Our Formula 1 expert James Greenfield has few peers when it comes to finding the value in Formula 1. If you are considering having a bet on any F1 race, his previews make for essential reading. You can check out his Chinese Grand Prix tips for this weekend below…
Chinese Grand Prix Tips And Preview 2019
Two races into the season and we still have plenty of questions as to the form of the various teams.
Mercedes do not have the quickest car but has finished 1-2 in both races so far. They do have a very competitive car, a very reliable car and so far that has been enough. They are now 39 points clear of Ferrari in second place. A very handy lead indeed.
Ferrari Lacking Reliability
Ferrari does seem to have the quickest car but it isn’t as reliable as Mercedes and is lacking in consistency. The operating window for these 2019 cars does seem to be particularly small and while Ferrari couldn’t find it in Australia they did in Bahrain. That wasn’t enough however and they collapsed to an embarrassing failure despite locking out the front row.
Leclerc scored his first pole position but made a poor start. Perhaps down to inexperience of what to do on the parade lap, letting the tyres get a bit cold and losing grip on the opening laps. He found himself behind Vettel and then fighting with the two Mercs before pulling clear and catching his teammate. He simply drove past him and left him for dead. Vettel had no answers to Leclerc all weekend.
Vettel Very Disappointing
Leclerc was cruising to an easy win but his engine lost a cylinder and he was passed by both Mercedes. Verstappen would have passed him as well but for the last few laps being driven behind the safety car. Vettel, who made a good start and was in a position to control the race in the fastest car was simply useless, again. Was he just expecting Leclerc to ride shot gun for him? If he was he got a shock as the youngster just took matters into his own hands and drove past him. Vettel then fell into the clutches of the Mercedes and as is the norm now, lost out in wheel to wheel combat with Hamilton, spinning his car and then suffering a broken front wing.
Vettel just doesn’t seem to be able to cope with close racing, especially against Hamilton. It was he who looked like the new boy in the team. It hasn’t gone unnoticed in Italy and the knives are out for him already. Ferrari has a driver management problem. They have to decide now to get rid of Vettel. It might cost a lot of money but he will cost them a crack at the constructors title if he remains in his seat for the rest of the season.
Power Unit Worries
The power unit failure on Leclercs’ car is another problem. They do seem to have a very powerful unit, at least a match for Mercedes and significantly better on the straights, but if it starts breaking then that advantage is lost.
The team were concerned about the power unit overheating in Australia and the over compensated with the cooling. They ran the power unit on very conservative modes which meant they were down on power. That and an inability to get the front tyres up to temperature meant they were slow and lacking in grip.
Bahrain saw some corrections and they were able to be more aggressive with power unit modes and faster than anyone else. There wasn’t the problem of heating up the front tyres either and we were able to see the Ferrari in full flow. It was very impressive. Until that cylinder problem.
Ferrari Have Impressive Straight Line Speed
It wasn’t a catastrophic failure, nothing blew up, and the engine remains intact and reusable. An electrical fault was cited as the cause. In which case there isn’t too much to worry about. That will be a relief to Ferrari as this Shanghai circuit has two long straights which require a powerful engine to maximise race winning chances.
The Ferrari is able to keep accelerating down a straight while the other units reach their peak and can’t go any faster say by half way down the straight. Various theories have been put forward as to what Ferrari are doing differently. Their customer teams are not getting the same performance out of what are supposed to be identical. A new fuel from Shell is a possibility. Tracksiders have commented on the fact that the Ferrari emits a peculiar smell so there might be some credence in the fuel theory.
The Shanghai circuit is a front end sensitive track. You need good front end grip and that is down on all the cars this year thanks to the new front wing regulations. Ferrari really struggled with the front of the car in Melbourne and that is a concern looking at this race. The two long straights will give Ferrari a clear advantage in China. But, if they turn out to have problems with front end grip then that could be lost. The circuit does feature some technically tricky corners and the front of the car needs to be strong and stable…just like Theresa May?
Red Bull In Trouble
Red Bull does seem to be in a bit of trouble. The Honda power unit is not as powerful as they were letting on in preseason. Forget equality with Mercedes or Ferrari, they are just about ahead of Renault and still some 30 horse power down on the big boys. It seems they are giving up chunks of time to Ferrari in a straight line.
On top of that the chassis looks a bit of a duffer. It is very hard to set up, has a very small sweet spot and is lacking in grip. It is not an Adrian Newey classic that is for sure. He has to go back to the drawing board to look for solutions. They are down in power, lacking grip and struggling for pace in corners, usually a strength for Red Bull. Getting the soft tyre to switch on is a particular problem which will hurt them in qualifying. This is a track that will highlight those weaknesses. It is very hard to see Red Bull repeating their win here last year.
Raikkonen Looking Good For Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo in 4th place after two races thanks to two points scoring performances from Kimi Raikkonen. Giovinazzi has yet to look capable of a top 10 finish without 11 cars retiring. Haas look to have the 4th best car but have been unable to deliver the points it should be scoring. The car was very quick in Bahrain….until the race at which point it went backwards at an alarming rate. There is nothing wrong with its one lap pace but there has to be a big question mark over its ultimate race pace.
