It is a quick turnaround for all the drivers and teams ahead of Round Three of the 2018 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship, which takes place this weekend from the Shanghai International Circuit in Shanghai, and with Sebastian Vettel taking a second victory in a row to start the season, which was the first time since 2011, when he was at Red Bull Racing, that he has won the opening two races of a season, Vettel and Ferrari have taken an early stranglehold on the championship, putting pressure on Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes to respond with a strong performance in China.
Vettel (50 points) leads the championship by 17 points over Hamilton (33 points) after the defending world champion finished third after starting from ninth after a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change, with the highlight of his charge to the podium being when he passed three cars at once into Turn One on Lap Five. With that performance, Hamilton equals Kimi Räikkönen’s record of 27-consecutive points-scoring finishes in Formula One
However, Vettel was the star, but not the driver of the race, after managing to outlast Valtteri Bottas late in the Bahrain Grand Prix to claim his 49th race victory. Bottas (22 points) is third in the championship for Mercedes after bouncing back from a disappointing weekend in Australia to finish a very close second behind Vettel in Bahrain.
Fernando Alonso (16 points) is in a shock fourth position in the championship after finishing seventh in Bahrain in his McLaren-Renault, and is ahead of Räikkönen (15 points) after the Ferrari driver was force to retire from the Bahrain Grand Prix after a wheel wasn’t attached properly at his second pit-stop, causing an unsafe release, and breaking the leg of one of the Ferrari mechanics after Räikkönen ran over his leg!
Nico Hülkenberg (14 points) is a surprising sixth in the championship for Renault after his sixth place finish in Bahrain, and is ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (12 points), who along with his teammate Max Verstappen (eight points), who sits in 10th position in the championship for Red Bull, were forced to retire from the race with electrical and transmission issues after Lap One and Three respectively!
Pierre Gasly (12 points) is eighth in the championship for Toro Rosso-Honda after producing the best result and weekend of his Formula One career to date, qualifying sixth, starting fifth, and finishing in an unbelievable fourth, which was the best result since Honda returned to the sport in a large capacity in 2015.
Kevin Magnussen (10 points) is ninth in the championship for Haas-Ferrari after finishing fifth in Bahrain, which was his best result since the 2014 Russian Grand Prix.
In terms of the Constructors’ Championship, Ferrari (65 points) leads by 10 points over Mercedes (55 points), with these two teams having a clear advantage at this early stage.
Looking ahead as to who is going to win in China, I think Mercedes will be much stronger overall than what they were in Bahrain, as the Shanghai International Circuit is more of a front-limited circuit compared to Bahrain, and given Lewis Hamilton’s strong record on these types of circuits, I expect a big response from him, ahead of a tight battle between Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Räikkönen, Daniel Ricciardo, and Max Verstappen.