2012 Chinese Grand Prix Preview – Nothing Is Certain

April 13, 2012 12:58 pm

The overtly ostentatious crowd that is the Formula One Paddock rolls into Shanghai this weekend for Round Three of the 2012 World Championship.

After a gripping action-packed start to the season in Australia and Malaysia, the teams and drivers will be going all out to begin a serious campaign for the ultimate prize at the 5.451km Shanghai International Circuit.

British Mclaren duo Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton will both be determined to build on their early success this weekend. Button won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in fine style before undoing that hard work with a collision in last month’s Malaysian Grand Prix, whilst team mate Lewis Hamilton seems to have gone some way to overcoming the frustration that haunted him in 2011 with two podium finishes from the first two races. Although Hamilton is currently five points ahead of Button in the Championship hunt, both men are cautious about their prospects this weekend. ‘Tyre wear will be very important’ claimed Button. ‘Last year we saw a real disparity between the compounds – so getting the preparation right will be crucial.’ Hamilton seemed to be preparing in a similar vein, ‘I’ll be heading to China looking to win – but it’s just as important to pick up some good points if, for whatever reason, a win isn’t on the cards.’

Hamilton suffered a serious blow to his ambitions on Thursday though when it was announced he would take a five-place grid penalty after changing his gearbox before the Grand Prix. This is liable to drop him into the chasing pack currently below the pace of Mclaren. Malaysian GP winner Fernando Alonso may be struggling with a less than perfect Ferrari at the moment but his tenacity and fighting spirit can prove a handful when he is motivated. Similarly, 2010/2011 World Champion Sebastian Vettel and Australian team-mate Mark Webber will be eager to re-establish Red Bull as the dominant team after two below-par races in Australia and Malaysia.

Lotus and Williams are also ready to pounce should any of the leaders come unstuck, and one man who is sure to be fired up is Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan has had a difficult start to his 2012 campaign with a last lap crash and engine failure depriving him of points so far. But the speed of the Williams FW34 is sure to help him at some point, and the raw pace of the PDVSA-backed driver is not in doubt.

Meanwhile Mercedes Petronas have had a less than ideal start to their 2012. One solitary point has come from promising qualifying performances and the debate over the ‘double DRS’ rear wing setup dogged their preparation for this weekend. The FIA have upheld the ruling that the device is legal despite complaints from Lotus, Mclaren and Red Bull.

Further down the grid, Sauber are at an all-time high following their shock 2nd place finish last time out in Malaysia courtesy of Sergio Perez. The new-found confidence is vital to a team that has struggled at times with a lack of sponsorship and mediocre cars, but they are careful not to get too optimistic. ‘We know that the Malaysian race was not a normal race.’ explained Perez to the gathered journalists at the official pre-meeting Press Conference on Thursday. ‘If we can score another podium during the year it will be great, but we are very realistic that it can only really happen in different conditions.’ Nevertheless, after claiming the best finish for Sauber as an independent constructor, the team will be hopeful of a strong challenge now for 5th in the final standings come December.

Rain is forecast for both Friday and Sunday, with television coverage available in the UK via both BBC One and Sky F1 HD and radio coverage from BBC Radio 5 Live. The race starts at 08:00GMT Sunday 15th April.

Anthony French

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