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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 April 2019

Mercedes should fear Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo is under pressure: Chinese Grand Prix talking points

The German marque may have won the first two races of 2019 but they will fear Ferrari's speed in Shanghai

Mercedes may have had two one-two finishes in the first two races of 2019 through Lewis Hamilton, left, and Valtteri Bottas but they will know that they are under big pressure from Ferrari. Getty 
Mercedes may have had two one-two finishes in the first two races of 2019 through Lewis Hamilton, left, and Valtteri Bottas but they will know that they are under big pressure from Ferrari. Getty 

Ahead of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, the third round of the 2019 Formula One season, here are some talking points ahead of the race.

Mercedes under pressure despite wins

Sport is a results driven business when all is said and done. There are often hidden narratives unfolding within the action, but it is ultimately the result that is the defining element of a competition.

On that basis, Mercedes-GP should be more than happy to leave the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 31 with their first one-two at Sakhir since 2014 as world champion Lewis Hamilton finished ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

But that might have been the most flattering one-two finish in Formula One history and did not even start to tell the story.

Mercedes were absolutely hammered on raw pace by Ferrari and particularly by Charles Leclerc. Without Leclerc’s late engine drama it would have been his victory.

Sebastian Vettel also gifted Mercedes points when he spun his Ferrari while tussling with Hamilton, destroying his race in the process.

Without the incidents it would have been Leclerc, Hamilton and Vettel as the top three. Mercedes got the fortune to take the win and that should not be derided.

But the German marque will not be blind to the fact they were off Ferrari's pace and will know they face another tough test at Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, which also carries special credence this weekend for being the 1000th F1 race.

Mercedes had the edge at the season-opener in Australia, but what will be ominous from their perspective is that Bahrain is more similar in terms of layout to the circuits coming up in the calendar.

The long back straight in Shanghai plays right into Ferrari’s hands with their superior straight-line speed.

Mercedes may have two wins out of two in 2019 but they will not be blind to the fact that it is Ferrari who hold the advantage and they may need more fortune if they are to have either Hamilton or Bottas on the top step of the podium on Sunday.

Ricciardo needs to find his feet at Renault

Daniel Ricciardo has had a disappointing start to his Renault career. Getty Images
Daniel Ricciardo has had a disappointing start to his Renault career. Getty Images

Twelve months can be a long time in F1 and it will certainly feel that way for Daniel Ricciardo.

Last year the Australian won in China with a thrilling drive in his Red Bull Racing car, coming through the pack in the closing stages on fresh tyres to prevail.

Yet this weekend his ambitions will be much lower. Simply scoring his first points for his new team Renault and beating teammate Nico Hulkenberg will be the objective.

Ricciardo has struggled, by his own admission, to adapt to his new surroundings and it has been Hulkenberg who has been the more impressive of the pair.

The German was superb in Bahrain and it was Ricciardo who had to apologise for bumping into his teammate when they touched mid-race.

The fact Hulkenberg comprehensively out-performed Ricciardo, the Australian being hurt by a misguided one-stop strategy to be fair to him, was forgotten by many when both cars failed within seconds of each other in the closing laps, causing both to stop on track.

There are still 19 races to go in the 2019 season but reputations can be quickly lost in F1. Ricciardo cannot afford to be off the pace for much longer before it becomes an issue, and he needs to find his form quickly, starting in Shanghai.

McLaren making positive steps

Lando Norris has enjoyed an impressive start to life at McLaren. AFP
Lando Norris has enjoyed an impressive start to life at McLaren. AFP

It's been eight years since the last time McLaren won in Shanghai.

Barring unforeseen circumstances that will not change on Sunday, but the British team have had an encouraging start to the year.

They is still a long way from the days of championships and victories that still live in the memory, but compared to the cataclysmic days of their Honda union this is still progress.

Rookie Lando Norris has adapted very well to life in F1. The Briton’s mature drive in Bahrain to sixth was a fine effort, staying out of trouble as many of his rivals hit trouble.

Carlos Sainz could have been on for a top-five finish in Bahrain had he not tangled with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen early in the race.

It is not where the team want to be long term, but being in the mix of the midfield with Renault, Racing Point and Haas is encouraging, and the team need to maintain that momentum with another strong showing in Shanghai.

Updated: April 11, 2019 02:02 PM

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