McLaren scored double Q3 and a top 6 finish in Bahrain with the impressive Lando Norris. The McLaren has shown particularly good straight line pace despite running a Renault power unit. We know that Renault do not have the best power units so it must be a very slippy, low drag car which should do well in China. Sainz has yet to get to the finish line in either of the two races so far and the Renault power unit still looks to be a liability reliability wise.
Sainz is frustrated with two DNF’s but knows that the car is actually pretty decent. He did offer a note of caution however. He said that they won’t really know how good the car is until they go to a front limited track, of which Shanghai is one. Sainz says the car feels front limited which wasn’t an issue in Bahrain but it may very well be here. If they go well here then the car should be good anywhere and a good platform on which to develop over the season.
Poor Start By Renault
Renault suffered a double DNF in Bahrain and after just two races they are stuck with having to concentrate on reliability rather than performance which doesn’t bode well. The car is performing quite well in terms of race pace but that matters not a jot if it breaks down. Qualifying performance has also been a disappointment with electrical problems affecting Hulkenberg in Melbourne and both cars in Bahrain. Ricciardo is struggling to get used to life in an average car while Hulkenberg has looked strong in the races and has made some excellent starts. The potential is there for a decent points haul but you get the feeling that something will go wrong at some point.
Racing Point has yet to get going. They inherited a point in Bahrain but they were never really running with top 10 pace. They may well require more good luck if they are to score any more points this weekend. Perez has scored two 9th places in China and it hasn’t been a particularly strong circuit for the team since 6th and 9th place finishes in 2016.
Kvyat Showing Promise
Toro Rosso has managed to score points in both races so far but they are very much on the margin of the top 10. Kvyat seems to have decent pace in all sessions except qualifying. The team fitting his car with used tyres in Q2 in Bahrain didn’t help. He still raced well enough and wasn’t far from the points despite his poor grid position and a collision during the race spinning his car. Albon is getting used to Formula 1 machinery and he was steady enough to get a couple of points in Bahrain but he was helped by both Renaults retiring and the lack of pace from the Haas.
Williams Woes Continue
Williams remain rooted to the bottom of the table and they are now scratching their heads as to why Kubica’s car is worse than Russells. At least both cars have finished both races so far and reliability is sound even if the pace is terrible.
This looks like a track which will play to the strengths of this year’s Ferrari. They are appreciably quicker in a straight line and so long as they don’t see a repeat of the electrical problem, a short circuit, which robbed Leclerc of his first grand prix victory, they will be very hard to beat here. There is a worry that they may struggle with the front end grip which they suffered with in Melbourne but hopefully that was track specific problem and my feeling is that was.
Mercedes have traditionally been very strong in China. Historically they have had the most powerful engine in the turbo hybrid era which played a large part in their success but they have also had cars that were strong on front limited circuits. Hamilton is a five time winner here and Mercedes had been on pole for four of the last five years. Vettel ended that run last year and it will be a surprise if we don’t see an all red front row come Sunday.
Leclerc Upstaging Vettel
What we have to start dealing with is the fact that it is Charles Leclerc who is the faster driver in the Ferrari. Vettel as all the experience in the world but he has lost his race craft and he is now under a lot of pressure to match his young team mate. If he can’t cope with Leclerc it is hard to see where his career is going. He isn’t a driver who has performed well under pressure in the past and Ferrari is going to have to be brave and let Leclerc race for the win rather than pander to their number1 driver with number 2 pace. The bookmakers have woken up to the fact and they are making Leclerc and Vettel joint favourites. Ferrari is the 1.50 favourite to be the winning team with either driver 2.88 to win the race.
It will be interesting to see how Red Bull gets on this weekend. They are on the back foot with a poor chassis and a very difficult car to set up. McLaren are quicker in a straight line and they might just be able to challenge Red Bull for a top 6 finish. Verstappen is a tough nut to crack but Gasly just hasn’t settled in the Red Bull and has described himself as a ‘passenger’ in the car such is his struggle with its handling. He could well leave a gap in the top 6 to be filled by whoever can be best of the rest. Red Bull did not use Gasly in the post Bahrain GP test which would have given him more time in the car to get used to it. Strange move.
Haas Yet To Deliver On Promise
Haas have had the pace at times in the first two races but they have also shown the ability to under deliver. If they can get everything in order they may well repeat Magnussen’s top 6 in Melbourne but it is just as likely that they will put in a stinker of a race as they did in Bahrain.
McLaren have performed better than pre-season testing suggested they would and they have been one of the quickest cars on the straights. In recent years they built very draggy cars that were very slow in a straight line but this year they have a very slippy car which is at its best on the straights, despite having the underpowered Renault power units.
Chinese Grand Prix Tips: McClaren Could Be Best Of The Rest
Norris benefited from the demise of Hulkenberg late in the race in Bahrain to score his 6th place but the McLaren might just be the best of the rest this weekend. Sainz is yet to reach the end of the race but when the car is working he has shown decent pace and he qualified 7th in Bahrain. Norris is still lacking in experience but looks to be more talented than Sainz who is an ok driver but he doesn’t have potential champion written all over him.
