The Chinese Grand Prix is far from the most popular on the calendar among Formula 1 folk. Perhaps it's the fact that Shanghai is utterly indifferent to the race that is happening on its own doorstep? Or maybe it's the absurdity of even the world's best two dozen drivers not being allowed to get behind the wheel of a road car here, presumably because of the difficulties of adapting to the regulations, forcing mandatory halts in the fast lane of motorways and incessant horn usage that the Chinese highway code apparently demands.
As always with back-to-back races, the second leg starts out feeling much like a hangover of the first, with little time for new themes and storylines to gestate. Fortunately, Malaysia was dramatic enough a weekend that plenty of them continue to rumble on, chief among them Lewis Hamilton's penalty for weaving five days ago.
"The previous year, obviously I had some big weaves on the straight which everyone disagreed with, which was fine," said Hamilton this afternoon. "They said that they would be stricter on that this year.
"Looking back at it, I didn't weave even half as much as I did the previous time and I didn't put anyone in danger. But the rules state that you can only move once. The confusing part was whether I was defending a place or trying to lose the tow."
While you might agree with Hamilton's stance that his moves weren't dangerous - and they probably weren't - the implication of the rule is pretty clear. Agree or disagree with it, if you change direction more than once, you're heading for a penalty - just as you are doomed if you short cut the track to overtake someone as Jenson Button did in Australia.
China is a big weekend for Webber © sutton-images.com
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the rule as it stands, it seems that in the world of McLaren there is something of a penalty death wish. Hamilton said that he wasn't too worried about being busted down from seventh to eighth by his penalty, but it might be a different story should he lose the title by a point come the end of the year! Some lessons are surely going to have to be learned to prevent it happening again...
The man under the most pressure heading into this weekend is not Hamilton, but Mark Webber. The Australian has made a disappointing start to the season, finishing fifth on home soil and fourth in Malaysia a few days ago (although it should be noted that his speed at Sepang was strong, and but for a small error in qualifying and his start-line KERS problem he could would have been much better off).
Asked by Alan Baldwin of Reuters to compare his situation of watching his team-mate make it five wins in a row if he wins in China with Eddie Irvine's experience of being clubbed over the head week after week by Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari days, he gave it short shrift.
"Absolutely f*****g ludicrous question mate," he said - showing that there is plenty of fight left in him.
Nonetheless, this is a crucial weekend for Webber, who needs to get on top of the Pirelli tyres and get back on terms with his team-mate to ensure that he isn't cast as number two this year. Remember, after two races last year many had written him off and he came to within touching distance of the title.
So it's a big weekend both for Hamilton and Webber, but arguably it's bigger still for the Williams team. Without a finish in the opening four races of the season, this stands as the team's worst start to a campaign and, with part-owner Toto Wolff arriving tomorrow, a good performance is badly needed.
The strange thing is that, at times, the car has pretty good pace. On heavier fuel loads it looks perfectly capable of making the top 10, yet in qualifying it has been a struggle. Reliability, too, is a worry, although both failures in Malaysia were one-offs relating to the differential seals and a faulty coil. This weekend will provide plenty more evidence as to whether Williams's plight is a question of bad luck or bad form.
With three weeks between Sunday's race and the Turkish Grand Prix, where a raft of upgrades will tweak the competitive order, this weekend marks the end of the first chapter of the season. For those under pressure, a good result here will give a welcome lift.
The one thing that the rest of the field won't want to see is a sixth consecutive victory for Vettel who already has close to double the points of his nearest challenger.
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