Chinese GP: subdued Sunday

Subdued. That’s the word that came to mind as I walked through the paddock an hour after the finish. It’s true that the vast acreage of concrete did little to engender atmosphere as the teams packed up but there was no buzz about the place, certainly not like Fuji the week before.

McLaren seem to be adopting a policy of avoiding all displays of triumphalism. No surprise, I suppose, when you consider that a 17-point lead disappeared this time last year.  Even when Lewis Hamilton climbed
from his car in parc ferme, there was none of the leaping about you would expect after banishing the memories of a disastrous weekend in Japan.
McLaren seem to be keeping their collective head down just in case the FIA find some fault.

This race itself was the bore of the age with just one incident at the first corner and a couple of passes in the early laps. Not that Hamilton cared about that. From the moment he got a perfect start and safely negotiated the first corner, the worst was over. What followed was a demonstration as he edged away from the Ferraris.

The mood in the Ferrari garage was one that came close to bewilderment. The red cars simply were not on the pace. We’re only talking about less than a tenth of a second a lap, but that’s what counts in such a seriously competitive season which could see McLaren struggle at the final round in Brazil. But, for the moment, the Ferrari engineers had no answers just when they needed them most.

Over in the interview room, Hamilton looked like a little boy lost in white as he sat between the bright red of the Ferrari drivers. Attempting to stir some controversy a journalist asked Raikkonen if it was tough, as world champion, to have to put in a lap that was two seconds slower in order to have his team-mate overtake. Raikkonen’s expression didn’t change. It never does. He stared unblinking and said he knew what Ferrari expected and, anyway, it made no difference to him. Nothing does.

Hamilton, when asked, said, if in the same position, he and Kovalainen would probably do the same thing. Quite right too.

But would the FIA have remained as impassive as they did on this subject if it had been two McLarens apparently breaking the rule about team orders interfering with the outcome of the race? The answer, I hope, is that Ferrari did not issue any orders and Raikkonen made the move of his own volition in return for Massa having given up victory in Brazil last year so that Kimi could win the title.

But would McLaren be prepared to risk it? In the current climate of being afraid to raise their head above the parapet, I’m not so sure.

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