China GP: Ferrari aren't favourites despite first round win and what's wrong with Red Bull?


Sebastian Vettel brought joy to the Ferrari-mad 'Tifosi' by winning the opening grand prix of the Formula One season in Australia two weeks ago, but he heads to China for this weekend's second race knowing rivals Mercedes are still the favourites.

There's not much in it, though. Lewis Hamilton is on 2.0 to take his fifth victory at the Shanghai International Circuit on Sunday. Vettel is on 2.6.


 

 

Better odds on Raikkonen

If you're thinking of putting your money on red this weekend you'll find better odds on Vettel's team mate Kimi Raikkonen than current the world championship leader.

Raikkonen last won this race ten years ago on his way to the title. He's on 9.0 to win this weekend and 12.0 to take pole position, which would be his first at any track since 2008.

Is he worth backing? Having been the pace-setter in pre-season testing Raikkonen put in a performance that was mixed at best in Melbourne. His qualifying performance was, by his own admission, scruffy. In the race he dropped back from the leading trio early on but came on strong in the latter stages, setting the fastest lap of the race.

 

What's wrong with Red Bull?

Many people expected Red Bull to start the season more strongly than they did in Australia. Max Verstappen, their top qualifier, was 1.3 seconds off the pace while Daniel Ricciardo endured a miserable home race and retired.

Are things going to improve this weekend? One cause of their problems is Renault's power unit which has been temporarily downgraded due to problems with a 2017-specification part during testing. This is not expected to be fixed in time for China.

In Australia, the team had clearly sacrificed some of their car's potential in the corners to make up for that lack of straight-line speed. Corners make up a greater percentage of the Shanghai track, so in that respect they could be in better shape.

They will welcome the prospect of rain too. If it arrives in time for qualifying Ricciardo and Verstappen's odds of 26.0 for a pole position will look very appealing - Ricciardo put his car on the front row with a sensational lap last year.

 

Podium picks

The six drivers in the top two teams are obvious favourites for the podium. But the difficulty drivers experienced overtaking in Australia could help an outsider claim a top three finish. 

Haas driver Romain Grosjean would have been leading the fight to be best of the rest had his car not let him down in Melbourne. He was consistently in the top ten, and will pay at 41.0 if he delivers a rostrum finish on Sunday.

Another to watch is Force India's Sergio Perez. He was in rare form in Australia, making one of the race's few passes on his way to an excellent seventh. The driver who grabbed two unlikely podiums last year is also on 41.0 to do it in China.

Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic