Shanghai: Ferrari’s stomping ground (2008 Chinese Grand Prix preview)

Rubens Barrichello won the first Chinese Grand Prix for Ferrari in 2004

Rubens Barrichello won the first Chinese Grand Prix for Ferrari in 2004

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.

History

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.

Tyres

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.

The track

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?

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29 comments on Shanghai: Ferrari’s stomping ground (2008 Chinese Grand Prix preview)

  1. Theoraticaly, China should be an 1-2 for Ferrari. But I sincerely think Massa is not at the level of the needs.

    Everybody is talking about L Hamilton errors because his hot head, but Massa had another big ones… starting in Q3, crashing with Lewis and bourdais during the race…

    So, we are going to see next saturday/sunday who is mentally stronger… or less weak.

    I sincerely hope Massa recover some points to Lewis, but just to extend to Interlagos the exciting WDC we are having this year!

  2. This is the time if not before for Hamilton to show the world that he has learnt from his mistakes in Shanghai, Interlagos and Fuji. I can see him qualifying on the front row again. Keep Massa behind and don’t screw up on the first lap or in the pitlane and he will be more than half way to a WC title. Of course coming from Fuji that is a big if. It seems that Kova has upped his game a bit which is good. This race is most interesting because we’ll finally see if Ham can keep his cool and how Alonso, Kub and co will affect this outcome.

    Btw I fully expect Massa and Kimi dominating in the warm Interlagos track, Shanghai will be the place where the title is decided.

  3. Doing some maths regarding tyres compounds

    TOTAL OF POINTS GAINED IN WITH HARD TYRES – 7 races
    …………………………………………………
    Hamilton: 46 (average: 5,7)
    Massa: 37 (average: 4,6)
    Kubica: 29 (average: 3,6)

    TOTAL OF POINTS GAINED IN MEDIUM/SOFT/SUPERSOFT TYRES – 9 races
    …………………………………………………
    Hamilton: 38 (average: 4,7)
    Massa: 42 (average: 5,2)
    Kubica: 43 (average: 5,4)

    If we should have a dry weekend, it could be very similar to Germany, where the air temperatures were around 22º and the track´s temperature 32º.

    I wouldn´t be sure that this is a Ferrari weekend.

  4. ch.pl said on 14th October 2008, 23:32

    “well last year was just bad luck for hamilton, he was it a fighting position… lets see abt dis year… fingers crossed…”
    Hm as i remember last year right, it was Bob BAD luck (race leader? nah) So Fingers crossed :0

  5. Looks like a really exciting weekend :P
    Honestly, I don’t quite see Hamilton winning this championship. It’s too close and he’s too weak psychologically imho, but we’ll see on Sunday. Massa might just make another stupid mistake (and for pete’s sake FIA can’t really win the championship for him, can they? ;) ) so it’s gonna be a lottery. Kimi doesn’t really seem eager to help anyone achieve anything, so I wouldn’t count on him ;D
    I would really love to see Kubica getting a bit lucky again, cause he deserves it like nobody else. I mean, what sort of idiot decides to stop developing the car when you have a driver topping the championship standings after 7 races? The only thing BMW can’t be blamed for this season is reliability. But when the team, rather than support a championship contender, concentrates on helping Heidfeld overcoming his quali problems it’s like… ***?! And now when they say they’re gonna try to bring at least some minor improvements to the car… it’s laughable!
    Fred might be very strong in China. I think we will know a bit about Renault’s actual strength after China. However it doesn’t tell us much about next season. (4 championship worthy cars would be great!)
    I’m looking forward to an exciting race, but we might as well end up with a classic quali + procession weekend.
    Praying for the rain, as usual ;)

  6. Melanie said on 15th October 2008, 2:30

    Well Bridgestone has already stated that they definitely expect graining problems, they have advised the teams to use two stop strategies as a one stop strategy would be to hard on the tyres. So this could be interesting, perhaps some drivers will try three stop strategies.

    With the way the races has been going virtually anything can happen!

  7. schumi the greatest said on 15th October 2008, 8:34

    difficult to choose between mclaren and ferrari, the lower the temperatures, the more it plays into mclaren and hamilton’s hands though.

    i think alot will depend on hamiltons approach to the weekend, if he does decide now to go more conservative, how much fuel does he put in the car for q3 knowing massa always goes light? or do mclaren put hekki light to get track position? or does hamilton go all out for pole to get track position, and look to finnish at worst 2nd to massa??

    should make for good viewing anyway!

    suppose the best result for the fia would be ferrari 1-2 with massa winning leaving it at 1 point going into the final race so whoever finnishes in front there takes the tittle

  8. NDINYO said on 15th October 2008, 9:00

    I think your analysis is erroneous so long as it does not make an attempt to guess what the stewards will do – this title is about the stewards not racing.

  9. Becken, half the races have been done on hard tyres? :O
    I don’t think so..

    Plus; this year the tyres haven’t played as big as a role.. since there haven’t been any ‘normal’ races like so many of 2007.

    I guess Keith will post the correct stats of tyre usage soon..We can comment then

  10. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th October 2008, 12:17

    Some of the comments people are attempting to post hoping for certain drivers to get injured are utterly abhorrent and will not be tolerated. They have been deleted.

  11. Yea that tire stat thing Becken is close to useless in the way of predicting whos race weekend it might be.

  12. I think Massa will win the next two, Hamilton may self-implode like last year. I think some people have been too harsh with Massa. I think that this has been his most consistent season yet and some of the “failures” were so clearly his team letting him down and nothing to do with his drive. Singapore, he did absolutely everything right until the hose incident which you can’t blame on him at all. His engine failure in Hungary, could that be blamed on him? Hard to say.. but probably not as Kimi’s engine has also failed so probably again a team failure rather than solely driver failure. And one race, Australia (?) the team failed to put enough petrol in his car so he ran out, again out of his control… On the other hand, Hamilton’s failures can be contributed to his driving style alone. His over aggressive driving style wins him many valuable points but when he fails, he fails, not the team. To their credit, the McClaren team have been very reliable apart from one very questionable tyre choice. Overall, while I think Ferrari will repeat last year and their driver will win the WDC in the final two races, I would actually like Kubica to win. He and the team have been the most consistent, and it would really open up the duopoly which seems to be developing this year

  13. P5ycH0 said on 15th October 2008, 18:21

    Hmmm Let me guess….
    Ferrari wins this race one way or another, before or after the race!!

    Only one thing is more sure.
    I will not be watching.

  14. Do the Ferrari-predictors think they are sandbagging? The last time Ferrari were .7 down to Lewis in Q2 was Hockenheim and that did not turn out well for them. Maybe they are saving revs but given the performance of the Renaults and Toyotas they could find themselves looking at P5 or worse at the start if they don’t get it together. They could be behind Mark Webber and his 20 foot horsepower-free car with no horsepower. Not a pretty picture.

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