Formula 1. Ferrari wants to compete with Red Bull to return to the Chinese Grand Prix

Formula 1. Ferrari wants to compete with Red Bull to return to the Chinese Grand Prix

Formula 1 motor racing returns to China this weekend after a five-year absence amid hopes of some Ferrari-led teams dominating Red Bull and its leader Max Verstappen.

The Chinese event returns after four empty seasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, Englishman Lewis Hamilton, the “only” five-time F1 world champion, ruled the championship furiously at the wheel of his Mercedes while Dutchman Verstappen had just five Formula 1 wins.

Ferrari can do well

But since 2019, things have changed a lot: the first, who became world champion seven times in 2020, is facing one of the worst starts of the season in F1 – the Mercedes offense is still struggling – while the second is flying high. championship for two years with Red Bull.

The favorite for this fifth meeting of the year, Max Verstappen – in pursuit of his 58e victory in the Grand Prix – however he will have to worry about Ferrari, in a good position to shake him from his base. On a circuit that significantly degrades the ball, reducing grip, the Italian team proved to be the most effective on this type of surface.

Red Bull logically expects that Scuderia “He is probably (his) closest competitor” this weekend, admitted boss Christian Horner, whose position as team principal no longer appears to be under threat. The Englishman was suspected – then cleared – of allegations of “inappropriate behavior” towards a staff member at the start of the season, which largely shook his team.

Big first for Zhou Guanyu

At the moment, “Mad Max” takes the lead in the championship, thirteen points ahead of his runner-up and teammate, Mexican Sergio PĂ©rez (77 points against 64). Followed by the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc (59 pts), third, and Carlos Sainz (55 pts), fourth.

If the Austrian team signed two more at the beginning of April in Suzuka (Japan), Sainz, 3e of the race, he showed all the power of his SF-24 against the burdened RB20. “On paper, I think it’s a circuit where we can do better than Suzuka,” explained Leclerc, 4.e of the Japanese GP. “But Red Bull will still win this weekend.”

For the fifth meeting of the season, four drivers will discover the international circuit of Shanghai in F1, the front line of which is the local event Zhou Guanyu. “I couldn’t be happier to finally race on home soil,” rejoiced the Shanghai native, arriving in the elite in 2022. He will be the first Chinese in history to compete in Formula 1 in China.

A race that sparks debate

The Chinese Grand Prix also marks the return this Saturday of the race that awards extra championship points. But unlike last year, F1 and the International Automobile Federation (FIA) have revised its structure.

Therefore, an hour of free practice on Friday will be followed by sprint qualifying. Saturday will be dedicated to the sprint race, followed later in the day by the “classic” qualifying, which will determine the starting grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

If this design change was welcomed by the teams – who will now be able to work for long periods in the same seats without being penalized – the timing of this first race is not ideal. Drivers will have just one hour of free practice to get used to the track led by the “new generation” F1, starting in 2022.

“It’s very smart to do that” in China, Verstappen laughed at the beginning of April, after the Japanese GP which he won. For Sainz, if it is “a circuit that offers a good possibility of passing”, then going “directly to qualify after an hour of testing is not a good option after five years of absence”.