Ferrari has an enviable record at the home of the Chinese Grand Prix:
2004 winner: Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari
2005 winner: Fernando Alonso, Renault
2006 winner: Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2007 winner: Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
On the face of it, Ferrari will be the team to beat this weekend, which is good news for Felipe Massa’s title bid. But favourable track conditions may help McLaren score their first Chinese Grand Prix win this weekend.
Rubens Barrichello ran away with the first F1 race at Shanghai in 2004, but team mate Michael Schumacher had a poor race after spinning off in qualifying.
Ferrari were in no position to challenge for victory in 2005 but Schumacher grabbed his final career victory by beating Alonso on a slippery track in 2006.
Last year Kimi Raikkonen took victory off Lewis Hamilton, who waited too long to switch from wet to dry weather tyres, and infamously skated into the world’s smallest gravel trap in the pit lane.
Bridgestone are bringing their hardest tyres to the race this weekend: the hard (prime, no strip) and medium (option, with stripe) compounds.
Earlier in the year Ferrari were grumbling that the harder choice of compounds suited McLaren better: particularly at races where temperatures were on the cool side. At Hockenheim, on the harder tyres, Lewis Hamilton was the class of the field.
With mid-to-low 20C temperatures forecast this weekend McLaren will expect to be very competitive. And the outside chance of rain is the icing on the cake: two of Hamilton’s four wins this year came in rain-hit races.
On paper, it’s hard to pick any aspect of the track that particularly suits either car. Track history may be on Ferrari’s side but the F2008 and MP4/23 have been very evenly matched in recent races.
It will come down to who gets the most out of their car on the day – and who stays out of trouble in the race.
As for their closest rivals, Fuji confirmed the impression that Renault has re-joined the top four: not close enough to rival Ferrari and McLaren on outright pace, but clearly giving BMW some problems. This is bad news for McLaren in particular, as Alonso has made it clear he will do what he can to help Massa’s title cause.
Which car do you think will be strongest in Shanghai? And will Alonso have a role to play in the title decider?