Red Bull and Ferrari raise the heat in China

SHANGHAI-, After five years of absence, the world championship of Formula 1 returns this weekend to China and Ferrari leads the teams that intend to stand up to Red Bull and the championship leader, Max Verstappen.

The Chinese test returns after four blank seasons due to the covid-19 pandemic. At that time, the British Lewis Hamilton had five Formula 1 world champion titles and dominated the championship with an iron fist at the wheel of Mercedes, while the Dutchman Max Verstappen only had five victories in races. F1.

But since 2019 things have changed a lot: Hamilton, who won his seventh world championship in 2020, is going through one of his worst starts to the season in a Mercedes that still does not shine, while Verstappen has been flying on the asphalt for two years. ±os behind the wheel of Red Bull.

Favorite in this fifth round of the year, Max Verstappen will have to look in the rearview mirror at the Ferraris, the best positioned to threaten his leadership.

The Shanghai circuit deteriorates the tires a lot, thus reducing grip, and the 'Scuderia' has proven to be the team that shows the best level on this type of asphalt.

From Red Bull they expect Ferrari “to be probably their tightest competition” this weekend, as acknowledged by their boss Christian Horner, whose position as leader of the Austrian team now seems free of threat.

The Briton was accused and later acquitted of “inappropriate behavior” towards an employee at the start of the season, a case that shook the stability of his team.

– Ferrari, with a better level? –

'Mad Max' arrives as the championship leader (77 points), thirteen units ahead of his teammate, the Mexican Sergio Pérez (64). They are followed by the Ferraris of Monegasque Charles Leclerc (59) and Spanish Carlos Sainz Jr (55).

During a new double for the Austrian team at the beginning of April in Suzuka (Japan), Sainz, third, demonstrated the potential of his SF-24 against the almighty RB20.

“On paper, I think it is a circuit where we can have better performance than in Suzuka,” explained Leclerc, 4th in the Japanese GP. “But Red Bull will still be ahead this weekend.”

Up to four drivers on the grid will discover the Shanghai International Circuit for the first time aboard a Formula 1, including local Zhou Guanyu.

“I couldn't be more excited about the idea of ​​finally racing in my homeland,” celebrated the Shanghai native, who reached the elite of motorsports in 2022. He will be the first Chinese in history to participate in Formula 1 in China.

First sprint race of the year

The Chinese GP also marks the return on Saturday of the sprint race, which awards additional points to the championship, but this season the format presents some changes.

This year, after free practice time on Friday, the sprint qualification will take place. On Saturday the sprint race will be held first, and later the 'classic' classification that will determine the starting grid for Sunday's GP.

This change in format has been celebrated by the teams, who will now be able to work longer in the cars without being penalized, but the timing of this first sprint race has not been liked by everyone.

The drivers will only have one hour of free rehearsals to acclimatize to this track at the wheel of their 2022 “new generation” F1 cars.

“It's very smart to do that” in China, Verstappen ironically said at the beginning of April, after winning the Japanese GP.

For Sainz, it is a “circuit that offers good opportunities for overtaking” and going “directly to qualifying after an hour of free practice is not a good decision after five years of absence.”