x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Weather can help level the China GP field for Fernando Alonso

Lewis Hamiton is positive his McLaren-Mercedes has a chance in China, but Malaysia winner Fernando Alonso says unless it rains he has no hope in his Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton of Britain is mobbed by fans in the pit lane on Thursday ahead of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
Lewis Hamilton of Britain is mobbed by fans in the pit lane on Thursday ahead of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

SHANGHAI // Fernando Alonso, aware his Ferrari team have not made any large improvements ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, accepts the best chance he has of emulating last month's success in Malaysiais if the dark clouds of pollution that hang over the Shanghai International Circuit give way to rain showers.

The Spaniard, competing so far this season in a car deemed uncompetitive by Ferrari's own team principal, claimed his 28th career win in monsoon-like conditions at Sepang on March 25 to lead the world championship standings.

Alonso refuses to get carried away, insisting that his marque remains some way off the fastest teams' pace and that only the conditions will allow them to fight for the top step of the podium once more.

"Nothing has changed since Malaysia and so I expect a tough weekend," he said. "There will be no big surprises, as although the car has some small improvements, there is nothing big coming for this race. I expect this is the same situation with the other teams, which is why I feel the general picture will be the same as at the last two races."

Smog is synonymous with the Shanghai circuit and yesterday was no different with the sky dull and dreary before giving way to rain late in the evening.

Alonso knows the weather can be his friend.

"It can be a very good weekend for you or very bad because it's a little bit of gamble in the rain - anything can happen," he said.

"With a normal race we know our possibilities, we know our limitations at the moment, which is not quick enough.

"So, in a wet race, we can lose a couple of points or we can win a lot more. This risk of a wet race can be good for us because in normal conditions we are not as fast as we expected."

Lewis Hamilton, Alonso's former teammate at McLaren-Mercedes, has started the first two races of the season on pole position, but was dealt a blow to any hopes of defending his winner's title in China when he confirmed he needs to change his gearbox, resulting in a five-place grid penalty.

Although confident, the Englishman accepts he would be happy to finish in the top three.

"We have still got a great chance to win," Hamilton said. "We have still got a quick car and we will try and put ourselves in the best position possible to have the right strategy and to be quick enough that we can still fight for the lead. But I would settle for a podium. I always say I want to move forward. That is the key."

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

 

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