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Round 2 of the 2017 Formula One season is in Shanghai, China this weekend. It’s a typical purpose built F1 track, unlike Melbourne, which was a street track. This will be the 14th time it’s held the Chinese Grand Prix and it has a nice mixture of fast and slow corners. The 5.451km Hermann Tilke built circuit is reasonably liked by the drivers and is one of the better ones to have been penned by Tilke.

Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, 2016.

As a permanent track with lots of run off, it has it’s share of longer corners compared to Melbourne. This should mean that the chassis and engine side of things will come into play a bit more, which means the field should be a bit more strung out. The faster corners will suit the cars like Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull, so there will be an even bigger gap between them and the rest.

The high-speed corners- especially turn 12 and 13 with their long radius- will mean it’s going to be especially hard on the neck. The higher g-forces generated by the new generation of cars is proving tough for any of the drivers who have not done enough miles in pre season testing. There is a long back straight to rest up on, but as we know, laps under racing conditions is quite different from testing laps.

With this in mind, Pascal Wehrlein and his team Sauber have decided to bench him for this race too. He and the team still feels he needs to work on his fitness more before jumping back into the seat. While it’s a tough call to make, I still think it’s a smart strategy because it will do him more damage to run around a couple seconds off his teammate– due to him struggling in the car– than to sit out another race.

Giovinazzi & Wehrlein.

What may not work so well for Wehrlein is that it gives his replacement, Antonio Giovinazzi, another chance to shine. The Italian impressed everyone in Melbourne and another good showing may convince other teams– if not Sauber– that he may be worth giving a drive to. Who knows, even his employer Ferrari may be interested. Crazier things have happened.

While the field will be more strung out, there are a couple of interesting battles to watch out for. The midfield battle behind Williams looks interesting. I think Haas with Ferrari power looks genuinely strong and it will be interesting to see if they can improve to match Willliams with Mercedes power to win the battle of the B teams.

Just behind them is an almighty battle going on for best of the mid fielders: Torro Rosso, Renault and Force India look very close to each other and it will be worth watching to see who comes out on top there. I’d like to say McLaren would do well to be among them but now we’re at a proper track, I fear they will slip further back into the clutches where Sauber might even be able to challenge them.

However the battle everyone will have his or her eyes on will be the battle at the front. Ferrari look like they have a slight pace advantage over Mercedes and I think we will see that consolidated here in Shanghai– they look confident.

Where they will be looking to improve is on the Saturday. In pre-season testing they rarely did qualifying simulations on the softer compounds and they know they will need to work on this if they want to get both their cars on the front row.

Alex Yoong

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