Chinese GP Update
It is Formula 1 Race Day in China. Our F1 expert James Punt has written a final preview now that qualifying is done and dusted. You can read his full preview by clicking here. He has few peers when it comes to finding the best value tips. You can check his final selections and Chinese GP update below…
The see sawing form at the front of the field moved back in Mercedes favour in qualifying. This week it is Mercedes who have locked out the front row with Bottas shading Hamilton for a rare pole position. Ferrari has discovered that being the fastest on the straights isn’t the quickest way round this track. Vettel in 3rd place was 0.3 slower than Bottas with Leclerc a fraction slower after a mistake on his final qualifying run.
Mercedes Vulnerable at Start
The long run pace of the two teams was very close in practice and this is an interesting looking race. Mercedes will be vulnerable at the start. Hamilton hasn’t been happy with his starts this season so far, he was beaten off the line in Melbourne by Bottas and lost the race. The Ferrari with its great straight line speed will give both Vettel and Leclerc the possibility to attack into the long and winding first corner complex. The possibility of a crash has to be quite high. Even team mate hitting team mate such is the tricky nature of the huge curling corner.
Leclerc made a mess of his start from pole in Bahrain. Perhaps a bit of inexperience of keeping the tyres warm while the rest of the field took their starting position. He has the two Red Bulls behind him and Gasly will be the first car on the grid to start on the soft tyre. Said to be good for just 10-15 laps he will have stop earlier along with the two Renaults and both Haas cars. They look set for a two stop race.
Chinese GP Update: Pit Stop Strategies Crucial
Pirelli say the quickest strategy is to start on the hard tyres and do one stop to switch to the softs for a sprint finish. This may be the strategy used by those starting just outside the top 10. Kvyat is 11th, Perez, who is good at long tyre saving runs, starts 12th with Raikkonen 13th. They may well find that a one stopper could put them into the race for points.
The Haas pair of Magnussen and Grosjean both reached Q3 after looking uncompetitive in the free practice sessions. They never set a time in Q3 as the team sent them out too late to get a lap in. Is there no start to this teams competence? After Magnussen’s dreadful lack of race pace in Bahrain it is hard to get excited about their prospects. They are the masters of disaster.
Ricciardo out qualified Hulkenberg as he slowly gets used to the Renault. It’s a decent performer but will they last the distance this time round? Backing them does carry a big degree of risk due to their unreliability.
McLaren have indeed encountered a reality check here in China. They had looked in good shape in FP2 but ended up just 14th and 15th in qualifying.
Kvyat An Interesting Contender
Danill Kvyat is on the ‘second pole position’, 11th on the grid with a free pick on tyre strategy. He knows that the five cars directly ahead of him are starting on the softs and he will do something different. The long run pace of the Toro Rosso was very good in practice, just 0.2 off the Mercedes pace. If Kvyat can get a clean first lap and not hit anyone, he could be a bit of a dark horse. The two Renaults in front of him are unreliable and the two Haas cars unpredictable. A better tyre strategy could propel him up the order in any case. If Renault and Haas continue to disappoint in races he can compete for the best of the rest title.
Chinese GP Update: 1 point e/w Kvyat to win without the big 6 @ 9.50 with Ladbrokes
Our other pick to finish top 10, Kimi Raikkonen, was a disappointing 13th in qualifying. Points are not out of the question if he keeps his nose clean and uses a clever strategy. More worrying is that team mate Giovinazzi has had all sorts of problems with his car. He wasn’t even able to take part in qualifying.
Alfa Romeo is running with the same spec of electronic control unit which failed on Charles Leclerc Ferrari in Bahrain despite being supplied with an upgrade. A ticking time bomb in Raikkonen’s car? Unfortunately yes.
First Lap Could Be Crucial
The race win now looks all about the first lap. The pole sitter has won four of the last five races here. Last year it was a safety car deployment which offered up a chance for the opportunistic Red Bull to pull off an unexpected win. The Ferrari may have great straight line speed but that will only help if they can pass the Mercedes on the opening lap or be able to stay with them until the DRS is enabled. If they are losing a lot of time in the corners then Mercedes just need to keep the lead and build on it to keep out of reach on the straights.
It is a reasonably long run down into the first corner. We can expect Ferrari to turn everything up to max power and try to out drag the Silver Arrows down the straight leading into turn 1. It is a wide track and reasonably hard to defend from a faster car but not impossible and Vettel and Leclerc have two cars to get past. I just have a feeling that we might just see some argy bargy in the first corner. Vettel has become very clumsy in wheel to wheel racing and he is hard to fancy for that reason.
Hamilton Hasn’t Looked Comfortable
Hamilton hasn’t been comfortable with his car all weekend and is worried about his pace off the line and Bottas does look to be to in the box seat. We backed Leclerc ante post but he has it all to do from 4th in the disappointing Ferrari.
Bottas is just 2.62 to win but that is perfectly justified with Ferrari getting themselves in a bit of a mess and he has looked the faster of the two Mercedes drivers this weekend. The first lap is the key and he was very good at leading the race in Melbourne. Bottas version 2.0 is the pick.
2 points Bottas to win the Chinese GP @ 2.62 WITH Paddy Power, Betfair, SpreadEx.