It took Formula 1 two races, a 90 minute meeting and another meeting to realise how badly they got qualifying wrong.
One could point towards the governance structure of the sport and the political theatre allegedly going on behind the scenes, but really this was a massive cock up by the people who are supposed to be veterans running the sport.
Set aside political interests and the whole issue just looks daft. You can understand why they might want to make experimental changes to weekend format, after all we have 22 races this year so anything that didn’t work would be quickly forgotten.
Why F1 didn’t just pretend like it didn’t happen after the disastrous scenes in Australia where Lewis Hamilton could’ve waved his own chequered flag, in favour of praising the new tyre rules which have allowed more interesting races and faster lap times I don’t know.
Bad publicity works when the product isn’t up to scratch. But the amount of positives that have come out of the last two race weekends being overshadowed by this nonsense is rather depressing.
Fernando Alonso looks to be still in doubt this weekend. We’ll probably have a result on whether he is deemed fit to race by the FIA by the time this goes out, but I must once again praise the efforts of Stoffel Vandoorne. He delivered on everything I expected of him and frankly when I was glancing at the timing screens his abbreviated name just seemed to look apt among all the other drivers.
I really hope he gets a drive in 2017. Even though this sport hasn’t exactly demonstrated the cut throat mentality people associate it with in the last couple of weeks, I can see the silly season being memorable this year.
The teams will have the Super Soft available to them this weekend for the first time in China. I was expecting Pirelli to bring the harder compounds this weekend given the circuits history with graining, but it seems they’re confident enough that the drivers can get a reasonable amount of stint lengths without the tyres falling away early.
We’re likely looking at a three stopper for most unless you stocked up on Mediums in order to go longer in the middle stint. Hamilton has gone for the more conservative option by bringing four sets of the Medium, while Rosberg has went for three sets in favour of an extra set of Soft tyres.
All eyes will be on Hamilton this weekend to convert a pole into a win having lost out due to his own mistakes the last two. Rosberg took his maiden Grand Prix win around the Shanghai Circuit and even though he hasn’t won’t the last two races held here, with the roll he is on he could take another consecutive victory and add to his tally of five.
Bottas and Massa have stocked up on the Super Soft tyres after finding out that their car doesn’t work too good on the Medium tyres. I would expect to see an aggressive strategy from them, but I’ve done that in past and they alway seem to shy away from it in favour of a conservative option. Hopefully this weekend we can see them in the mix, after all the talk surrounding Haas.
Notably Haas have also brought the same amount of Super Soft tyres, since their car also favours the softer rubber. It’s a nice little all-rounder the VF-16, so we will probably see them fighting in the top end of the points spectrum again.
Manor may also stand a chance if Pascal Wehrlein can pull something out of the bag in qualifying – which is set to be in wet conditions according to weather reports – and get a good start. Some of the drivers commented on how fast their car is in a straight line, and with the high speed nature of this circuit I expect to see some of the same. Their nearest challenge, Sauber have reacted tyre-wise by bringing an extra set of the Mediums apiece of their drivers, so I expect to see them going on a longer two-stop strategy.
Elsewhere, barring any sort of problems in practice or during the race, we’ll be in for an interesting mix of strategies. If weather reports are to be accurate I expect qualifying to be all the talk pre-race again, but for all the reasons I described above.