So Lewis Hamilton wasn’t wrong! Ferrari didn’t bluff in testing days. In fact, in the opening round of 2017 F1 season, Sebastian Vettel and his Italian team won the race, showing the great level they reached, not only in terms of speed and reliability but in team strategy too. Yes, because their victory was helped by a well-timed pit call—and maybe also by Mercedes making the strategy mistake this time..
Anyway, we are now sure that we can have a two-team battle this year. With that, we are heading to Shanghai, China—a circuit where the engine will make the difference on the very long straights, but where aerodynamics too will play a key role in the many different corners.
For all teams China is a very challenging race, with the different demands of the straights and corners making it difficult to find the right setup balance. It’s as if they really need two cars, one developed for the long main straight, the other for the tight turns of sector one.
Mercedes will face the weekend with a big hunger for revenge and I think they have every advantage to overturn the first race result. The best engine, the
best chassis (maybe…) and a very good couple of drivers. Besides Lewis Hamilton, we saw Bottas already a perfect fit within the team, including into the number two role.
The same can be said for Ferrari, but I think it will be harder this time to beat Silver (and Green) Arrows. For this circuit I think we will see the little gap they still have…but it’s very, very little, believe me.
And what about behind them? Pay attention to the Mercedes-powered teams, Williams and Force India. With the right set up I really think they can reach interesting positions, battling for fourth place.
But all could still be strongly mixed up by the weather. Rain is expected for Friday, but not for Saturday so we should have an unsurprising qualifying. But the rain will return on race day, so we could see all the car(d)s mixed on the table and the drivers could really make the difference. So, how much will we miss Jenson Button in our first wet race of the season? It really will be a different F1 without him.
But my greatest fear is another one, and its name is: McLaren-Honda. I really hope for them, and for their glorious name, that they found some more speed for that long China straight—otherwise their Chinese Grand Prix, and the rest of their season, will seem even longer…
Massimo Trapanese, F1 correspondent