Motoring Weekly

Shanghai spectacle

April 18 - April 24, 2024
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Gulf Weekly Shanghai spectacle
Gulf Weekly Shanghai spectacle
Gulf Weekly Shanghai spectacle
Gulf Weekly Shanghai spectacle
Gulf Weekly Shanghai spectacle

The engines are revving and crowds are roaring as Formula 1 prepares for a much-anticipated return to the Shanghai International Circuit this weekend. It’s been a long five years since Lewis Hamilton took the checkered flag in China, and the hiatus has been filled with twists and turns both on and off the track. A number of key F1 stories are taking centre-stage this week in China and here’s what you need to know.

 

Hometown Hero

This race weekend holds particular significance for China’s first ever F1 driver, Zhou Guanyu. The wait has finally ended for Zhou, who will get the chance to race in front of a home crowd at a sold-out Shanghai International Circuit. While Zhou debuted in 2022, this will be his first experience racing on home soil, making it a truly special occasion for both the driver and the Chinese fans.

 

Red Bull vs Ferrari

While Red Bull has dominated recent seasons under the current regulations, the competition is starting to breathe down their necks.

The Japanese Grand Prix showcased this shift, with Ferrari putting on a much stronger showing than in previous races.

The gap between Max Verstappen in pole position and the rest of the field in 2023 was significantly wider than this year, with five different teams – Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Mercedes – all represented in the top seven finishers.

This year’s race in Suzuka also saw a strategic battle unfold between Ferrari and Red Bull, with Carlos Sainz potentially challenging Sergio Perez for second place if not for strategic decisions by the Scuderia.

The fact that Ferrari can compete on a track historically favouring Red Bull bodes well for the upcoming races, particularly in Shanghai, which is known to be more front-limited in terms of performance.

While Red Bull will undoubtedly aim to maintain their edge, the tightening competition suggests that fans can expect thrilling battles for victory throughout the season. 

 

Stalling Arrows

The Japanese Grand Prix weekend was a mixed bag for Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton, in particular, experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. Early promise on Friday faded in the race, with Hamilton finishing a disappointing ninth due to a combination of damage and strategy calls. 

Teammate George Russell wasn’t much better, crossing the line in seventh. 

Following the race, Toto Wolff acknowledged that Mercedes was in a ‘rebuild phase’ and struggled to pinpoint why the car wasn’t delivering the expected lap time gains. 

However, there’s a glimmer of hope.

The team has confirmed that the car is generating the targeted downforce levels on track, but it’s not translating into the desired performance. 

Wolff remains optimistic, viewing this as a positive step towards unlocking the car’s full potential. 

Mercedes will be looking to make significant progress based on data analysis back at the factory ahead of the race in Shanghai.

Alonso

One of the biggest stories brewing even before the wheels touched down in Shanghai is Fernando Alonso’s commitment to Aston Martin. The Spaniard has signed a lengthy contract, which he describes as ‘the longest I’ve ever signed in my career’, keeping him with the team until at least the end of the 2026 season. This move not only solidifies Alonso’s future in the sport but also opens doors for a potential championship run in his twilight years. With Honda joining forces with Aston Martin in 2026, and considering Alonso’s current performance, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him challenge for the title and potentially become the second-oldest F1 champion behind the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio. 

 

Driver Market Still Up in the Air

With several driver contracts expiring at the end of 2024, the driver market remains a hot topic. Daniel Ricciardo, for example, needs to deliver strong performances to secure his seat for 2025. His future, along with the futures of many other drivers, will likely be decided in the coming weeks and months, adding another layer of intrigue to the upcoming races.

The return to Shanghai promises to be a special event, not just for the fans eager to see their favorite drivers back, but for the entire paddock, who are waiting to see how the teams position themselves for the remainder of the season.

 

The 2025 Calendar

With just four races completed in the 2024 season, talk of the 2025 calendar might seem premature. However, the schedule was recently confirmed, revealing a significant change to the opening races. To accommodate Ramadan, which falls in March next year, the races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will be pushed back to the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. The Bahrain Grand Prix weekend is set to take place from April 11 to 13, 2025.

This shift hands the coveted season opener slot back to Australia. China will be the second race on the calendar, followed by Japan.







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