Daniel Ricciardo’s future one among many compelling storylines forward of F1 Chinese language GP


My how the world has modified, each inside System 1 and out of doors of hte sport, since April of 2019.

This week marks the return of the Chinese language Grand Prix, final held in 2019. The final time the grid arrived at Shanghai Worldwide Circuit there was a well-recognized identify atop the Drivers’ Championship standings, however maybe one my may not count on given current developments.

Valtteri Bottas.

That’s proper, when the grid arrived for the 2019 Chinese language Grand Prix it was Bottas atop the Drivers’ Championship, one level forward of his Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton.

That’s not the one main distinction between F1 in 2019 and F1 right now. Sebastian Vettel was nonetheless on the grid, driving alongside Charles Leclerc at Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo was in his first season at Renault — now Alpine — as Nico Hülkenberg’s teammate. Ricciardo had introduced the prior summer time that he was leaving Pink Bull, and the driving force who took his spot subsequent to Max Verstappen? Pierre Gasly.

Another notable details from that race? Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. had been teammates at McLaren, Fernando Alonso was in the midst of two years away from the game whereas Kimi Räikkönen was driving for Alfa Romeo, and the race noticed a Mercedes front-row lockout, with Hamilton ending forward of Bottas.

Verstappen completed fourth, nonetheless chasing the sixth win of his profession. He enters the 2024 Chinese language Grand Prix sitting on 57 victories.

And only a few had ever heard of COVID-19.

Listed below are among the different main storylines dealing with F1 because the grid heads again to China.

F1 Grand Prix of Japan

Photograph by Qian Jun/MB Media/Getty Pictures

The fascinating driver switch market

F1 performed one other spherical of “Driver Musical Chairs” final week.

When the music stopped, Fernando Alonso was sitting in a familar seat, after a transfer that might ripple past his present workforce.

Alonso and Aston Martin introduced late final week that the driving force had reached settlement on a brand new “multi-year” deal to stay with Aston Martin for 2025 and past. The choice removes one of many extra intriguing choices from the checklist of free agent drivers for 2025, and in addition eliminates a possible touchdown spot for Carlos Sainz Jr., who has gotten off to an incredible begin this 12 months with three podiums in three races (Sainz missed the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix following an emergency appendectomy).

Following Alonso’s determination, rumors about Sainz’s subsequent seat kicked into overdrive. Lawrence Barretto of F1TV reported that Sainz was nonetheless in play for maybe a seat at Sauber, earlier than the workforce turns into the Audi works workforce in 2026, and a possible return to Pink Bull. Nevertheless, Barretto additionally talked about Williams as a possible touchdown spot for the present Ferrari driver, who will see Lewis Hamilton take his present seat subsequent 12 months.

Then late final week, experiences from Italian media shops surfaced that Sainz had been supplied a deal by Mercedes to take Hamilton’s present seat, and drive alongside George Russell for at the least 2025. There are experiences of Sainz in search of a two-year deal at Mercedes, whereas the workforce is on the lookout for a “one-plus-one” deal for Sainz, giving them the choice to maybe promote phenom Andrea Kimi Antonelli to Mercedes for 2026.

Whether or not these experiences are true or not stays to be seen, however the driver switch market will stay a storyline deep into this season, and maybe even into subsequent at this fee.

Zhou Guanyu’s first F1 race at dwelling

One other distinction between the 2019 Chinese language Grand Prix and this 12 months’s?

Zhou Guanyu was driving in F2 that 12 months.

This weekend marks the primary dwelling race for the lone Chinese language driver on the grid, as Zhou now will get to race in entrance of a hometown crowd.

As you would possibly count on, he’s hoping to place in a great efficiency in entrance of his supporters.

“Whereas that is positively not the beginning of the 12 months that I hoped for, we hold working exhausting as we all know issues will enhance: our general tempo regarded good, and my focus now could be on the preparation for my first dwelling Grand Prix,” mentioned Zhou following the Japanese Grand Prix. “With the workforce trackside and again on the manufacturing unit, we’ll investigation our points and work on them to be in a greater place, so I’ll be preventing for factors at dwelling in China — in Saturday’s Dash Race in addition to the Race on Sunday.”

First dash race of 2024

That may be a good segue to the subsequent speaking level this week.

The season’s first Dash Race.

