to drive around the engine,” says McLaren’s Fernando Alonso ahead of Shanghai, and he must be dreading the thought of that 1.1km-long straight.
Honda has the least grunt of the four F1 engines, mainly due to a lack of electrical power deployment, and its fuel consumption isn’t up to much either.
On McLaren’s side, it has brought an odd-shaped variation of the T-wing to China, which looks a bit like one of those TV licence detector vans from the 1970s!
5) While Wehrlein is away, Giovinazzi will play
Pascal Wehrlein has reported in sick again, and – again – Sauber’s Monisha Kaltenborn has had to defend him to the press.
It’s another big chance for Ferrari protege Antonio Giovinazzi to impress again, after a very solid first weekend in Melbourne.
With Bahrain looming just seven days after the Chinese race, the Italian is looking to make some hay while the sun shines.
And for Wehrlein, that bitter sniping isn’t going to go away…