Leclerc to make amends in China

As Formula 1 marks its first 1,000 races in China this Sunday, could we be on the verge of a new dawn? Whisper it quietly but are we see the beginning of the Charles Leclerc era?

Leclerc looking sharp

The Monegasque driver had a weekend of firsts in Bahrain last time out. His first pole position, first podium finish and, more importantly, first gut-wrenching loss to Mercedes. Given the Silver Arrows domination of the Scuderia in the V6 hybrid era and the Italians reliability issues at times, it is unlikely to be the last time Lewis Hamilton steals his thunder.

However, if Leclerc can put that disappointment behind him then he could strike back in Shanghai. Despite having never won an F1 Grand Prix, Leclerc is the 2.45 favourite to take the checkered flag on Sunday morning.

Given its long, flat-out straights, the Shanghai International Circuit is another track that plays to the strengths of Ferrari, giving Sebastian Vettel a shot at redemption. The German made yet another error in Bahrain, his fifth in the last 13 races, and looks off his game at the moment.

He’s 2.65 to get a much-needed win but is tough to back with any confidence based on recent performances.

Hamilton out to continue China love affair

Hamilton has come to relish the Chinese Grand Prix having been stood atop the podium five times, three of those victories having come behind the wheel of a Mercedes.

He also has a record six pole positions in China and is 3.40 to collect number seven in qualifying on Saturday. Given the difficult start to the race – drivers flying down to a tight right-hander off the line – being on the front of the grid tends to be vital and if Hamilton is in one of those two positions, he could be tricky to stop.

Last year saw a Ferrari shutout in qualifying before Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo sprung a big surprise when he emerged victorious, a fresh set of tyres late on seeing him pass Valtteri Bottas for the win.

It would seem unlikely Red Bull can repeat that trick given they are still down on power, despite the change to Honda engines. Max Verstappen’s best hope might be for another Vettel error and a podium finish with the Dutchman 2.65 to make the top three.

Alfa eye Shanghai surprise

Alfa Romeo, formerly known as Sauber, have started the season impressively with Kimi Raikkonen recording two top-10 finishes thus far. The Finn is enjoying himself in what is likely to be his F1 swansong and with Alfa announcing several planned upgrades for this weekend, the 2007 world champion is 1.54 for another top-10 finish.

Another driver having a strong start to 2019 is rookie Lando Norris, who finished a remarkable sixth in Bahrain. McLaren have enjoyed a jump in power with Renault engines under the hood, although mechanical issues still persist with Norris’ colleague Carlos Sainz Jr having two DNFs from two races.

With McLaren fifth out of 10 in the pace stakes in F1 so far, Norris is 2.10 for another top-10 finish, while Sainz is 1.62 to make it third time lucky and get some points on the board.