Parc Ferme: Surprised at Shanghai

Parc Ferme: Surprised at Shanghai

Parc Ferme: Surprised at Shanghai

I had high hopes for the Shanghai International Circuit showing that Red Bull Racing’s RB20 was not invulnerable. That didn’t happen.

Apart from Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris splitting the Red Bull teammates on the podiums, it was the situation normal. Max Verstappen soundly whupp’d the rest of the grid.

My big mistake was underestimating just how good the mechanical grip of the RB20 was. However, an angry Max in the Sprint revealed to us the extent to which he has been sitting back. An uncharacteristically poor qualification had necessitated him to get in the war, lest he let his old nemesis snag a win. Brow furrowed and eyes focused, he was suddenly almost half a second a lap quicker than anyone else. Swiftly closing on and then dispensing with Hamilton, he then disappeared into the sunset before nudging the gear shift back into neutral.

Mechanical Grip

The RB20 was on rails, turning into the corners and carrying speed into the slow stuff like no one else. For the chassis’s of the mortals, this kind of performance normally makes for a loose rear under acceleration out of the corner. However, to add insult to injury, the RB20 was also putting the power down on the exit like it was set up for understeer.

This handling nirvana allows drivers of Verstappen’s calibre to take everything to the next level. Unfortunately his teammate doesn’t have the oversized talent bag of the young Dutch Champion. He may come close from time to time, but there is rarely a cigar.

The Land of Norris

School boy error was probably the kindest description you could give to Lando Norris’s attempt to go around the outside of Hamilton at the start of the Sprint. Hung out to dry by the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion, he had to watch a large chunk of the grid pass him by before he could re-enter the circuit. Effectively squandering a heroic pole performance in qualifying, and turning a sure-fire podium appearance into a sixth place finish.

Back on the horse

However, what he delivered in the main race more than made up for it. Eking out long, Red Bull type stints on his tyres was enough to keep Perez in his rear-view mirror.  This together with a fortuitous series of Safety Cars, helped him to secure the second place he should have had the day before. A lesser driver could have succumbed to the previous day’s confidence trauma, but not Norris. If Max does jilt Red Bull for Mercedes, the young Brit boldly underlined his credentials as a replacement. Something the Good Doctor will no doubt have noticed.

Head in hands

Ricciardo: Stroll not even watching me

Meanwhile at the back of the grid, Lance Stroll was busy underpinning his reputation. This time, by driving into the back of Daniel Ricciardo while under Safety Car conditions. To be fair, he wasn’t the only one getting it wrong at the hairpin. But, where others failed to make contact, “Junior” finished the job.

A tetradactyl attacked me and my suit didn’t come back from the cleaners

We could have forgiven him for the mistake but then he proceeded to blame Ricciardo for the whole incident. It’s normally best to keep quiet and suck it up in situations where you are so clearly the problem. However, Lance chose to open his mouth and confirm he shouldn’t be playing with the big boys. Either way he earned two points from the Stewards; one for being asleep on the job and one for the BS I presume.

And finally…

I had no doubt from the get-go Max Verstappen would win the F1 Drivers World Championship this year and having now seen the “real” RB20, my initial thoughts are confirmed. With Perez seemingly on top of the car now, the Constructors’ also looks put to bed. This leaves Ferrari as my favourite for second, with only McLaren as possible challenger. Someone switch off the lights please.