Vettel still the man to beat in China

09:17, April 16, 2010      

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Germany's Sebastian Vettel will fancy his chances of giving Red Bull Renault back-to-back wins at the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday as he sets his sights on becoming the circuit's first two-time champion.

The 22-year-old was the first to finish here in the rain last year. After claiming his maiden win of 2010 in Sepang, Malaysia, two weeks ago, another victory would put him at the top of the driver standings, where he trails Ferrari's Felipe Massa by two points.

Local pundits are already tipping Vettel for pole this weekend by dint of how well he has done so far this season. He finished fourth in Bahrain despite mechanical problems, was forced to retire in Australia then bounced back to win in Malaysia.

"Red Bull using a Renault engine is an especially good set up in the rain, and the forecast for Sunday is rain," Kenneth Ma, founder of Chinese promoter FRD Motorsports, told China Daily. "Vettel will probably win if his car doesn't experience any problems. Drivers also need a bit of luck, and I think he has this on his side right now."

As the drivers gear up for the fourth battle of the 20-race calendar, Britain's reigning world champion Jenson Button was also upbeat about his prospects at Shanghai's notoriously twisting track.

"It's a good drivers' circuit while also being a place that benefits from a well-balanced car. I think I've made some real progress in that area," the McLaren-Mercedes driver told F-1's official website. Button has been busy tweaking the car to make up for his eighth-place finish in Malaysia as he guns to reprise his victory in Melbourne last month.

Given the Shanghai International Circuit's two long straights and two book-ending hairpin turns, however, fortune may favor the brave.

"Overtaking is possible at this circuit, particularly at the end of the long back straight, so I'm pretty confident we'll have another competitive weekend," said 2008 winner Lewis Hamilton, the second Englishman to make up the McLaren team and a driver who always puts on a good show in the rain.

Ferrari has something of a stranglehold on the drivers' standings right now, with Brazilian Massa on 39 points and Spain's Fernando Alonso having already racked up 37. Vettel is level with Alonso while Button and Germany's Nico Rosberg are two back on 35. Hamilton has 31.

But who will win in Shanghai is anyone's guess. Alonso's engine tore apart in the penultimate lap two weeks ago and the choice of tires could also prove decisive. And with six different winners in as many years, "everyone has a chance in Shanghai", said FRD executive Gordon Goh.

Everyone, but probably not fan favorite Schumacher. At the start of the season pundits were predicting the seven-time world champion would find his form by the third or fourth race, but the chances of a podium finish now look slim. Even team principal Ross Brawn admits Mercedes GP is not yet fast enough for this.

If the results in Sepang are anything to go by, the decision could boil down to another duel between Vettel and runner-up Mark Webber. The teammates have heaved Red Bull into third place in the constructors' championship, after Ferrari and McLaren, and the pair's intra-team rivalry is heating up.

Vettel seized pole from Webber on the first corner in Malaysia and the Australian, who also finished second here in Shanghai last season, may want to show he isn't always prepared to settle for second best.

Then again, this season is panning out as an especially unpredictable one, with three different winners in as many races - something that hasn't happened in the sport in 20 years.

Source:China Daily


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