The start of the 2019 F1 season has been to say the least confusing. In Melbourne it appeared as if the near certain Ferrari competitive pace from winter testing had disappeared and been replaced by sheer disappointment from the fans as another season of silver arrows dominance seemed on the cards.
However, Melbourne’s Albert Park loves to buck the F1 trend. It’s in fact a bit of a misleading track. Known to be very set up sensitive and lacking long straights which most circuits now boast Albert Park is somewhat of an anomaly.
A fast street circuit sure but lacking in true mammoth straight lines where the hybrid engines can stretch their sizeable legs.
This was why come Bahrain and despite the huge victory for Mercedes in Australia there was a certain expectation that Ferrari would at least reduce the gap. They not only reduced the gap but reversed it to the surprise of many.
Bahrain is, in Mercedes defence, a power thirsty circuit. Yet Ferrari’s seemingly breezeful coasting to pole and dominance across almost all sessions did send fear into the world champions.
A Leclerc engine failure and Vettel spin aside a double podium was a near certainty and the gap up front in both the drivers and constructor would be much different.
It’s very likely the pecking order will vary from circuit to circuit depending on various characteristics of the tracks and China is no exception to unique features. Here however is where Ferrari will be licking their lips.
The straight in China is a monster, one of the largest on the calendar. Given the prancing horse’s advantage on the straights it’s safe to assume Mercedes have much to fear as they could lose as much as 3-4 tenths to Ferrari on the back stretch.
Yet despite that, the twisty windy nature of much of the Shanghai international circuit may suit Mercedes and help balance things out.
Regardless, a fascinating Chinese GP weekend awaits.
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