Formula One: Chinese Grand Prix preview

Lewis fastest in free practice one, Schumacher in FP2… but it’s what’s been happening off the track that’s been the news since we were last here, not all of it entirely palatable. Shame, just when it was shaping up to be an insanely great season.

So there will be a race in Bahrain next weekend. For now, anyhow. We’ll leave you to make up your own mind on whether the FIA, the teams and Bernie are doing the right thing in lending the Bahraini ‘government’ the implied international endorsement of a sporting event we are repeatedly told is on a scale commensurate with the Olympics or the World Cup, when even the most benevolent commentator would admit there are a few issues it might consider of greater importance than hosting an F1 race.

What we will say is the tenor of all the F1 communications — “it’s not about legitimacy or otherwise of the protests, it’s about OUR safety” — do seem to be avoiding the point. As does the sight of drivers when questioned directly about the morality of racing in Bahrain feeling obliged to give a ‘no comment.’ Sunday Afternoon Club has always been a fan of Damon Hill, and we moved his poster to a more prominent position on the SAC bedroom wall after his appearance on Radio 4’s Today last week. There’s substance to that man.

In other news… Well, what to make of Lotus? Head on over to Lotus Cars’ Facebook page ( to read what reads like a rather late night posting repudiating rumours that it’s all starting to unravel in Norfolk, following the sale of its stake in parent company Proton by the Malaysian government last year.

Gossip-mongering started last week when the Lotus Formula One team announced the end of its deal with Group Lotus, with the implication that venture capitalists Genii Capital, owners of the team, didn’t want to put their hands in their pockets anymore. Au contraire, responded Group Lotus, the deal is still alive and, what’s more, Genii has a £30m loan from Proton and the assets of the team are security. That would explain why even Genii are saying there is no plan to change the name of the team or the cars.

But it does seem something will have to give. There is still speculation that Group Lotus has a large debt, continues to operate at a loss and, if it is to bring its six new cars to production, will need to find many millions more in investment. Watch this space – and remember nobody wants Lotus to succeed as a brand more than us.

And finally, as if it didn’t have enough on its plate, Lotus formally protested Mercedes’ trick double DRS system today… The appeal was thrown out, so the teams are faced with the choice of fielding another, more effective protest, or copying the system which stalls the front wing when the DRS flap on the rear wing stalls that one. They’ll need to do something. Michael Schumacher looked very much like… Michael Schumacher in China this morning, ending a rainy second practice almost two-tenths quicker than Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis was quickest in the first session, but it is he and Schumacher that looked to have the best sorted cars. Lewis however won’t be starting in pole no matter how quickly he qualifies tomorrow; a gearbox change after Malaysia means a five-place grid penalty come the race on Sunday, which will also be the first of the season to be shown live on the BBC this year.

And here’s your BBC weekend schedule:

Sat 14 April

Practice 3
3.55 – 5.05am BBC Red Button/Online/5 live sports extra

Qualifying live
6.00 – 8.30am BBC One + HD – LIVE (from 6.55 live on Radio 5 live sports extra)

Qualifying repeat
1.00 – 2.15pm BBC Two + HD – RE-RUN

Sun 15 April

Grand Prix live
GP 7.00 – 10.15am BBC One + HD (from 7.45am live on Radio 5 live)

Grand Prix repeat
2.50 – 4.50pm BBC One + HD – RE-RUN

7.00 – 8.00pm BBC Two + HD (rpt GP H’Lights 1.45am – 2.45am BBC Three)

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I’m sorry but getting a penalty for changing ur gearbox is a load of BS

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Button will be on pole if Lewis has a 5 place grid drop! Schumacher has only got 1 point so far so I can’t see him being fast in the race.

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S*** happens, sucks for Lewis but awesome for a few. He needs to convert the poles though, Saturday means nothing if you can’t convert. Just judging by the FP2 times, RBR are back on it. FI are looking solid, Lotus and Ferrari aren’t looking good.

Would be awesome to see Schuey on pole.

Still, FP2 is FP2.

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Since Michael Schumacher returned to Formula One, he hasn’t had the opportunity to win. 2010 can easily be ruled out because the Merc was super slow. 2011 was the year that everyone failed due to the superiority of Adrian Newey, Christian Horner, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, and, because of Mercedes’ rather lackadaisical start to the season, it was impossible to think of a win for either of the Silver Arrows. This year, Ross Brawn was given a good budget from Mercedes Benz, and he had assembled a star studded technical team. In Australia Michael was retired and in Malaysia he got knocked. So my prediction, 1. MSC 2. HAM 3. BUT 4. RAI and 5. VET

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Unless your prediction was for qualifying, I don’t see how michael will have the chance to win. The mercedes will eat through it’s tyres again and cars will start to pass him as the grip goes. Also, with restricted DRS the mclarens, red bulls and lotus’ seem to have better race pace. Even Michael can’t keep evryone behind him.

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hope Fernado the great houndi Alonso, can produce a big
magic trick and get some points in this race.
that Ferrari is awful, and need a major overhaul soon.

good luck to Sauber, and hope they get some more
points this race.

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