x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Vettel not watching table

Sebastian Vettel has gotten off to a terrific start of the season, winning the opening pair of races, but he has his eys on the McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

SHANGHAI // No driver has ever won the Chinese Grand Prix twice, but, with six of the previous seven winners lining the grid on Sunday - and four in competitive cars - the likelihood of that statistic lasting past this weekend has never been smaller.

Sebastian Vettel, winner here in 2009, is undoubtedly the man to catch after making a flawless start to the new season.

The Red Bull Racing driver has won comfortably the first two races - in Australia and Malaysia - to extend his winning sequence to four following triumphs in Brazil and Abu Dhabi last year on route to becoming the youngest world champion in Formula One history.

The 23-year-old German remains wary, especially of the McLaren-Mercedes duo of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, and says he is not yet looking at the drivers' championship standings.

"We've obviously had two good races, but we come here and we start again," he said. "That's the name of the game at every event, every race. We try to keep it going. We saw at the last race that it's getting very tight and you can take nothing for granted."

Vettel is one of a quartet of drivers who have realistic ambitions of finishing on the top step of the podium at Shanghai International Circuit for a second time.

Button, Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have all won in China - as have Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Rubens Barrichello - but while the McLaren pair arrive with growing confidence, Ferrari's Spaniard is playing down expectations.

"Clearly, I would like to always be fighting for the win but, at the moment, one car, Vettel's Red Bull, seems to be out of reach," said Alonso, who has finished fourth and sixth in the two races so far. "Our aim in this grand prix will be similar to the one in Malaysia, which means to make the best of qualifying and try to exploit any opportunity that comes our way during the race."

Hamilton, who referred to last week's eighth-place finish as being pretty poor, quickly about-faced to say he looked at the Malaysian race - where he started second, finished seventh, but was dropped one place following a 20-second time penalty - as "a blessing.

"There have been many races where you have started in nice positions and you don't get any points at all.

"I've still got a couple of points and who knows whether they will be quite valuable in the future? It's still very early in the championship."

McLaren have improved exponentially since preseason testing and while Hamilton is looking forward to developing further this weekend, he played down hopes of catching the Red Bull pair of Vettel and Mark Webber.

"My guess is in the last race they had to probably cool their car a lot more, so they probably lost a bit of time there," Hamilton said.

"I am sure they will be back on top form this weekend and have even more pace than they did in the last race.

"Whether or not we will be as close as we were in the last race, we will find out here."