Finally after a three week break, the drivers are heading back onto aeroplanes and the buzz around Shanghai will be getting more and more intense. It feels like nothing has changed and we’ll be getting back to the important business of racing. So in three weeks, what possible changes could there be? Well in three weeks in Formula 1, that’s three months in the real world so a lot has changed.
McLaren have made the biggest changes so far. Those rumours of reverting back to the trusty MP4-27 have been well and truly extinguished along with the opinion that they can’t get their season back on track. Team Principle, Martin Whitmarsh, told Planet-F1 that, “we have been fully engaged in further developing our understanding of the MP4-28 and are confident of being able to implement a number of changes this weekend that will widen its operating window and, potentially, improve its performance.” With two more fly away races it’s crucial that they capitalise on any updates they have because if not, they’ve thrown away four potential race wins and with 19 races, you don’t need me to tell you that’s a lot.
Ferrari think they can get their qualy pace to match race pace. Although both drivers are arguably the best off the starting line, it would help if their car had the raw pace to help them get further up the grid in the first place to fight for wins. Technical Director, Pat Fry has said: “I am sure there is more to come on this front [qualifying], as we learn more about our car and start getting the best out of it. We need to at least match our 2012 development pace if we are to perform better in qualifying.” And with the development pace from last year as the only thing to go by, I’d say they are still contenders for the Constructors Championship with both drivers equally building up the points tally.
Red Bull will be trying to keep quiet this weekend. Although they like to be in the headlines, it’s usually for their cars speed, not their driver’s tempers. As it is now officially open warfare between the two drivers and as we’ve heard nothing from Mark over the three-week break there are still a lot of questions to be asked. Are Mark and Seb talking? Are we all supposed to resume proceedings with final practise on Thursday like nothings happened? If I was owner Dietrich Mateschitz I would have demanded they were in the public eye before Shanghai. It’s not unusual to see drivers pairings at press junkets or promotional events; Alonso and Massa were at a factory painting cars this week as an example. They should’ve shook hands and smiled happy for the cameras. That’s what the team want, and that’s what we all want to see.
Williams are narrowing the gap. Or that’s what they want us to think. I’ve never really thought of them as in front of Force India purely because of the lack of inconsistently in their drivers. With the re-shuffle of management at the top of the team, strategy won’t be stronger than it is now and hopefully with the passing of Mrs Williams the team will want to do the name proud. They are a good team, capable of a lot, but with a driver like Maldonado comes uncertainty, but without him comes the financial pressure of not having him on side. Lets hope Valtteri Bottas can keep the points flowing for the team.
Jules Bianchi was 0.1 second off Q2 last round, what can he manage this weekend? As much as I love Max Chilton, being from his hometown and all, and as much as my dog has a more infectious personality than Bianchi, you can’t deny this guy has speed. Getting dropped by Force India might have set his plan back a few years, I think this could be a better way forward for him to get noticed by teams and more importantly keep the connections going with Ferrari. With the team firmly ahead of Caterham in speed and reliability, it should only take a couple of races for them to put both Pic and Van Der Garde out in Q1.
Mercedes will not win it this year. I know every predicition I make is wrong and I’m behind the progress in the Mercedes garage. I just don’t think Rosberg, or Hamilton for that matter, will be making a repeat performance of their win last year. Before a team can realistically think about pole’s and podium finishes, you need to know the car inside out and be happy with that, and I get the feel that they are still getting to know this car, and the management. When Niki Lauda opposes what the team principle is saying, it’s never a good forecast for the future.
Predictions for pole? Can’t be sure but Red Bull have to be favourite unless Ferrari really have brought major updates. It’d be great if Massa and Perez could shake up the grid and for Vettel maybe to get a bit of rough justice so everyone can move on.