Vettel in the mood for Shanghai

Formula One world champion attracts Schumacher comparisons as he aims to make it three wins out of three at Chinese GP.

    Vettel is congratulated by an increasingly dominant Red Bull team after victory in Malaysia [GALLO/GETTY]

    The comparisons with Michael Schumacher at his most dominant will only get louder if Sebastian Vettel completes a season-opening hat-trick in Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.

    After runaway wins from pole position in Australia and Malaysia, Red Bull's 23-year-old world champion returns in confident mood to the Shanghai circuit where two years ago he handed the team their breakthrough first Formula One victory.

    Another triumph on Sunday would be the German's fifth in a row extending back to Brazil last year and make him the first to win the opening three races since compatriot Schumacher with Ferrari in 2004.

    "We have a very strong package, we worked very hard over the winter. Last year we suffered some reliability issues at this stage, this year we did not. I think we made a big step forward," he said at Sepang last weekend.

    "Things are moving quickly and there's a lot of things we have to work on.

    "Tyre usage will be extremely important again so we will see. We try to take that momentum we picked up after race one and race two into the next grand prix but step by step."

    Red Bull used the KERS kinetic energy recovery system in a race for the first time in Malaysia but it failed on Mark Webber's car while Vettel was unable to use it in the later stages as a precaution.

    KERS, as well as the driver-activated moveable rear wing (DRS) will be big assets at a circuit with one of the longest straights and Red Bull need to get the problems sorted.

    "We are working on it and the plan for China is to use it all race," Vettel said.

    Vettel's victory two years ago in China, scene of Schumacher's 91st and last win to date in 2006, ended a run of two opening wins by Britain's Jenson Button with the Brawn team.

    Now well established at McLaren, Button was runner-up in Malaysia and is well-placed to get his own back at a circuit that should play to his team's strengths despite uncertainty about tyre wear.

    The 31-year-old triumphed in Shanghai last year, although that may not be such a good omen at a track where no one has won two years on the trot.

    'Take the fight'

    "Hopefully we'll see another little improvement and we can take the fight to the Red Bull," said the 2009 champion.

    "I think everybody wants to see that, to see someone challenge the Red Bulls."

    McLaren's KERS has been 100 percent reliable so far and the car has picked up speed dramatically since the dark days of pre-season testing, with more improvements being hurried along.

    Team members flying in to Shanghai's Pudong airport from London on Wednesday had enough outsize luggage with them to suggest there will be no shortage of new bits on the car this weekend.

    That will be music to Lewis Hamilton's ears after the 2008 champion narrowly missed out on pole in Malaysia and was then penalised in the race after a late collision with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

    "We have a number of new parts that we want to evaluate on Friday –  either for potential incorporation into our programme for the Shanghai race, or as part of longer-term development strategy," said team principal Martin Whitmarsh.

    "For this race, we know we have to step up the pressure: we're looking to hit the ground running on Friday, maintain that momentum through Saturday, and be in with the best possible chance of taking victory on Sunday."

    The pressure will also be on Ferrari, whose senior management flew back to Maranello from Malaysia to try to push development of the car after two opening races without a podium.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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