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Vettel and Webber shine at soggy Shanghai

NEWS STORY
19/04/2009

Checking out most of the regular newspaper websites, and even some of the dedicated F1 sites, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella is on pole here today ahead of his German teammate rather than Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel. We refer to the mysterious use of the words "shock" and "surprise" in the majority of the headlines following yesterday's qualifying session.

The fact is, that outside the gang of three - those three teams using double-decker diffusers from the start of the season - the Adrian Newey car has been the obvious class of the field, behind Brawn admittedly, but almost level with Toyota and certainly ahead of Williams, so why the big shock?

OK, Vettel and Webber are running light, but so are a lot of their rivals, and it comes as no surprise to see the two Milton Keynes cars at the front of the grid today, though whether they will be leading the race when the flag falls is quite another matter.

The big question-mark hanging over the Austrian team this afternoon, as ever, is reliability, though in Webber's case bad luck often seems to play a part. There was limited running yesterday morning when the Australian suffered a driveshaft problem and in the afternoon Vettel only had one run in each of the two final phases such was the concern. That said, the German youngster never looked overly concerned, despite the obvious anxiety of the BBC's commentary team.

As a reminder, following this week's hearing in Paris, McLaren have fitted an interim diffuser to both of their cars, while at Renault, only Alonso has been given a new interim unit, which was flown in overnight on Friday on Flavio Briatore's private jet. As for KERS, only the McLarens and Nick Heidfeld are running it, which appears to fly in the face of Max Mosley's quest for cost-cutting… all that money and nobody is using it. That said, Massa is calling for Ferrari to re-install the system for next week's race.

As ever, strategy will play a big part in the outcome of today's race, with fuel loads and tyre management set to play a big part.

While the super-softs are good for one or two laps there is serious concern as to how they will stand up over a longer distance, therefore we may well see some teams use them at the start of today's race just to get them out of the way. On the other hand, other teams might opt to use them for a short burst at the very end. Most teams have had issues with their tyres this weekend, especially the Ferraris, however, Brawn appears to suffering less than its rivals.

In terms of fuel, both Red Bulls are running very light, with only Alonso - surprise, surprise - running lighter. Indeed, looking at the fuel loads, and taking into account what we have already said about tyre management, today looks set to be another win for Ross Brawn and his team, but will it be Jenson or Rubens that lifts the winner's trophy?

McLaren has enjoyed a slight revival here this weekend, and Hamilton's fuel load indicates that the 2008 champion could be fighting for a podium finish, while his teammate will be happy to simply complete the first lap - not that there is any guarantee of that when you are starting from twelfth on the grid.

We expect Trulli, who has yet to score a point here at Shanghai, to be up there at the finish, though we were surprised at his unusual lack of pace in qualifying, while Glock, who starts from the back of the grid (19th) following a gearbox change penalty might be best advised to start from the pitlane filled up to the gills with fuel as the Japanese team seeks to make the best of a bad situation.

Williams really needs to start converting its obvious qualifying and practice pace into race results, while Kazuki Nakajima needs to raise his game.

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