The championship battle could be decided this weekend at Shanghai and Fernando Alonso simply must beat Lewis Hamilton to stay in the hunt. Meanwhile Kimi Raikkonen will be hoping that the pair finally do what they’ve looked like doing all year and take each other off.
And if that wasn’t dramatic enough, a storm is heading in. Not just a storm – a typhoon.
Read the preview and make your podium predictions below.
On to another of Hermann Tilke’s creations. The Shanghai International Circuit is an odd affair, with a massive central grandstand and pit area that dominates the surroundings and a track that mixes slow and high-speed corners.
The first turn is one of the most unusual in F1, spiralling ever tighter to the right before screwing to the left. The kilometre-long back straight leading into a sharp hairpin provides the best opportunity for overtaking.
Despite its newness there have been concerns over the condition of the track. A loose drain cover wrecked Juan Pablo Montoya’s race – and McLaren’s constructors’ championship bid – in 2005, and storms earlier this year damaged a grandstand, which has now been repaired.
At this early stage it is hard to be certain, but there appears to be a chance that F1 could be in for a second consecutive race in a rainstorm. A typhoon named Krosa is heading towards the mainland, and although the centre of the storm won’t reach the area the large area of rain surrounding it might reach the circuit by Sunday.
Last year’s Grand Prix and qualifying session were wet. Friday and Saturday are expected to remain dry.
TV times – Britain
Schedules from ITV and Radio Times
British fans note live qualifying is on ITV3 this weekend.
Grand Prix Qualifying live – Saturday 6th October 6.30-8.30 ITV3 (Qualifying starts 7.00)
Grand Prix Qualifying re-run* – Saturday 6th October 11.40-13.10 ITV1
Grand Prix Race live – Sunday 7th October ITV1 6.00-9.00 (Race starts 7.00)
Grand Prix Race re-run*- Sunday 7th October ITV1 11.30-13.30
Grand Prix Race highlights – Sunday 7th October ITV1 23.45-0.50
Grand Prix Race highlights – Monday 8th October ITV4 6.00-7.00
*extended highlights, not ‘as-live’.
Fernando Alonso must score at least two points more than Lewis Hamilton to keep his championship hopes alive – Hamilton is guaranteed of the title if he wins the race.
Shanghai should suit Ferrari better than McLaren, but not as dramatically as it did in Spa-Francorchamps. The team are yet to win at this circuit.
Heikki Kovalainen finally gave Renault their first points but Giancarlo Fisichella hasn’t made it into the final part of qualifying for three races. Rumours suggest he is about to be dropped for Alonso for 2008.
The team won the constructors’ title here in 2005 but called the wet weather conditions badly last year, leaving Alonso to finish second behind Michael Schumacher. It didn’t get the setup call right at Fuji either, leaving its drivers with lower wing levels than their rivals, making Kovalainen’s race to second even more impressive.
Felipe Massa is out of the championship race and certainly geared towards helping Kimi Raikkonen. But Raikkonen’s chances are very slim now – realistically he needs Hamilton to retire from both races.
Ferrari at least should have the upper hand here and will be aiming for their third win in four Chinese Grands Prix.
Honda are limping towards the end of the season and the failure to capitalise on the wet weather in their home race means they are looking at the very real prospect of finishing behind Super Aguri this year.
Button looked promising in the wet conditions but crashed early on – just as he did at the N�rburgring – and Rubens Barrichello once again was nowhere. It’s going to be another tough race for the team.
BMW are in limbo, with neither the team or drivers realistically able to improve their championship positions or under much threat from their rivals.
It’s now official that Ralf Schumacher has only two races left with the team, and if he has any hope, or desire, of getting a seat next year then putting Jarno Trulli in the shade is essential. Unfortunately for him, it also looks highly unlikely.
The team have scored only three points since the United States Grand Prix and look destined to end the year sixth, just as they did in 2006, and only thanks to McLaren’s exclusion.
Perhaps they might even make an early decision on their 2008 driver and get him in the cockpit? If it is going to be Timo Glock, he should be available, having won the GP2 title last weekend.
David Coulthard was a season-best fourth in Japan, but it did little to take away the sting of Mark Webber’s elimination from the team at the hands of the similarly Red Bull-employed Sebastian Vettel.
Webber, we later learned, had been wrestling with food poisoning and had vomited during the race before being taken out by Vettel, and yet was a serious contender for the lead. The Australian’s luck has to change soon.
No points at Fuji ended Nico Rosberg’s strong run of points finishes. Alexander Wurz faces the challenge of trying to save face against his lightning team mate at a track he hasn’t raced on before.
But Williams may face a tougher battle off the track trying to keep Rosberg from being poached by the likes of McLaren, if Alonso is indeed set to leave them.
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
Vitantonio Liuzzi badly needed the point he lost after his punishment for illegally passing Adrian Sutil. He went well here last year, finishing tenth in the rain behind Coulthard last year, and needs to get back in front and make anyone who might offer him a seat for next year think that Vettel beating him at Shanghai was a one-off.
Joy at Spyker as the team scored its first ever point. They expected to do well at Fuji and were disappointed with their lowly qualifying position, but Sutil raced well and deserved his point.
Wet conditions could offer them a chance of a repeat performance, but even in the dry their B-spec chassis will have Honda worried.
No points at home for Super Aguri either but the team are poised to embarrass Honda in the constructors’ championship.
After a string of good races Anthony Davidson seems to have gone off the boil just when he needed to make any thoughts of replacing him next year unthinkable.
Predict the podium for the Grand Prix – leave your comments below.
Photos: Ferrari Media | GEPA / Bildagentur Kraeling