Formula 1 celebrates this weekend in China the 1,000th Grand Prix in its history, a race to which Ferrari and its young Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc arrive with a desire for revenge after the cruel end of Bahrain a fortnight ago.
In his second career at the wheel of a Ferrari and his 23rd in his short career in Formula 1, Leclerc, at 21 years old, achieved pole position on Saturday and was on his way to his first victory in the discipline on Sunday, when the engine of his car began to fail with 10 laps to go and was overtaken by the Mercedes of race winner Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
“I hope the car is as good as in Bahrain in order to continue fighting for the results we deserve,” said Leclerc soberly, who finished on the third step of the podium in Bahrain, in a statement released by his team.
At least Ferrari was able to detect the fault: a short in an injection system control unit. This failure, which the Scuderia had never suffered, will not cause an engine change, limited to a precise number during the season and if it is exceeded, the pilot receives a penalty of several places on the starting grid.
– “Figures do not reflect everything” –
After years of dominance by Mercedes in China (6 ‘poles’ and 5 wins between 2012 and 2017) and by Briton Lewis Hamilton (4 ‘poles’ and 3 victories with the German team, 6 and 5 in his total career) , Forces appear to have balanced at the Shanghai circuit following German Sebastian Vettel’s pole position for Ferrari last year, followed by Australian Daniel Ricciardo’s triumph thanks to better strategy from Red Bull.
“In the past, I had some good races here with Ferrari and I was very close to victory,” recalled the German driver, who has not had a good start to the season in the first two races and who spun in Shakir when trying to avoid the overtaking of Hamilton, his great rival for the world title. “Maybe this time we have that bit of luck that makes the difference.”
After their two consecutive doubles, in Australia and Bahrain, Mercedes clearly dominates the constructors’ classification, with 39 points of advantage over their Italian rivals, but the head of the Silver Arrows, Toto Wolff, warns that “the figures do not reflect everything” , that is to say, the supposed equality between the two main brands.
Despite his undeniable success in Melbourne, “the truth is that we were not that fast in qualifying and in the race in Bahrain,” admitted the Austrian. “The Ferraris were considerably faster on the straights, which translated into several tenths of a difference per lap.”
A point in favor of Ferrari on the Chinese track, characterized by… its long straights.
– Celebrations in Shanghai –
ANDIn terms of the Drivers’ World Championship standings, it is led by Finn Valtteri Bottas, winner of the first race of the year, with a point ahead of his teammate Hamilton, winner of the second race.
The Dutchman Max Verstappen, at the wheel of the Red Bull now equipped with a Honda engine, took advantage of the errors of Ferrari and Vettel to climb to the provisional third place, with a point of advantage over Leclerc and five over Vettel, although he Finds 17 units from the head.
On this occasion, the drivers will have a greater motivation than usual for inscribing their names as the winner of the 1,000th Grand Prix of Formula 1, 70 years after the Italian Giuseppe Farina (Alfa Romeo) won the inaugural race, held on 13 May 1950 in the UK.
Concerts, recreational activities for the public, demonstrations of single-seaters and live broadcasting of the festivities organized for this event have been programmed off the track.
A blessing for the organization, as China is one of the markets that the American company Liberty Media, which has owned Formula 1 since January 2017, and several of the manufacturers have the greatest interest in developing. AFP