Chinese Grand Prix Preview – Vodafone McLaren Merecdes
“It’s always best to put a disappointing weekend behind you, and, as always, I’ll make a positive of the experience in Malaysia and learn from it. With China only a few days away, it’s the best possible way to move on: I’m already throwing myself into my preparations – I’ll spend a few days training and come back feeling fresh for Shanghai.
“What’s been most encouraging is that our pace is still extremely strong: Jenson drove a fantastic race and was able to narrow the gap to Sebastian during the closing laps, and I think we have the pace to continue taking the battle to Red Bull this weekend.
“In both races, we’ve seen that Red Bull hasn’t been able to achieve its full potential, and I think it’s important that we keep applying the pressure to make sure they can’t afford to make mistakes.
“I’ve also been told by someone on the team that, of all the drivers in Formula 1 to have only driven for one team, I’m now the driver who’s raced in the most grands prix. I’m told that Jim Clark drove 72 races for Lotus, and Malaysia was my 73rd race with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.
“And it also makes me feel very humble – I never saw Jim Clark race, but I know that he’ll always be remembered as one of the greats, and as a loyal Lotus driver. Loyalty’s extremely important and I’m proud to be mentioned in the same breath as him.
“It only gives me even more determination to bounce back stronger than ever.”
“I really love the Shanghai circuit and the city itself. Unfortunately, I’m only visiting for a couple of days, but the city has a great vibe – there are a lot of fantastic restaurants. Although I won’t get to see too much, I’m really looking forward to China.
“As for the track, it’s a good modern circuit with a couple of interesting touches. The first corner is quite unique: you enter it at full-throttle in seventh gear, then come down through the gears as the corner continually tightens. It’s a very long corner – it’s all about being patient – and there’s a little bump right on the entry, which can make it quite tricky too.
“Along the massive back straight, even without DRS, I still think there’ll be plenty of opportunity for overtaking – especially if we see the same sort of close racing as we witnessed in Malaysia. If that’s where they put the DRS zone for the race, then I think we’ll see some spectacular passing – and possibly even re-passing – down that back straight.
“Off the back of two successive podium finishes for the team, we’re not only hopeful of maintaining our finishing record, but of improving it too. We’ve made no secret of our desire to take the fight to Red Bull, and we’re fully aware that stronger opposition will make it harder for them to have a smooth and uninterrupted weekend.
“As we expected, Malaysia showed that the sharp-end of the grid is incredibly competitive, and that there are at least four teams that can expect to fight for the podium this weekend.
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
“Coming just a week after Malaysia, it’s essential that we maintain the thrust of our development programme in order to further close the gap to the front.
“To achieve that, we’ll be spending Friday evaluating a number of new components alongside our regular tyre and set-up programmes. We have a number of new parts that we want to evaluate on Friday – either for potential incorporation into our programme for the Shanghai race, or as part of longer-term development strategy.
“The development race is where this year’s world championship will be won or lost.
“But, equally, we ought to take nothing for granted: I’m extremely pleased that we’ve managed to achieve 100 per cent reliability in both Australia and Malaysia, and that our KERS Hybrid system, engineered so well by everyone at Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines, has worked faultlessly during the first two grands prix.
“For this race, we know we have to step up the pressure: we’re looking to hit the ground running on Friday, maintain that momentum through Saturday, and be in with the best possible chance of taking victory on Sunday.”