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China preview - focus on Red Bull in Shanghai 11 Apr 2013

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull RB8 Renault, 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 15th April 2012 (L to R): Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing and race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing in the post race Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 24 March 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari and Andrea Stella (ITA) Ferrari Race Engineer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 11 April 2013 Lotus E21 in the garage.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 11 April 2013 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 11 April 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren enters the Paddock gates.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 11 April 2013 Pit lane.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 11 April 2013 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 walks the track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 11 April 2013 Track view.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 11 April 2013 Williams FW35 nose and front wings.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 11 April 2013 Ferrari mechanic and Pirelli tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 11 April 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso walks the track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 11 April 2013 Flags.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 11 April 2013

All eyes will be on the state of the relationship between Red Bull stars Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in China, as the world championship-leading team looks to get back to winning ways following the team orders furore that overshadowed their Malaysian Grand Prix 1-2.

In the weeks leading up to this weekend’s 2013 Formula 1 UBS Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, Vettel has apologised to everyone at Red Bull headquarters in Milton Keynes for ignoring radio instructions and overtaking his team mate in Sepang. He’s also apologised again to Webber, and team principal Christian Horner insists a recurrence is unlikely.

"He's said he can't turn back the clock but he's accepted what he did was wrong,” Horner said. "He's apologised to the team and to every single member of staff for his actions, because he recognises the team is vitally important and being part of the team is a crucial aspect to being able to challenge for those championships."

It remains to be seen how cordial driver relations are when the RB9s get back out on track for a race that, whilst likely to be ultra-competitive, Red Bull have every chance of winning.

Ferrari, meanwhile, are keen to get back on track following the failed gamble that saw Fernando Alonso end his race in the Malaysian gravel having elected not to replace the front wing he damaged against Vettel on the opening lap in Sepang.

The F138 has shown good pace, and the Spaniard needs a strong finish to prevent Vettel opening too great a points lead. Felipe Massa, meanwhile, will be intent on trying to outqualify his vaunted team-mate for the fifth successive time, and converting his own competitive pace into a decent result.

Australian Grand Prix winners Lotus believe they will be back on the pace in Shanghai after their glitch in Malaysia, where they never quite got the best out of their tyres.

"I think you can expect, mainly because of the tyre management situation, a different race winner each time,” team principal Eric Boullier suggests. "But we can say we are definitely in the top four. Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and us are very, very close.

“We had trouble extracting speed from the car in wet conditions in Malaysia. First it was qualifying and then we did not make the best start ever. After that, we lost a lot in the first stint compared to the leaders, especially Mercedes. If you then compare the race pace after that, we were not bad. We were there."

Nico Rosberg took a strong but surprise victory in China for Mercedes last year, but the team are cautious about their prospects this weekend despite the much more competitive performances of their F1 W04 in the opening two races of 2013.

“The team have been working very hard to develop our car since returning from Malaysia and I was at the factory on Monday to complete my preparations in the simulator for the next two races,” the German said. “We've had a strong start to the season and I'm confident that we can keep pushing and hopefully score some good results in China and Bahrain.”

Hamilton says that his first two races with his new team have been a great experience: “We've had a better start than we expected and to have finished in fifth and third places so far is really positive. I know there is much more to come so we’ll keep pushing the development of the car. I'm looking forward to the upgrades that we‘ll have in China.”

McLaren’s strong record in China includes Lewis Hamilton winning here in 2008 and 2011, and Jenson Button taking victory in 2010. And despite the thus-far disappointing performance of the MP4-28 they are hopeful of a good showing on this smooth track which should facilitate running an optimum ride height just as Sepang did.

“In a funny way, the Chinese Grand Prix almost feels like something of a reboot of the start of my season,” says Jenson Button, who looks forward to some updates this weekend. “Taking home two points from the first two races obviously wasn’t what we had in mind at the beginning of the year, but I think everybody in the team has picked themselves up and really attacked the task of addressing our car’s issues.

“We know where we’re losing performance, so I think we’re actually all looking forward to seeing just what we can achieve in Shanghai. The important thing for us as a team is to go into the weekend with clear focus, hone our strengths across the sessions and increase our understanding of the car.

“I definitely think there’s everything to play for with this championship, and I can’t wait to get back into the cockpit to start the fight again.”

Elsewhere, Force India are looking for a return to their Australian form after the wheelnut glitch which hampered them in Malaysia, as Sauber, Williams and Toro Rosso seek the unlock the potential of their cars and Caterham battles to get back on terms with perennial rivals Marussia.

The 5.4 km Shanghai International Circuit is shaped like the Chinese character ‘shang’ (meaning 'high' or 'above') and features a unique first corner which is entered at full-throttle in seventh gear before the drivers have to make fast downchanges as the turn tightens suddenly.

The track has nine right and seven left turns, and requires medium downforce due to the two very long straights, the second of which - between Turns 13 and 14 - is 1,300 metres long and features the circuit’s first DRS zone. The second DRS zone is on the pit straight. These straights present excellent opportunities for overtaking as drivers brake from up to 320kph.

It’s extremely important to get a car’s set-up right, and especially to have a strong front end, as the long radius corners put a lot of load on the front tyres. If the cool temperatures of 2012 return again this year, tyre graining could also be a big issue.

Preserving tyres over the 56 lap, 305 kilometre race will therefore be as crucial here as it was in Melbourne and Sepang, and Pirelli have chosen another new combination with their medium and soft compounds.

"China has often produced some of the best races of the year, where strategy has been at the forefront of the action,” says motorsport director Paul Hembery. “With all our compounds having got softer this year the degradation is deliberately more extreme leading to increased performance, but history has shown that it never takes too long for the teams and drivers to get on top of the tyres.

"Shanghai is less aggressive on the tyres than the last round in Malaysia but we would expect to see the majority of competitors go for three stops although some may try two. Last year we had a new winner with Mercedes and Nico Rosberg, who were able to get the most out of their tyres from the very beginning of the weekend in order to spring a surprise. That goes to show exactly what is possible with the correct tyre management at this point in the season."

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