When and Where: The first practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai gets underway at 10 p.m. ET on Thursday, with live streaming coverage available on SpeedTV.com.

Preview: After a three week break, Formula One returns with the third grand prix of the 2012 season, in Shanghai, China.

And after starting on pole position for the first two races of the year yet failing to record a victory in either Australia or Malaysia, Lewis Hamilton will be desperate to repeat his win in China last year.

I won't deny that I'm disappointed to have had two pole positions and not to have been able to convert either of them into victories, but I prefer to think of it that luck just hasn't been on my side, and that it will swing my way sooner or later, Hamilton said, according to Formula1.com.

But after two third-place finishes to kick-off the year, the McLaren former-world champion knows that he is not in too bad a shape as he lies in second place in the driver's championship.

Last year taught me the value of consistency: it's no use chasing a great result if you can't back it up with another strong finish the following week, Hamilton added.

So maybe I'm just playing myself in gently: after all, in 2007, I didn't win a race until the sixth round, and I was in the hunt for the title all through the year.

But the British driver will not be able to make it three poles out of three in Shanghai with Hamilton having been penalized five grid places for needing to change his gearbox.

The man who comes into the Chinese grand prix in the surprising position atop the driver's standings is Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard produced a superb win on a rain-soaked Sepang circuit last time out, despite being in a struggling Ferrari chassis.

And despite his victory, Alonso is not getting carried away.

There will be no big surprises, as although the car has some small improvements, there is nothing big coming for this race, Alonso said, according to Sky Sports. I expect this is the same situation with the other teams, which is why I feel the general picture will be the same as at the last two races.

This means we will struggle to get through into Q3 on Saturday and then on Sunday, we will be hoping to get a good start and then do a good job of tire management.

One of the surprises of the season so far has been that Red Bull, the dominant team for the past two years, has been clearly off the pace of the McLaren. And double world champion Sebastian Vettel believes that his team, led by chief engineer Adrian Newey, will eventually get things right.

I think that the balance is not 100 per cent right and that's what we're trying to understand 100 per cent at this stage and we are trying to improve, Vettel said, according to Sky Sports. And once I think we put all this puzzle together then we should be in a much better position.

Much of the pre-race discussion has been led by the continued controversy of Mercedes' F-duct rear-wing. After murmurings of discontent in the first two races, Lotus put in an official protest to the FIA stewards in China. However, the design was deemed to be legal, which it is hoped will put an end to continued discontent in the paddock.

While they have performed poorly in race trim, Mercedes have been quick in practice and qualifying so far this season, something they will hope to continue in China.