F1 Power Rankings: Chinese Grand Prix

After a couple of weeks off, the 2013 Formula One World Championship returns to action with the Chinese Grand Prix. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really hate the schedule’s two weeks on, two weeks off, two weeks on, two weeks off schedule to start the year. Still, I don’t hate it as much as Adrian Sutil must hate returning to the scene of the crime.

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #2)
For some completely inexplicable reason, Red Bull Racing has been deathly quiet since the Malaysian Grand Prix. I guess the first rule about Red Bull’s “multi 21” is don’t do interviews after invoking multi 21. The second rule is don’t really worry too much if Seb passes Mark and ignores orders. It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out if Webber is still mad at Vettel. Their disagreement didn’t hurt the team too much in 2010. However, things seem much closer this season than three years ago.

#2 Fernando Alonso (LR #3)
Where is Ferrari’s biggest improvement this season? That would be in single-lap pace. Last season, Alonso just missed out on the World Drivers’ Championship despite the fact that the Scuderia qualified an average 2.5 spots behind Red Bull. After the year’s first two races, that gap is down by half to 1.2 spots behind Red Bull. Ferrari had the race pace to contend for wins. Now they have the qualifying pace to seriously threaten Red Bull’s dominance.

#3 Lewis Hamilton (LR #6)
Lewis feels that the team’s pace has been unexpected. I don’t see how. It’s not like the team did any development work on the 2012 car: “My first two races with my new team have been a great experience and everyone has made me feel so welcome. We’ve had a better start than we expected and to have finished in fifth and third places so far is really positive. I know there is much more to come so we will keep working hard and pushing the development of the car.”

#4 Felipe Massa (LR #5)
Phil thinks that this season has gotten off to the right start, unlike last year: “I know we have only done two races, but I have a good feeling so far this season. The work we did with the F138 over the winter has taken us in the right direction and the car has much more potential. Of course, I always want to be fighting for the win, although that did not work out in the first two races, but the signs were good with an excellent race pace and now we have to keep moving forward race by race.”

#5 Mark Webber (LR #4)
Just for fun, here’s @AussieGrit’s post-race PR quotage from two weeks ago: “I think Sebastian has respect for me and I have respect for him, but the situation today was not handled well… I tried to isolate what happened at the end and we got something out of it today, but of course I’m not satisfied with the result. This puts heat on a few people and unfortunately there’s no rewind button. I know people want raw emotion from us after these situations and it’s there, but we need to remain cool.”

f1-kimi-raikkonen-helmet-2013#6 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #1)
The Iceman always has something interesting to say if you give him a chance: “I won there in 2007 and that was a good feeling as it was the year I won the World Championship. I celebrated those wins pretty well at the time. It’s a proper race track and there are good opportunities for overtaking. Our car looks good so far, so let’s see what happens when we get out on track.”

#7 Nico Rosberg (LR #7)
Keke’s kid wins this week’s award for most generic quotage: “I enjoy the Shanghai track a great deal and I have a positive feeling going there with the car that we have at the moment. The team have been working very hard to develop our car since returning from Malaysia… We’ve had a strong start to the season and I’m confident that we can keep pushing and hopefully score some good results in China and Bahrain.”

f1-romain-grosjean-helmet-2013#8 Romain Grosjean (LR #9)
Grosjean is still trying to figure things out with this year’s tyres: “It’s been frustrating for me as sometimes the car gives me what I want and sometimes it doesn’t  even if the conditions and setup are very similar. I’ve been working closely with my engineers and we made good progress over the last race weekend. The car and the latest tyres seem to be very sensitive to having the balance exactly right so that’s what we’re focusing on.”

f1-nico-hulkenberg-helmet-2013#9 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #13)
Nico’s right about not liking the circuit: “The circuit in Shanghai is not particularly one of my favourite tracks, nevertheless it’s a demanding one, especially the first few corners and the corners before the back straight. Tyres and strategy will be very important during the weekend.”

f1-sergio-perez-helmet-2013#10 Sergio Perez (LR #11)
Checo thinks the team has made good progress since the last race: “We’ve been able to get back to MTC and really throw all our efforts behind the modifications we need to make the car perform more consistently. For me, it’s been incredible to not only see the speed of the team’s reaction, but also the positive way that everyone has pulled together to make those changes.”

