2013 Chinese Grand Prix Preview

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The three week break has done little to extinguish any talk about “multi 21” and the internal battle at Red Bull Racing, but as we return to the far east for the Chinese Grand Prix, the stage is set for a thrilling race on Sunday.

Chinese Grand Prix Talking Points

Webber requires a strong result

Just when you thought the multi 21 debate was over, Sebastian Vettel has today said that Mark Webber didn’t deserve to win in Malaysia, reigniting the battle within Red Bull. Webber will be keen on beating Vettel to silence the critics and, most importantly, his teammate. If there ever was a time for the Australian to pull a result out of the bag, then this is it, although the head-to-head stats between the drivers in China during their time at Red Bull together reads 3-1 in Vettel’s favor.

Ferrari and Mercedes look to bridge the gap

Fernando Alonso’s retirement in Malaysia has been seen as an embarrassing event for both the driver and the team, but Ferrari will need to move on in China. Typically, the team struggles in the early season, yet Felipe Massa’s two strong scores will give them hope of a good result in China. Mercedes will look to move on from their own team orders debacle, and the track will provide many happy memories from the team’s first win last season.

Who is leading the early season development race?

The three week break has given teams their first chance to work on upgrades and new parts for their cars. McLaren claim they have made steps forward following their worst start to a season in over a decade, whilst Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg is confident that his team has made big strides during the break. Alternatively, Williams have written off China and Bahrain, claiming that they are waiting until Spain for their first major package: news that both Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas will undoubtedly grimace at.

Dry running could finally reveal the pecking order

Both Australia and Malaysia saw an element of wet running over the race weekend, masking the true pace of each team in places. However, the forecast for Shanghai does not mention any rain, meaning that we could finally see where each team stands in 2013 – could being the key word.

A big weekend for Chinese motorsport and Ma Qing Hua

The 2013 Chinese Grand Prix will be the tenth running of the race, but this year’s event is particularly special: Ma Qing Hua will become the first Chinese driver to compete at his home grand prix, deputizing for Caterham’s Charles Pic in Free Practice 1 on Friday. If he can impress, and if the rumors about Pic’s financial stability are vindicated, then it may not be long until China has its first full time Formula One driver.

Track: Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai (5.451km)
Laps: 56
Corners: 16
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:32.238s (2004)
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Hard)
2012 Winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2012 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2012 Fastest Lap: Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) – 1:39.960
DRS Zones: Main straight (T16 to T1); T13 to T14

Friday – Free Practice 1: 10:00am local/10:00pm ET (Thursday)
Friday – Free Practice 2: 14:00pm local/02:00am ET
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 11:00am local/11:00pm ET (Friday)
Saturday – Qualifying: 14:00pm local/02:00am ET
Sunday – Race: 15:00pm local/03:00am ET

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.