We may be only one race into the 2017 F1 season, but already it’s looking like Mercedes might have an honest-to-goodness fight on their hands. Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari proved in Melbourne the horse is prancing once again, and now as they head to Shanghai, the onus is on the Silver Arrows to respond. Will they be able to? It’s one of several questions we ask heading into the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix.
Will Mercedes regain the top spot?
Not for the first time in the V6 era, it’s safe to say things didn’t go to plan for Mercedes in Melbourne – but it might be the first time there’s legitimate cause for concern. Ferrari may not have had an outright faster package, but in Vettel’s nine-second gap to Hamilton at the finish line, their race pace was every bit of a match for the Silver Arrows. and if their tyre management proves superior once again, that sliver of extra speed will mean less than a lawsuit to Bernie Ecclestone.
Can Red Bull close the gap?
After coming into the season favourites to upend Mercedes, Melbourne was a serious reality check for Red Bull. Suffering a more ignominious beating than Jos Verstappen, the best the team could muster was a P5 – 28 seconds behind the leader, no less – while the other car scarcely made it to the grid. If Red Bull wants to improve on its two race wins from last year, Albert Park must be put quickly behind them.
How far behind is the midfield really?
With nearly every car lapped in Melbourne, things aren’t looking good for the F1 midfield. Sure, Albert Park has a tendency to create larger gaps than other tracks, but when the distance to the front gives you enough time to watch the entire “Toto Wolff rage remix”, you’ve got to be a bit concerned. Ideally China would give us a more tightly-packed field, but we can only wait and see.
Will Gionvinazzi continue to impress?
Look, we get it: plenty of 22-year-olds will suffer the lingering effects of a bad break-up – it’s just not usually with a barrier at the Race of Champions, as in Pascal Wehrlein’s case. Out for at least one more race, Ferrari prospect Antonio Giovinazzi gets another chance to complete a race after what was a very impressive debut in Melbourne. Especially with Kimi Raikkonen out-of-contract at the end of 2017, the 23-year-old Italian could quickly find his name at the forefront of silly season rumours.
Will there be more overtaking?
One of the main talking points post-Melbourne was the apparent overtaking drought which resulted in a dull afternoon at Albert Park and even on TV. Many warned that the new era cars would create so much turbulence that following would a rival would be like riding a superbike at speed without a helmet. But China with its long straights might encourage more moves and liven things up a bit, but maybe not. Time will tell….
But, on another note, then who said overtaking in Formula 1 should be easy?