This 12 months will see six Dash dates on the F1 calendar, together with Miami at first of Might, the Austrian Grand Prix in late June, the USA Grand Prix in October, the São Paulo Grand Prix in November, and the Qatar Grand Prix later that month.

However the Chinese language Grand Prix kicks all of them off this weekend.

As well as, F1 has tweaked the Dash Race format this season. On Dash Races final weekend there was a single follow session on Friday, adopted by qualifying for the Sunday Grand Prix later that day. Saturday introduced the “Dash Saturday” format, with a devoted qualifying session for the Dash Race adopted by the Dash Race itself.

This 12 months there’ll nonetheless be the primary follow session on Friday, adopted by qualifying for the Dash Race later that day. Saturday will start with the Dash Race, adopted by qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

As well as, parc ferme guidelines have been tweaked this season for Dash Weekends. Following qualifying on Friday for the Dash Race, the vehicles shall be below parc ferme situations till the Dash Race is concluded. After that, the groups are free to make any changes for qualifying for the Grand Prix.

This will enable groups to keep away from what occurred at the USA Grand Prix, when each Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc had been disqualified — shedding out on podium finishes — when a post-race inspection famous extreme put on on every of their planks below their vehicles.

Why McLaren could be on the again foot this weekend

In contrast to final 12 months, McLaren has loved an incredible begin to the 2024 season. The workforce is coming off four-straight races the place each Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri completed within the factors, and the workforce heads to China sitting third within the Constructors’ Championship, 35 factors away from fourth-place Mercedes.

Nevertheless, replicating that success in Shanghai could also be a tall order.

Whereas the MCL38 has picked off the place its predecessor completed the season, seeing McLaren on the entrance foot the primary 4 races of the season, the Chinese language Grand Prix could be a matter of “harm limitation” for the workforce. Why? It begins with the structure of Shanghai Worldwide Circuit:

Here’s a have a look at the circuit, courtesy of F1.com. Look initially on the first sector, highlighted in crimson above. These low-speed corners might show tough for the MCL38, as slower-speed corners haven’t been McLaren’s energy this 12 months.

Whereas they might discover some fertile floor within the faster second sector, the third sector — highlighted in yellow — presents up much more slow-speed corners.

And with this being a Dash Race weekend, McLaren is not going to have a ton of time to determine issues out earlier than the lap occasions rely for actual.

“The difficulties in China positively shall be related to not having been there for a very long time,” acknowledged Staff Principal Andrea Stella on the Japanese Grand Prix. “Difficulties may also be seen from the chance aspect as a result of everybody may have difficulties which suggests like you may get a bonus. I believe the place I’m a bit of extra prudent about China is that there’s a lot low velocity and so many hairpins that positively shouldn’t be the most effective observe for us at this stage of the season.”

“So, I believe China could also be a little bit of a harm limitation for us after which from Miami onward, hopefully we begin sort of a greater stage of this 2024 season and extra to come back within the second a part of the season,” Stella continued.

How McLaren handles this weekend — and whether or not they can discover a approach to selecting up some factors on a observe not catered to their strengths — shall be an enormous storyline to look at.

F1 Grand Prix of Japan

Photograph by Qian Jun/MB Media/Getty Pictures

Daniel Ricciardo below strain

Might Shanghai really be the top of the road for Daniel Ricciardo at Visa Money App RB F1 Staff?

It sound preposterous, however then once more Pink Bull has not been recognized for its endurance with drivers, even veterans like Ricciardo. With plenty of drivers of their group eying spots on the grid — equivalent to Liam Lawson — and a few selections to be revamped the course of this season into subsequent, Ricciardo is actually a driver who wants a great efficiency or two to really feel higher about his standing on the grid.

Actually, on the finish of March experiences surfaced that if Ricciardo failed to enhance on his kind over the upcoming two races (Japan and China) then there was a chance that Lawson may very well be in his seat for the Miami Grand Prix. Whereas subsequent reporting dismissed these rumors, Ricciardo arrived at Suzuka clearly below strain to enhance.

He didn’t end a lap.

Now all of those experiences may very well be wildy untimely, and whereas they make for compelling studying they may very well be properly off the mark. However with Lawson looming within the storage (once more, partake within the Underground F1 “drink each time the digicam cuts to Lawson after a Ricciardo mistake” recreation at your personal threat), the clock may really be ticking on Ricciardo’s time at VCARB.

Which means he would possibly need to be on the entrance foot in China.