The midfield is very competitive and we have 12 cars that could be 6th or 7th or 17th or 18th with just a small problem. Haas has the best potential performance but unpredictable race pace. Renault has a quick car which is unreliable. McLaren has a quick car which may struggle with some parts of this track but be strong on the straights.
Chinese Grand Prix Tips: Kvyat In The Hunt
Alfa Romeo has a decent car which isn’t the quickest in the midfield but it does what it says on the tin. Sadly Giovinazzi can’t read what it says but Raikkonen will do a good job. Toro Rosso is making the most their package and Kvyat should be in the hunt for minor points. Racing Point probably need some luck to score points until they put more development into the car. Williams will be slow but more than likely will finish the race.
There may well be a chance for one of the midfield drivers to get a top 6 finish. We have seen it happen in both Melbourne and Bahrain and the midfielders do seem to have closed the gap to the big three. With Red Bull struggling at the moment these early races may offer the midfielders their best chance of decent points.
Chinese Grand Prix Tips: Haas Need A Change Of Luck
It is hard to bet any of them with total confidence. Haas? It seems to be very hard for them not to suffer bad luck or to cock something up. However, the potential for a big result is there. McLaren have a much better car this year and if the front end behaves itself than they can score another top 6. They have to be concerned about the reliability of their Renault power units as well as question marks as to the front end performance.
Renault also has a car capable of a top 6 but reliability is a huge problem for them again. Hulkenberg has been very impressive when the car is running properly but backing them carries a lot of risk. Raikkonen is a safe pair of hands in a reliable car which doesn’t quite have the performance of those above. At least he should be there or thereabouts if anything where to happen to Renault and/or McLaren and Haas.
Raikkonen A Tempting Price
For McLaren Sainz is 5.50 to finish in the top 6 which is very tempting, as is 7.00 for Norris. However I can see then going well and then pop….the power unit packs up. There is also the possibility that the front end won’t work well enough so reluctantly I will swerve both. The same goes for Hulkenberg. At least for the time being.
Raikkonen Has finished 8th and 7th in the opening two races and that has gone largely unheralded. He qualified 9th for both races and that is pretty much where he is pace wise. The package doesn’t really have top 6 pace but it works and is consistent. Raikkonen has raced here on 13 occasions, only retired once and scored points 11 times including a win and five other podiums. We can forget about podiums these days but a top 10 is certainly realistic and a top 6 not out of the question.
Chinese Grand Prix Tips
4 points Kimi Raikkonen to finish in the top10 @ 1.62 with Hills, Betfred, Betstars
1 point Kimi Raikkonen to finish in the top 6 @ 3.75 with Ladbrokes, Coral
Chinese Grand Prix Tips: Leclerc Looks To Hold The Aces
For the outright win market it has to be Leclerc. He’s just better than Vettel despite his inexperience. The Shanghai circuit isn’t an easy drive and Leclerc only has the one race here under his belt, a lowly 19th place in last year’s Sauber. He was slow all week and finished 20 seconds behind team mate Marcus Ericsson. He has come on a lot since those fledgling races but it should sound a note of caution.
Leclerc is the 2.88 joint favourite for the race with William Hill. It’s a reasonable price and it may be the last time we see him odds against for a while. What is much better value however are his odds to be quickest in FP1. Historically Ferrari practiced with very conservative power unit modes to extend their life span but they have been much more aggressive so far this season.
Leclerc was 3rd in Melbourne FP1, just 0.07 slower than Hamilton in 1st. In Bahrain he was fastest with Vettel 2nd. A change in philosophy? Who knows but if, as everyone expects, they have the fastest car again this weekend he will be very much in the frame for fastest in FP1. His odds are huge compared with the odds for winning the race and I am almost at a loss to see why.
There is a school of thought that says they turned up the power units in the Bahrain GP in order to test out their solutions to the problems encountered in Australia. It could be that they revert to type now. That is enough for me to scale back the stakes but it remains an attractive bet.
Chinese Grand Prix Tips
2 points Charles Leclerc to be quickest in FP1 @ 4.50 with Betvictor (4.33 with Hills)
2 points Leclerc to win the Chinese GP @ 2.88 with Hills
Chinese Grand Prix Tips: Keep The Faith With Kvyat
We have backed Kvyat for points in the first two races. He landed the bet in Australia but events conspired against him in Bahrain and he ended up 12th. His team mate did score points and they do seem to have a reasonably quick car which is reliable. That’s half the battle and Kvyat is good enough to do the rest. He has a good record here, 10th, retired, 3rd, 9th. The podium was in a Red Bull but it is two out of three in a Toro Rosso who sound be stronger this year with the improved Honda power unit.
Chinese Grand Prix Tips: 2 points Kvyat to finish in the points @ 3.50 with Hills
The weather is often a factor in this race but the forecast for the weekend is for dry, sunny (or as sunny as you can get with all the air pollution around Shanghai) conditions for Friday and Saturday. Race day will see more cloud and cooler conditions but no rain is forecast at this time.