Red Bull drivers ready for unique challenge in Shanghai

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Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo are preparing for the unique challenge of the Shanghai International Circuit at next weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, with the race being an important one in the history of the team.

Back in 2009, the team won its first ever grand prix in China as Vettel led home teammate Mark Webber for a Red Bull one-two. Five years and four world titles later, the German driver still has fond memories of racing in Shanghai.

“The grand prix in China is still something special for me, because I won my first race there with Red Bull Racing in 2009,” Vettel explained. “Due to its size, the circuit is unique. The wide stretches mean there are many possible places and opportunities to overtake. Also, the large run-off areas ensure the highest standard of safety. Even the usually narrow pit complex offers plenty of space in Shanghai.”

Having scored his first points for Red Bull in Bahrain, Daniel Ricciardo will be hoping for a repeat performance in China, but he still has fond memories of his first race there back in 2006.

“The back straight provides a good overtaking opportunity into the hairpin but it is quite long,” he said. “I always think back to when I came here as a kid in Formula BMW – massive hair and lots of enthusiasm – and trust me, then, it was the sort of straight where I’d have definitely been reaching for a book if I’d had one! It’s a bit different driving it in an F1 car.”

After a tough winter, Red Bull has finally found its feet and is now back fighting at the front of the field. That said, the worrying gap to Mercedes could mean that any hopes Vettel and the team has of winning a fifth straight title might already be over.

2014 marks the tenth anniversary of the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix, and although Formula 1 may not have made the splash that some had expected, it has certainly been well received, and China is an important market to have a foothold in.

Toro Rosso at crossroads after Kvyat’s point, Hartley’s strong debut

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In a weekend with something to prove at Circuit of The Americas, Daniil Kvyat rose to the occasion with what he called “his best race of the season for sure” at the United States Grand Prix.

But it may not be enough for the Russian to have saved his seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso for the three final races this year.

Meanwhile, New Zealander Brendon Hartley capped off his roller-coaster debut weekend in Formula 1 with a solid 13th place finish after starting from the rear of the grid, learning as the race went on and bringing home his Toro Rosso chassis to the flag.

Toro Rosso faces a dilemma of three drivers available but only two seats to fill for the final three Grands Prix, with the Mexican Grand Prix coming up just next week.

Frenchman Pierre Gasly will be back after missing Austin due to his Super Formula commitments at Suzuka in Japan, but ultimately that went for naught as the races were canceled due to a typhoon.

Kvyat qualified 12th, was promoted to 11th by way of grid penalties and ended 10th, scoring a point for only the third race this year and first time since coming ninth in the Spanish Grand Prix back in May.

It was a weekend where he would have been expected to outdo Hartley, and did so, but not by a massive margin. And he was already coming in with a track time disadvantage, losing out in FP1 as Indonesian Formula 2 driver Sean Gelael ran in his chassis.

As it was, he rated his weekend performance highly and didn’t do his chances of staying in the car any harm.

Speaking to NBCSN after the race, Kvyat said, “Yeah, it was a perfect race. I did everything well. Brought the points home. It was close with (Felipe) Massa.

“We had some energy release issues on the engine. But it was a massive weekend. It was great. I really enjoyed myself. It was a good job by the team to keep it together with very limited running.

Hartley built up confidence throughout the weekend as he learned the car, the Pirelli tires and how an F1 race races versus an endurance race that he’d been used to doing for several years.

Having coming into the weekend with no expectations and just taking the race session-by-session, he felt good at the end of it.

“There’s so many little things to reflect on,” he told NBCSN. “I’ll put the eyes at rest and process it all. I did the standing start and it wasn’t the best… it’s been a long time.

“But yeah, (you’re learning) in terms of following in traffic, what 20 laps on these tires means, how much you can push it. I’m pretty satisfied. The pace was pretty strong. I made the mistake of getting passed by (Lance) Stroll. I couldn’t pass him back. Lots of challenges. I hope I can get another shot at it.

“Up until this moment… I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to do the job. I’m really relaxed. Now there might be some conversations.”

Toro Rosso figures to reveal its Mexican Grand Prix driver lineup early this week.