The F1 traveling circus has left the WMSC and is now heading to Shanghai, China for the Chinese Grand Prix. This event has been moved from the end of the year and now settles in as the third stop on tour. The race has been struggling as of late and attendance is not what it was before. So much so, that the race has been mentioned as being scrapped if numbers do not improve. Where have I heard that before?
Brawn GP and Jenson Button will be the favorites to win this weekend. The question is however; will we see anybody with a modified diffuser? Yes I know the ruling just came out about 24 hours ago, but have teams been working on maybe a temporary fix in the events leading up to this? A diffuser version 1.5 perhaps? Granted we will probably not see a permanent fix until Bahrain or Monaco (if you are Red Bull), many teams have stated they were working on a fix just in case the part was deemed legal.
With Brawn GP at the top of the litter, how do the rest of the teams stack up? This weekend will be crucial for the Red Bull Racing program. The team has had the speed without the diffuser but the luck has just not been there. Young Sebastian Vettel will be looking to put the RBR on the top step after a rocky first two rounds. While Mark Webber will be looking for a solid points finish after looking so good in Sepang. Toyota may also prove enough to overthrow Brawn GP after a dream start to the season. It would seem that the first win for the Japanese manufacturer is right around the corner and only a matter of time. Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli have both finished on the podium and are currently only 8.5 points behind Brawn for the constructor’s title.
The bigger question that will come out of the weekend is how the power teams of Ferrari and McLaren will fair. Ferrari has all but stated they will be struggling until a new diffuser can be mounted. However, due to the facts that track testing in nonexistent, will the team be able to put it together and make it work quickly? Also, what effect will the reshuffle that happened earlier this week in Maranello have? Schumacher will not be at the track, so they will not have him as the fall boy for whatever may happen in China. Perhaps then and only then, Stefano may actually take responsibility for what has been happening. Ferrari have shown signs of brilliance this year, but tactical errors and poor driving from the team’s two aces has seen them score no points for the first time since 1992. A trend that the tifosi hope will end in China. It is unclear at this point how far Ferrari is on the new design regarding the diffuser. When questioned, both drivers said they had nothing for the cars that do.
McLaren on the other hand have a much tougher road this weekend. In the face of “liegate” the team must not only try and salvage a decent finish, but they also will surely be answering questions regarding the future of Ron Dennis and Lewis Hamilton. Dennis is set to announce in a few hours time what his future plans will be. Online British media outlets are forecasting Dennis will completely relinquish control of Formula 1 operations and focus on the road car side of the house. Either way, the McLaren has been a pig thus far and the team will have to work through the diversity and try to establish a solid points paying finish. Heikki has not completed a lap all year and is hoping just to finish, let alone scoring points for the team.
These are the massive storylines heading into the Chinese Grand Prix. The racing should still be the same close racing we are starting to become accustomed to. Hopefully this weekend will see the end of the protests and on track incidents that have robbed this season of the magic it deserves. However, from one F1 fan to the next, we know that the possibility for a FIA inquiry exists any time the circus stops for a grand prix and always finds a way to show its ugly face.