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2013#11 Jenson Button (LR #10)
There’s a theme with this week’s McLaren quotes: “The Chinese Grand Prix almost feels like something of a reboot of the start of my season… Everybody in the team has picked themselves up and really attacked the task of addressing our car’s issues. We know where we’re losing performance, so I think we’re actually all looking forward to seeing just what we can achieve in Shanghai.”

#12 Adrian Sutil (LR #8)
Sutil is going back to Shanghai. If you see him in a nightclub, run away: “It’s an interesting circuit, although it’s not one of my favourites. It’s modern, of course, and there are some unusual corners, such as turn one – the long right hander. You need to be perfect through these slow speed corners or you lose too much time.”

#13 Paul di Resta (LR #12)
Paul thinks that both cars retiring from Malaysia means they kicked ass. No, it means you’re lucky that you guys take August off: “The climate in China is very different compared to the first two races, but we’ve performed well in the cool conditions of Melbourne and in the heat of Malaysia. The team has had a sensible approach to the start of the season; we worked hard to get a good understanding of our package and we’re already reaping the rewards.”

#14 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #15)

f1-esteban-gutierrez-helmet-2013#15 Esteban Gutierrez (LR #16)
Stevie G talks about his way of learning a new track: “Learning a new track all depends on the approach you take. You can learn a lot through video footage, your engineer’s advice on the right gears in different parts of the track and, most important of all, the more confidence you have in your car the easier it is to learn a new one”

#16 Valtteri Bottas (LR #17)
Val changes things up by talking about tyres. It’s always about tyres: “Whilst not as hot and humid, the weather can be variable so you need a car that works well in different conditions. Getting the tyres to work will be the biggest challenge facing all of the teams, as the temperatures are often low and the smooth track surface is quite different to what we saw in the first two races.”

#17 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #14)

#18 Pastor Maldonado (LR #18)
Pastor holding down last place in the Power Rankings among the established teams? That’s new… “This can be quite an unpredictable race and the weather conditions are a particular challenge. There is also a mix of different corners so you need to get the right balance between good straight line speed for the very long straight, whilst still having good grip in the lower speed corners. Another challenge is the strategy as there are a few difficult decisions the engineers face when deciding what type of race to run here.”

#19 Jules Bianchi (LR #19)
I don’t get the break either, Jules: “I’m really looking forward to heading to China and getting back to the racing. Things had started out so well that it was almost a shame to have to stop for a few weeks, but for the Team it is very important to have the time to look at what we have achieved and how to continue moving forward… It’s all about maintaining the momentum now, so it is good to know that we head into the next race with some new developments which should carry us forward again.”

#20 Charles Pic (LR #20)
It’s not often that a driver goes over the planned program for the weekend so I thought I’d share Chuck’s: “On Friday and Saturday morning we’ll also be working on several performance areas that the team has been looking at since Malaysia, particularly around dialling out the understeer issues I had in Australia and Malaysia. We have a few setup options to try to help with that, and some ideas we’re going to look at with Pirelli so I’m sure we can make good progress on that.”

f1-max-chilton-helmet-2013#21 Max Chilton (LR #21)
I really wonder how much running in the simulator would help versus learning a track from video like Gutierrez: “I’ve never raced at the Shanghai International Circuit before so I only have my experience of watching the races there in the past and my recent simulator work to go by, but it looks like a nice challenge with some interesting features. Shanghai itself will also be a new experience.”

#22 Geido van der Garde (LR #22)
Ironically, GVDG is having the exact opposite behaviour out of his car. Does he know what oversteer and understeer are? “We had oversteer issues on entry into the corners in Malaysia and Australia and that definitely hit my race pace, particularly as it was impacting on tyre degradation levels, so we’ve done a bit of work on that with Pirelli in Milan and back at Leafield since Malaysia so we’ll see what we’ve achieved when we get to Shanghai.”

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