Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Can anyone mount a challenge to Mercedes this weekend?

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)
The Mercedes AMG F1 Team head into this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix with the momentum clearing swinging in the favour. The Brackley based squad have seen both their driver's share the podium twice in the first three race's of the year and won every race so far.
Nico Rosberg took the spoils in the opening race of the season while Lewis Hamilton has taken back to back victories in Malaysia and Bahrain and goes into this weekend's race in China as the clear favourite although the Englishman admitted after his win in Bahrain that his team mate had been faster then him.
With the two Mercedes driver's streets ahead of their rivals and comfortably leading both titles the question has to be asked who will pose a serious challenge to their current dominance?
The team are currently 67 point's ahead of the Sahara Force India Formula One Team who are a long way off the lead in second place. The circuit in Shanghai suit the Silver Arrows this weekend too as it has similar characteristics to the Sepang circuit with long straight's and a handful of tricky corners particularly the one that leads onto the back straight so getting the car set up perfect will be key to seeing who will succeed come the race on Sunday.
Whatever the outcome of Sunday's race is Mercedes and one of its driver's will head to the European leg of the season leading the championship such has been the team's dominance since the start of the season.
Speaking to the teams website about the upcoming race in China, Lewis Hamilton had this to say:
'It’s been good to have a bit of a break after such a long stint away but I’m already looking forward to getting back in the car. The last race in Bahrain was fantastic: not just for us as a team but for the sport and I’m sure it won’t be the last time we see a great show this year. I’m in a really good place at the moment and walking around the garage too, you can see the positive energy within the team right now.
Everyone is focused on getting the maximum from these early races and continuing to build beyond the strong start we’ve made to the season. I’ve had some ups and downs in China. On one side I’ve only finished outside of the podium places twice at this circuit. On the other, in my first season in Formula One I threw away a championship lead here by going into the gravel coming into the pits. Generally, though, I’m getting stronger every time I come to this track and it suits my driving style quite well.
The aim, as always, is to win and if I could make it three in a row this weekend that would be incredible.'
Meanwhile his team mate Nico Rosberg, who was clearly upset at losing out on the victory to Hamilton following an extremely close battle in Bahrain commented on the next race in China by saying:
'Even though the last race was a bot disappointing from my prospective in terms of the result, it's been great to see all the positive comments that came afterwards. We've demonstrated already rthat we are pushing harder than ever to stay ahead of the pack.
It will only get more difficult as the season goes on but I've got confidence in the team. Every day in every area you can see that determination to win. This gives you a big boost as a driver - to know that the people around you want it just as badly as you do. I've got great memories from China after taking my first pole position and race win in Formula One at this circuit in 2012.
The layout seems to suit my driving style, it's a track I enjoy racing at and I want to be back on the top step of the podium this weekend. The Chinese fans are great too, really enthusiastic. It's nice to see how much they like our sport and how they cheer us on during the race weekend.  
It's a very different culture and getting to know it is always fun, so hopefully we can keep them as entertained on track as they do off it!'
Although the race is expected to be dry, there is the possibility of some showers during qualifying. Temperatures of the course of the weekend are expected to be in the late teen's or early 20's so keeping the tyre's at the optimum operating temperature could prove to be tricky.
At last year's race Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole position and went on to finish the event on the podium in third place behind race winner Fernando Alonso and 2nd placed man Kimi Raikkonen while Nico Rosberg was forced to retire with a suspension issue having started the race from 4th on the grid.
Both driver's will be hoping that they will be able to bring both cars home in the point's this season and they have already shown this season that they can be trusted to fight each other on track in a fair way that avoids contact and that is why the team have allowed them to race each other as they have not imposed team orders besides it is far too early in the season to be playing those games.
We don't have long to wait to find out how Hamilton, Rosberg and the rest of the team's and driver's get on in China as the first lot of on track action gets underway on Friday morning from 3AM (Irish time).
©Ben Johnston 2014

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