Rain may fall on Vettel’s parade in Shanghai (Chinese GP pre-race analysis)

Will Vettel win his second race in a row?

Will Vettel win his second race in a row?

Sebastian Vettel has the best possible starting position for the Chinese Grand Prix.

But with his team mate out for revenge, a string of quick rivals behind him and rain threatening, he may not have things all his own way in the race.

The start

At Sepang Sebastian Vettel worked his way up from third on the grid to pass his pole-sitting team mate going into the first corner. So, can Mark Webber return the favour as he shares the front row with Vettel tomorrow?

It’s probably Webber’s best shot of beating Vettel to victory. But unless the Australian gets off the line much quicker than his team mate it’s going to be a big ask. The long, sweeping first turn tends to funnel the pack into single-file quite quickly and doesn’t encourage changes of position the way the opening corners at Sepang do.

And Red Bull will be loath to sacrifice their advantage on the starting grid as their immediate championship rivals are queued up right behind them.

Fernando Alonso, especially, will know that picking off Webber on the first lap is crucial to getting a shot at Vettel later in the race.

The McLaren duo must be disappointed with lining up only fifth and sixth. Particularly Lewis Hamilton, who was one of few drivers not to improve on his Q2 time in Q3. If he had, he could easily have been third or second on the grid – the margins for error in qualifying are punishingly small this year.

They will most likely be worried about Nico Rosberg, who did a sterling job in qualifying for Mercedes once again, but could serve to delay the McLarens if the W01 can’t hack the leaders’ pace. Watch out for the MP4-25s mounting attacks on him down the long back straight on the opening lap.

Like Hamilton, Felipe Massa discovered how many grid places the smallest mistake can cost a driver in qualifying. An error on his lap left him only seventh on the grid – a position from which he’s not likely to still be leading the drivers’ championship come Sunday evening.

All the drivers in the top ten will start the race on the soft tyres, assuming it stays dry.

The weather

Jenson Button has been talking up his car’s wet weather set-up and he’s not the only driver preparing for rain tomorrow.

Toro Rosso have split their strategies with Sebastien Buemi running a compromise set-up in anticipation of rain falling and Jaime Alguersuari sticking with dry-weather settings.

Other teams may well have chosen a similar option. There’s no firm prediction on exactly when rain will arrive in Shanghai tomorrow, other than it’s likely to come at some point during the race. Rather than the kind of heavy rain we saw last year, showers more like those seen in 2006 and 2007 are expected.

If the rain does arrive, the timing will be crucial. At Sepang the widely-predicted rain never arrived, but several drivers delayed their first pit stops expecting the rain to arrive, hoping to save themselves making an extra pit stop.

We could see more of those tactics tomorrow – particularly from teams starting outside the top ten who may start the race on the hard tyres and pit later in the race.

First among them is 11th-placed Rubens Barrichello, who will not be running the ‘stalling rear wing’ the team tested in practice this morning. Nor are either of the Ferrari running their similar device which Alonso tested yesterday.

Traffic

Come rain or shine, traffic is likely to be a problem whatever the conditions. Every session so far this weekend has seen some drivers gesticulating angrily at slower cars, usually the HRTs.

It seems to be a particular problem at Shanghai because the long corner sequences make it tricky for a backmarker to let a leading car by cleanly.

If Vettel finds himself with Alonso or an F-duct equipped McLaren breathing down his neck he’ll be hoping he catches Chandhok and Senna on the straights – and not halfway around the sequences that form turns one/two/three, seven/eight/nine or 11/12/13.

How do you expect the Chinese Grand Prix to unfold? Will the Red Bulls romp to victory or can the Ferraris and McLarens make life difficult for them? Have your say in the comments.

And don’t forget to join us for live commenting during the Chinese Grand Prix from one hour before the start of the race tomorrow.

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89 comments on Rain may fall on Vettel’s parade in Shanghai (Chinese GP pre-race analysis)

  1. MEmo said on 17th April 2010, 22:24

    I hope it´s not the case, but I could almost bet that there will be a first corner crash involving Webber… there is so much at stake in the first corner…

  2. Jhonnie Siggie said on 18th April 2010, 0:24

    I must say, great job done by Seb; i am more impressed with the youth each time I see him. I think however, the Mclarens, particularly Hamilton’s, will be quickest in the first 1/3 of the race. I expect him to pick off off his team mate and at least one other driver. It should be a great race and terrific action particularly if wet.

  3. Gman said on 18th April 2010, 1:20

    I can t belive that this chinese track is still on the calendar. Terrible track and Monza has been cancelled together with many historic track. All in the name of the holy $$$$$$ thanks FIA

  4. Gman said on 18th April 2010, 1:27

    Alo , Web , Button : anyone agree???

  5. Robinthezone said on 18th April 2010, 1:39

    Does anyone know the speed trap times during qualifying or any of the Shanghai sessions?
    With this F-duct and the long straights, I would have thought McLaren would be able to overtake even the Red Bulls, rain or not.

  6. jess said on 18th April 2010, 1:40

    You know I dont noramly doo what if games. I just find it itersting about the diversty I have been seeing people talk about in F1 this year about how many people can win. Lets us be real here. IF Vettel had NOT had CAR Issues he would have won ALL the races. Now I know this is racing and that is part of the game, that being said unless anyone gets on those RB, Vettle is going to win this championship. I say Vettle due to I just dont thin Webber has the abilty to beat Vettle in equal equipment enough to pull it off. I could be off my rocker but unless the other teams pick it up, 2010 World Champion will be Vettel. Now that I think about it that has a nice soud to it :)

  7. jess said on 18th April 2010, 1:41

    Sorry for my bad spelling

  8. m0tion said on 18th April 2010, 2:29

    Looks like McLaren made a late change to a wet weather set up with one driver put in the know and the other not.

    Interesting to know whether McLaren FOM site trap times were just S3 or S1-2-3 combined. That duct should work better with a high downforce wet weather set up but I hope it can be tuned because stalling wings & winds like De La Rosa & Trulli were complaining about at Shanghai brings to mind Webber’s Le Mans crash.

    And Hamilton’s Q3 being up a tenth in both S1 and S2 over Button and then way down in S3 talks of him over driving his narrow front softs again, shades of previous seasons destroying of soft tyres maybe?

    • DaveW said on 18th April 2010, 5:06

      Hamilton had been quicker in the first two sectors throughout practice. And several tenths qucking in Q1 and Q2 than Button. The talk about wet set up was interesting, in view of his mysterious swoon in Q3. We can be sure that if it turns out Button got the soft set up and it pours down tomorrow Hamilton, possibly with some justificaiton, will be delivering a fiery sermon over the radio again.

  9. wasiF1 said on 18th April 2010, 2:38

    I hope the rain is not torrential as it was in 2009, if it is changeable condition the one we had in 06 & 07 then the race will be very interesting.

    The question to be asked is whether webber can do anything to beat Vettel.The only chance for him is to do everything on the opening sequences of corner because once Vettel is free then Mark will be attacked by Alonso from behind.

  10. Darren said on 18th April 2010, 7:26

    I agree with Mike, I dont think Webber is a bad starter just doesnt get his car into position quick enough to defend drivers behind him, but saying that drivers behind the leader have the advantage of gauging speed and position of cars in front, at the first corner.

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