5 talking points ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix

05 April 2017 03:43

Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team will arrive in Shanghai for the second round of the season trailing Ferrari following Sebastian Vettel's victory in Australia.

Vettel's win at Melbourne's Albert Park - his first since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix - sets up a potentially fascinating championship battle with Hamilton this year.

Here, we take a look at five key talking points ahead of Sunday's race in China.

Vettel's victory augurs well

Vettel's comfortable Melbourne victory suggests that Ferrari really do have the machinery to take the title fight to Mercedes this year. The German kept Hamilton honest during the opening phase of the race and never looked back after he leapfrogged the Mercedes car in the pits. China, however, will be a truer test of Ferrari's metal. While the Italian team have always fared well Down Under, the same cannot be said for Shanghai. The two long straights here have - in recent times at least - played into the hands of Mercedes and their ultra-powerful engine. Indeed they have won in China for the past three years. A victory for Ferrari this weekend really would set the alarm bells ringing at Formula One's all-conquering team.

Hamilton keeps busy

Hamilton vowed to put his feet up after Melbourne in order to prepare for the second round of the season. Hamilton said his home in Monte Carlo would be his next port of call. But no sooner had the words left Hamilton's mouth, then he was boarding a plane to the United Arab Emirates. From there he uploaded a number of short videos sandboarding behind a truck. The quiet life, it seems, is not for Hamilton. But it is not a trait which would appear to bother Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. Speaking earlier this week, Wolff said: "Lewis is the best Lewis that I've seen in the last four years, both on and off track. He has become a pillar of this team and he proved that in Melbourne."

More misery on cards for Alonso

Fernando Alonso failed to finish in Australia while his McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne crossed the line last. It was hardly the start to the season the British team, which has won a combined 20 drivers' and constructors' championships, would have wanted. And the likelihood is that it could get even worse in China. The long Shanghai straights will not suit their gutless Honda engine and racing director Eric Boullier has already conceded his team could be in for a long weekend. "The characteristics of the Shanghai International Circuit are very different from Melbourne, and its long, fast straights will likely expose the weaknesses in our package more than Albert Park did," Boullier gloomily predicted.

Palmer with point to prove

Another to suffer a miserable weekend in Melbourne was Britain's Jolyon Palmer. The 26-year-old crashed in practice, qualified last and then retired from the race with a brake issue. Palmer, however, is confident his Melbourne woes are behind him. "Fortunately the team was able to find the particular gremlin which affected me," said Palmer, who qualified more than three seconds adrift of his Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg. "I'm heading to Shanghai as if it is my first race of the season."

Injury woes continue for Wehrelin

Pascal Wehrlein pulled out of the Australian Grand Prix on the eve of the curtain raiser claiming he was not fit enough following his spectacular crash at the Race of Champions exhibition event in Miami in January. And Sauber have confirmed the 22-year-old will once again be absent from the race in China and quite possibly Bahrain next week, too. Antonio Giovinazzi will step up as his replacement after making his debut in Melbourne.

Source: PA-WIRE