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Chinese Grand Prix - Five talking points

Chinese Grand Prix - Five talking points
© Reuters
Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix will be Formula One's 1,000th world championship race.

The Formula One circus has touched down in China for the third round of the new season.

Lewis Hamilton trails Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by one point in the standings following the Briton's fortunate victory last time out in Bahrain.

Here, Press Association Sport dissects the talking points ahead of Sunday's race.

1. One thousand up for F1

Formula One will celebrate its 1,000th world championship race in China this weekend. Although Shanghai is a fine city, the track – located 20 miles to the north-west of downtown – is a soulless venue.

It is also a race which is relatively new to the calendar, too, having joined in 2004. F1 chiefs wanted to stage the landmark round at Silverstone, the venue for the first world championship event in 1950.

But bosses of the Northamptonshire track feared Britain's unpredictable spring-time weather would be a turn-off for fans, leading to a drop in revenue, and without a financial incentive to move from their traditional July slot, they did not want to play ball.

Despite its rather grim location, the Shanghai circuit has, however, thrown up a number of decent races, and the sport will hope for another eye-catching spectacle in its 1,000th running.

2. The pressure's on Vettel

Given the events in Bahrain a fortnight ago, it does not feel overly-dramatic to say Sebastian Vettel's season hinges on his performance this weekend.

Ferrari had the fastest car at the last race, but it was newbie, Charles Leclerc, and not Vettel, who delivered the goods, the Monegasque robbed of a thoroughly-deserved victory following a late engine problem. Vettel was not just slower than his team-mate, he spun while duelling with Lewis Hamilton too. His fourth such error in 10 appearances.

The Shanghai circuit has suited the Italian team in recent years, and if Vettel wants to keep his number one status intact, he has to produce by showing Ferrari he is still their main man.

3. Can Mercedes rediscover Melbourne pace?

Mercedes may have started the season with consecutive one-two finishes, but that does not portray an accurate picture of their pace. In Melbourne, they were miles quicker than anybody else, but in Bahrain they were second-best to Ferrari.

Despite the 12-hour overnight flight from London, Hamilton was in a chipper mood as he was greeted by his army of fanatical Chinese supporters at Shanghai's Pudong Airport on Wednesday morning.

But the Mercedes star will know that he is in for another fight this weekend in his quest for a sixth world crown.

4. McLaren looking to build on Bahrain show

Teenager Lando Norris delivered McLaren's best result in more than a year after he drove to sixth at the last race, and given the misery subjected to the British team in recent seasons, they could be forgiven for hoping they may finally be turning a corner.

But Norris and his McLaren team need to show that their encouraging display in Bahrain was not a one-off to ensure the air of optimism which has greeted their start to the new season does not deflate.

5. Can Red Bull kick-start their season?

Max Verstappen might have hoped to be in the championship mix this year, but on the evidence of Red Bull's showing in Bahrain, he may be restricted to merely a supporting role.

The Dutchman qualified behind both Ferrari and Mercedes cars in Bahrain, more than a second adrift of pole-sitter Leclerc, but just five thousandths of a second ahead of Kevin Magnussen's Haas.

Daniel Ricciardo won here for Red Bull last year, following a late safety car, a stop for fresh tyres, and a number of fine passing moves. And it is likely that Verstappen will be relying on further strategical unpredictability if he is going to beat the silver and red machines this weekend.

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Max Verstappen pictured on March 29, 2019
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