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Chinese GP: 6 things you need to know

  1. Mercedes are *probably* going to win

    As refreshing as it was to see someone other than Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg on the top step of the podium in Malaysia, it’s doubtful Ferrari will be able to triumph again in Shanghai.

    A number of factors held Mercedes back a fortnight ago, giving Sebastian Vettel the perfect opportunity to claim his first victory for the Maranello outfit.

    The track temperature in China will be nowhere near the 60°C-plus figures that forced The Silver Arrows to creep around on the slower compound tyre in Malaysia. They should find the rubber much more durable during the Chinese race.

    That said, the Shanghai International Circuit still has a reputation for high degradation, particularly on the fronts. Management will be key to making race strategy, and drivers will be quickly punished for any spins or lock-ups that cause flat spots to develop.

    If Vettel and Raikkonen’s rivals make any mistakes, they might just be in with a shout. Possibly.

  2. Race Control will be keeping a very close eye on the lap counter

    A rogue marshal brought the Chinese Grand Prix to an end prematurely last year after waving the chequered flag a lap early by mistake, something officials will be keen to avoid repeating this weekend.

    Stewards were forced to dig out Article 43.2 of F1’s regulations, which states: “Should for any reason the end-of-race signal be given before the leading car completes the scheduled number of laps, or the prescribed time has been completed, the race will be deemed to have finished when the leading car last crossed the line before the signal was given.”

    It meant that the standings were retrospectively frozen at the end of Lap 54, two laps fewer than had been scheduled.

    The move didn’t impress Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi, whose late overtake on Jules Bianchi was invalidated as a result.

  3. Toro Rosso's flying Dutchman might actually be Belgian

    Max Verstappen has enjoyed plenty of media attention since becoming F1’s youngest driver in Australia last month, but none of it has been quite as peculiar as the recent rumours about his nationality.

    His mother, no less, has reportedly told a Belgian newspaper that her son only has documents that identify him as Belgian, despite the 17-year-old holding a Dutch racing license.

    “He turns 18 on September 30, and on that date, and not before, he can opt for Dutch nationality. In the meantime, he is Belgian and nothing else,” says Sophie Kumpen.

    At least Max now has a home race in the form of Spa-Francorchamps…

  4. Daniel Ricciardo will be trying to stay awake at the wheel

    The World’s Smiliest Man has endured a difficult start to the season since setting a lap record in the Reasonably Priced Liana, no longer driving a car capable of challenging for podiums.

    And it seems Ricciardo is struggling with the transition at Red Bull, concurring with other drivers that Shanghai’s 1.17km straight - the longest in the F1 calendar - is “pretty boring”, even with many hundreds of horsepowers at his disposal.

    “I drove here as a kid, all massive afro and enthusiasm and, trust me, it was the sort of straight where I’d definitely have been reaching for a book, if I’d had one,” says Dan.

    The Australian was keen to hammer home his point, adding: “You could drink a can of Red Bull driving down it!”

    Other beverages are available.

  5. The world is out to get Pastor Maldonado

    Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado gained a calamitous reputation after causing a series of avoidable accidents last year, in much the same fashion as teammate Romain Grosjean in 2012.

    ‘Crashtor’ hasn’t fared much better this year either, having crashed out after contact with Felipe Nasr in Melbourne, before retiring due to engine trouble in Sepang last time out.

    The Venezuelan, though, has at least been able to console himself with the fact that he hasn’t directly been at fault for failing to finish so far.

    “Certainly in the first two races this season I’ve been the victim of other drivers’ incidents, and that’s racing sometimes,” he said.

    Given Pastor’s sense of persecution, let’s hope he hasn’t discovered this website yet…

  6. Fernando Alonso could retire in China for the first time ever

    The two time world champion has completed every lap - 614 to be precise - of the 11 Chinese GPs held since 2004, though that record could be under serious threat if Honda’s engine doesn’t rapidly improve.

    Jenson Button’s 11th place finish in the first race of the season remains the only full race distance under the MP4-30’s belt, although the McLaren did show signs of catching the midfield before the team withdrew both cars a fortnight ago.

    Alonso remains upbeat, saying: “That sort of progress really gives the whole team belief and confidence in the path we’re taking. The steps we took between Australia and Malaysia were extremely impressive.”

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