The Chinese Grand Prix was a race that promised so much, and yet in the end it failed to deliver. After the awesome contest that was Suzuka it seemed logical to expect a fiercely fought showdown for the Constructors' Championship between Renault and McLaren but, with a two-point lead in the bag, Renault were in charge from the start of the race at Shanghai. Within a dozen laps the outcome was, pending any unexpected dramas, a foregone conclusion. And when trouble did strike, it was McLaren that suffered.
The two teams were evenly matched throughout practice, and with China noted for a paucity of overtaking opportunities, qualifying was everything. McLaren had one hand tied behind their back as Juan Pablo Montoya's Suzuka shunt ensured that he was out first on the dirty track. Nevertheless, his time was still good enough for fifth, better than McLaren had expected.
But Kimi Raikkonen was not supposed to be third, behind the two Renaults, after what looked like a scrappy lap. There's no question that Renault regarded two front row spots as something of a bonus, and it gave Pat Symonds and his boys plenty of options for the race.
They weren't dropping any hints about strategy, but it seemed obvious that as usual, Fisichella was heavier than Alonso, and that with the grid the way it was, the Spaniard could make a break leaving his teammate to ride shot gun. When I mentioned this likely scenario out to McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh on Saturday night, he gleefully pointed out that Fisichella's record of keeping Raikkonen behind wasn't too great...