Chinese GP has always been good to me, says Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton has enjoyed more success in the race on the outskirts of Shanghai than any other driver, winning it for an unprecedented fifth time last year
Lewis Hamilton has seen Formula One title rival Sebastian Vettel open the season with two straight wins, but Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix offers the Briton an ideal opportunity to fire up his challenge with a maiden win of the year. The 33-year-old has enjoyed more success in the race on the outskirts of Shanghai than any other driver, winning it for an unprecedented fifth time last year.
He needs to make it win number six on Sunday, with Vettel having won the season's opening two races in Australia and Bahrain to open up a 17-point lead over Hamilton in the overall standings. "It's always been a good track for me," said the Mercedes driver, who finished second at Melbourne's Albert Park and third at the Sakhir desert track, after having started the latter event ninth due to a penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change. "So I really hope that I'm able to climb the ladder and get back to where we've been working towards being in the last two races." Mercedes have won five of the last six races in China, the last four of them in succession. Ferrari's last triumph at the Shanghai International Circuit came in 2013 with Fernando Alonso.
But talk of favourites has gone out of the window, with Mercedes the team to beat in Australia and Ferrari the benchmark in Bahrain. As a result, either Sebastian Vettel or Kimi Raikkonen could well break the German marque's stranglehold in China, where red is considered a lucky colour. The momentum is certainly with the Italian glamour team. With his triumph in Bahrain, Vettel became the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher to open the season with successive wins for the Maranello-based squad.
The last time a driver failed to win the championship after winning the opening two races of a season was in 1982, when Alain Prost started lost out to Keke Rosberg. "It's a tricky one to get everything right," said Vettel, also a four-time champion, looking ahead to the Chinese race after his Bahrain win. "But if we do, like this weekend, and we find the sweet spot, then I'm pretty confident that we can do well there as well."
Red Bull could also make it a three-way fight at the front. The former champions were unable to show their hand in Bahrain with both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen retiring within the opening five laps. While the Milton Keynes-based squad didn't have the pace to fight for pole in qualifying, both drivers felt the team's challenger had the pace to fight for the win. "We were there two races but it's no good having maybe the fastest car if we're not winning with it," said Ricciardo. "We've just got to put it all together. "So yeah, hopefully a smooth weekend and then really see what the potential is like. "But if we can be fast here then maybe we've got a good car in all conditions."