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F1 Preview: 2016 Chinese Grand Prix

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The Chinese Grand Prix has been a very happy hunting ground for Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton over the years.

While Hamilton is a four-time winner of the event – more than any other driver – Rosberg claimed his first Formula 1 pole position in Shanghai four years ago today.

The German followed this up the next day in 2012 to claim his first race win and Mercedes’ first since returning to the sport as a constructor in 2010, sparking the beginning of the dominant patch we are currently in the midst of.

As such, predicting the winner of this weekend’s race becomes all the more difficult. Rosberg is the man in form after taking two wins from two races to start the season, but with Hamilton eager to catch up, the fight will be on at the head of the pack.

Here is our full preview of this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

2016 Chinese Grand Prix – Talking Points

Can Nico keep his run going in China?

Rosberg’s three victories to close out the 2015 season were seen at the time as not having much importance. After all, Hamilton had won the title and had taken his foot off the gas. The only person to whom Rosberg’s victories truly mattered was Rosberg.

And yet after convincing victories in Australia and Bahrain, Rosberg’s streak now stands at five. No driver has won five races in a row and never won the world championship. His lead over Hamilton already stands at 17 points, and a sixth straight victory in China would surely leave the Briton concerned about his title defence.

Ferrari looks to remedy engine woes, get back in the hunt

The hopes of Ferrari mounting a serious challenge to Mercedes in 2016 were given life in Melbourne when Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen shot off the line to lead one and two throughout the opening stint of the race.

That has been the high point so far this season, though. Vettel’s pace and strategy saw him fall to third in Australia, while he didn’t even make the start last time out in Bahrain due to an engine failure similar to the one suffered by Kimi Raikkonen at the season opener.

China will be a big test of Ferrari’s true pace. Perhaps getting both cars to the finish should be the main goal though – a third engine issue in three races would surely be cause for concern.

Haas and RoGro chase third straight points finish

Haas’ charge to the points on debut in Australia was not without its fortune, yet the repeat display in Bahrain two weeks later where Romain Grosjean went one better to finish fifth thanks to a mix of blistering pace and brilliant strategy.

How long will the honeymoon last though? Haas arrives in China chasing points for the third race in a row, while Esteban Gutierrez will be aiming to get to the finish after two unlucky breaks so far this season – especially in Bahrain when points were possible.

Either way, Haas is making waves in F1. Long may it continue.

Sanity prevails as elimination qualifying bites the dust

Listing elimination qualifying as a ‘talking point’ for this weekend’s race is perhaps unfair, because we won’t be talking about it. Thankfully, sanity has prevailed, and the 2015 qualifying format will return in China.

Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt backed down in the interests of the sport, facing a united front from the teams in opposition – a very rare thing indeed – but the idea of revamping qualifying for next season remains firmly on the table.

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone… but we’ve now got our old, simple qualifying back.

Alonso’s back in business, it seems

Fernando Alonso looks set to make his racing comeback this weekend after being given the provisional go-ahead by the FIA doctors to take part in the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Spaniard said that he was 100% fit to race ahead of the stewards’ decision, although the amount of time that it took them to give a final say, it doesn’t appear to have been a clear-cut call.

We’ll see after FP1 just how fit Fernando is feeling, but barring a big issue, he’ll be racing this weekend.

2016 Chinese Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Corners: 16
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:32.238 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Medium, Soft, Super-Soft
2015 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2015 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:35.782
2015 Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:42.208
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T16 to T1); T13 to T14

2016 Chinese Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 10pm ET 4/14
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 2am ET 4/15
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 12am ET 4/16
Qualifying: NBCSN 3am ET 4/16
Race: NBCSN 1:30am ET 4/17

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.