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"Poor old Michael?" Don't think so!

NEWS STORY
01/10/2006

"Three races, two points… one title"… thus reads the sales pitch.

Ignoring the hyperbole, all one has to know about today's Chinese Grand Prix is that, with less than hour before the race gets underway, it's wet. It's not raining at this very moment, but it has bee raining and consequently the track remains wet.

Therefore as far as the World Championship is concerned, it looks good for Fernando, while Michael can only hope to limit the damage as much as possible.

We saw yesterday, in qualifying, that Michelin are the true rainmasters, and only a heroic effort by the German got the Ferrari into the top six on the grid, the next highest Bridgestone qualifier being Massa, who could only manage 13th.

If it rains again, then we can expect Fernando to take a fairly comfortable win, for he was head and shoulders above the rest yesterday. Renault has opted for reliability over speed/power, therefore there shouldn't be a repeat of Monza.

Then again, if it remains 'as is', whereby the weather is undecided, just a little damp, with the track gradually drying, then we could be in for a good scrap.

There are quite a few drivers out there who could make a good impression today, and, in the right circumstances take a win, however, this is about the World Championship title, and it is also about the weather, which as this stage is undecided.

Two hours before the start, Bob Constanduros writes: "It's really peeing down and the humidity is 92 per cent with a couple of hours to go before the start. At this rate, it will be a safety car start. Track temperature is 21 degrees as is air temperature."

With just over half an hour to go, he adds: "Track temperature and ambient is 21 degrees, humidity inching up to 92 making drying very difficult, even though it's not raining now, but still very overcast."

With regards the safety car, there is talk that the race could start behind it, even if it is not raining, which - in our humble opinion - would be taking things a little too far. Then again, we're not the ones driving these cars.

With twenty-five minutes to go, the cars start to leave the pits. Over the radio, Barrichello, who is crawling round, says: "It will be quite easy to choose a tyre", though he doesn't add whether it should be intermediate or full wet. Michael waits in the Ferrari garage, watching… and possibly listening.

The German leaves the pits and proceeds to give the team feedbacks as he makes his way round the Shanghai track.

The strong wind should help a little when it comes to drying the track, however, the thick blanket of clouds that hangs over the circuit suggests we are in for more rain.

Let's not forget that Michael has had two miserable visits to China, could this be the third?

By the way, in case you haven't been following the news on Pitpass - and if not, why not? - after various penalties, Albers starts 22nd, Sato 21st and Massa 20th.

Renault's Pat Symonds look confident, and when it's pointed out that Michael has two brand new sets of intermediates, he responds; "but they're Bridgestones". Point taken Pat, point taken.

Other than that, nobody is giving anything away, we do not know who has opted for full wets and who has gone for 'inters'. The tyre blankets will remain wrapped around the tyres until the last possible moment.

Michael leaves the Ferrari garage and makes his way, on foot, to the grid, he looks confident… he looks very confident. Then again, maybe he's already looking ahead to Japan and Brazil.

With five minutes remaining, the air temperature is 22 degrees C, while the track temperature is also 22 degrees.

They head off on the warm-up lap, Alonso leading the way. Even at low speed, the 'rooster tails' are distinct, it's still quite wet out there.

Thing is, we're getting carried away, taking it for granted that Fernando has this one sewn up, whereas, all it needs is one little error, one tiny mistake, and, in these conditions, it's all over.

They're away. Alonso leads, with Fisichella slipping in behind, was Raikkonen charges his way up to challenge Button, both of them passing the hapless Barrichello. Kubica goes wide, but they all get through the first couple of corners in one piece.

On the back straight, Raikkonen passes Button, who is unable to respond - the Finn is on a charge.

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