All eyes on the inter-team rivalry at Red Bull and Mercedes in Shanghai

All eyes on the inter-team rivalry at Red Bull and Mercedes in Shanghai image

Text: Alex Yoong / Photos: | posted April 12, 2013 11:21

Chinese Grand Prix Preview

As we head into this weekend’s Chinese GP, all eyes will be on the inter-team rivalry at Red Bull and Mercedes. While Vettel’s brazen move of not following the script and overtaking Webber for the win in Malaysia was great for us fans, it was obviously not so great for his relationship with his team mate. It will be interesting to see if Vettel’s post-race apology will do anything to help cool Webber’s anger at him.

At Mercedes, the opposite happened with Rosberg listening to team orders and not overtaking his new team mate. Tension is still in the air though, because with that move rumours are abound that Mercedes has given Hamilton preference as a clear number one within the team. Whether true or not, this will certainly not make Rosberg happy and I’ll be watching closely to see how he deals with this. Also, Hamilton will be keen to show that he is a clear number one on the track and not through team orders.

Shanghai is a modern Formula 1 circuit with a smooth surface and low abrasion. The temperatures will be lower too which means that tyre wear will be less of a factor than at the last two races. Pirelli are bringing the Soft (yellow) tyre and Medium (white) tyre for this weekend. It’s only a one step difference between the tyres and we should see the teams trying different strategies with most aiming for  three stops and some, two stops (especially if there is no rain and the track is well rubbered up).

Shanghai is also a circuit of high lateral loads with long medium and medium to fast corners. This means a car will need good mechanical and aero balance especially through the long turn 13 on to the back straight (a bad balance will chew up the front left tyre pretty fast). It is also a circuit with very little brake wear, so that will not be a factor.

The big question is who will be fast and in with a chance of winning? At the moment you have to say it’s pretty close between Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari, with Lotus right there too. With a two-week gap since the last two races, all the teams will have brought some updates for the cars although do not expect any big ones. But with the gaps between the top four teams so close, a small improvement could be the difference between winning and finishing eighth.

With all the attention about team orders overshadowing the Malaysian GP, let us not forget that Red Bull won with a one, two. For me they have the slight edge this weekend, especially since tyre wear will not be as much of a factor as in the last two races.

Mercedes has pioneered a new FRIC suspension which links their front suspension and rear suspension hydraulically.  After using it for three years, the media has speculated that they are finally getting it right which is why they are right on the pace now. I think it’s too early to say that and it’s probably the whole package as aerodynamically they are stronger too. Rosberg won here last year, so expect them to be very strong.

Ferrari is an unknown coming into this race, because Alonso was out by the second lap in Malaysia and Massa did not show pace in the race. But generally, although we have seen Massa quicker recently, he sometimes does not show great race pace. So it will be interesting to see, how they fare this weekend. Definitely podium contenders, but on the weight of the last race, not quite good enough to win.

Catch Alex Yoong on STAR Sports’ coverage of this weekend’s Shanghai Grand Prix on Race Day and Chequered Flag, as well as in high-definition on FOX SPORTS PLUS!