Anticipation for this weekend’s Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix has cranked up considerably following Sebastian Vettel’s shock win in Malaysia two weeks ago. A Mercedes one-two in Australia, with world champion Lewis Hamilton leading teammate Nico Rosberg home, had suggested that their dominance was only set to increase in 2015. Yet Vettel, in only his second ace for Ferrari, upset the form book in race two to create a buzz that there could be a real title race after all this year.
Ferrari made huge strides in Malaysia and prospered in the searing heat, while Mercedes struggled to manage their tire situation. And Vettel has been keen to point out that it was very much a legitimate triumph, achieved on the track without the need for any freak weather or mechanical occurrence. Yet the man who won four consecutive world titles with Red Bull is also under no illusions that he and his team face an uphill challenge to repeat their success in Shanghai.
“It was obviously nice for us to see that we were so competitive,” he said on Thursday, reports Reuters. “There were also a couple of circumstances coming together but most important we managed to capitalize and get a very good result and win the race. We managed to do a very good job in Malaysia. But for here and for the next races, we have to be realistic about what we want to achieve.”
A win in China would be Vettel’s 41st in Formula 1 and move him equal with Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna in third place on the all-time list. But, despite Vettel’s previous domination of Formula 1 with Red Bull, the German has won just once in China, in 2009. Hamilton, meanwhile, has tasted victory at the Shanghai International Circuit on a record three occasions, including last year. But the two-time drivers’ champion, who finished second behind Vettel two weeks ago, is wary of the threat from Ferrari in China.
“I honestly think Ferrari are a threat,” he told Sky Sports. “It was true pace they had. I have a feeling they must have made a good step in that race. I don’t know how close they’re going to be [this weekend], or if we’re going to be racing, my guess is as good as yours.”
Ferrari’s resurgence has only cast further light upon the plight of the man who opted to walk away from the team in search of greater success, Fernando Alonso. After five barren years with the famed Italian outfit, the two-time world champion jumped ship to McLaren at the end of last season, but following a disastrous winter they have found themselves in an ignominious position at the back of the grid. After a concussion ruled him out of competing in Australia, neither he nor teammate Jenson Button finished in Malaysia. Still, Alonso remains upbeat that the McLaren will eventually come good, and insists that only if Ferrari win the championship this season will he potentially consider his decision to move an error of judgment.
“I was with Ferrari five years, finishing in P2 in the championship three times, so I decided that I didn’t want to finish in that position a fourth time,” he told the official Formula 1 website. “If they win the championship, well, then I’d probably have a different opinion. If they finish second or third, then I am happy with my decision. We had good starts -- I remember we won in China in 2013 -- but when it really counts it is in November -- and there we never won. I want to win in November.”
F1 Chinese Grand Prix Schedule (all times EDT)
Practice 1: Thursday, 10 p.m. (NBC Sports Live Extra)
Practice 2: Friday, 2 a.m. (NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra)
Practice 3: Saturday, midnight, (NBC Sports Live Extra)
Qualifying: Saturday, 3 a.m. (NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra)
Race: Sunday, 2 a.m. (NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra)