So it proved, with more than enough overtaking to keep fans on their feet for 90 solid minutes. However, a balance is necessary if the art, effectively Formula 1’s currency, is not to be devalued. Consider it in football terms: two or three goals per match are thrilling; a goal a minute detracts from the skill required to plant the ball in the back of the net.
Interestingly Ferrari’s Sporting Director Stefano Domenicali was of the opinion that degrading tyres contributed to China’s nailbiting drama more than the effects of KERS and the DRS moveable wing. Certainly, the crucial overtaking manoeuvres came towards the end of the 56-lap race, when most drivers had shot rubber – some more than others, including championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who lost out to Lewis Hamilton with less than five laps remaining!
Thus we have now seen two winners in three races, suggesting the season will not be the Red Bull benefit many so pessimistically believed after the opening round. That said, SebVet did start from pole, and there were two blue cars on the Shanghai podium.
If Hamilton was the winner, the man of the race certainly was Mark Webber. The Australian misjudged his pace and tyre compounds in Saturday’s first qualifying session, gridding 18th. A long afternoon was on the cards, particularly after he made up only a single position in 15 laps, but thereafter his picked them off one by one to end just a couple of seconds shy of team-mate Vettel.
Mercedes also impressed with its new-found pace. Nico Rosberg led during mid-race, but he left China without a maiden victory after his strategy failed to stand up to the McLaren/Red Bull onslaught. The son of 1982 champion Keke did, however, again manage to outpace team-mate Michael Schumacher on his way to fifth behind early leader Jenson Button (McLaren).
So where does all this leave PUMA’s partner team Ferrari? Believe it or not, although Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, who finished sixth and seventh respectively, had a challenging weekend due to what the team deems ‘lack of downforce’, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
A major aerodynamic upgrade is expected for the next race in Turkey in three weeks, and the team is optimistic it can at least close the gap to the front. Hamilton’s victory means Vettel’s points advantage has been slightly eroded, bringing him slightly closer to the Ferrari drivers. At this stage of the season every bit helps.
However, tyre supplier Pirelli expects an even tougher race than experienced in Malaysia on account of Istanbul’s abrasive surface and high speed nature, coupled with expected +30°C temperatures. The race is likely to be more unpredictable than even Shanghai.
With Felipe and Ferrari being Turkey’s most prolific winner (the combination has three wins in six races held to date), who knows what could happen there?