x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

In pursuit of happiness

Johnny Herbert feels alterations to the scoring system and three different winners this season have set up an intriguing situation.

There are many constructors and drivers still in the running for the Formula One titles this season.
There are many constructors and drivers still in the running for the Formula One titles this season.

It is great to have so many drivers so close to each other in the standings after three races of the World Championship and hopefully this bodes well for the rest of the season. I do think the changes that were made for this season are working as ultimately there are more points on the board to be raced for and it means that someone who has had a couple of bad races can still be a contender with one or two good results.

That is exactly what has happened to Sebastian Vettel, who looked like he was in big trouble after two mediocre results but followed up by winning in Malaysia and suddenly he has gone from being 25 points off the title lead to being two adrift. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for the rest of the season and we are going to see the points gap between leading drivers go to and fro throughout the year and it will all be very exciting.

Vettel was a deserving winner in Malaysia and I think he will be the favourite to win again in Shanghai this weekend as the Red Bull- Renault has looked the class of the field so far from what we have seen in the other races. He has always gone well on that track and he won his first race for Red Bull there last year, although that was in the wet, and he will be confident of repeating that success on Sunday.

I think we could see McLaren-Mercedes come more into contention than we have seen before as their clever extra wing will be a help to them. It should give them a big speed advantage going down the 1km back straight and also on the main straight and they will certainly look to be more competitive on raw pace. But I still think that Red Bull will be at the front and it is looking good for both Sebastian and for Mark Webber, his teammate, although it is a completely different circuit design to Malaysia and the nature of the track will test the engine reliability of the front runners.

Ferrari will be concerned after Fernando Alonso's engine problem in Malaysia and they will be wary of that in Shanghai. They will want to ensure they are still running at the end of the race. It is a big race weekend for Michael Schumacher as he has been well beaten in every race this season by Nico Rosberg, his younger Mercedes GP teammate. It is a new experience for Schumacher as he was always a dominant force in the past. He has not had the testing time he would have liked to really get in tune with the car after his three years away from the sport.

He himself must be wondering if he still has it as he yet to put in a vintage Michael performance since coming back, and he needs a good showing in Shanghai to at least prove to himself that he still is quick. It is not like he is well off the pace. He is still quick, he is just in a place that neither we or Michael are used to seeing him in. His problems have not been helped by the fact that Nico is doing a really good job and has made no mistakes.

I do not expect to see much improvement from the teams at the back of the grid. Yes, we have seen some improved reliability in the past couple of races but there has been no real improvement in speed and I doubt we will see a leap forward in performance in Shanghai. The Hispania-Cosworth car is the slowest and that will probably remain that way for the rest of the season. Most of the interest will be in the battle between the Virgin- Cosworth and the Lotus-Cosworth cars.

There is nothing really between them, but Timo Glock has done a great job in the Virgin car and he will be looking to be ahead of the Lotus cars again. Lotus have had massive reliability issues with both their cars, with hydraulic issues slowing them in Malaysia, and that is unlikely to be the kind of thing that can easily be resolved while so far away from home. Johnny Herbert is a former Formula One driver who won three Grands Prix during his 11-year career in the sport.