Chinese GP: Sebastian Vettel plays down victory prospects

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel won four successive world titles from 2010 to 2013
Chinese Grand Prix
Venue: Shanghai International Circuit. Date: 10-12 April (Race - Sunday, 06:00-09:00 BST)
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; text commentary on BBC Sport website; highlights on BBC One (Sunday, 14:00-15:55 BST)

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel has played down the prospect of replicating his Malaysian Grand Prix victory in China.

The four-time champion caused a shock by holding off Mercedes to secure his team's first win in almost two years.

But Vettel said the victory was partly down to high temperatures at Sepang, which will not be repeated in Shanghai.

"We did a great job in Malaysia, but we have to be realistic," said the German ahead of Sunday's race. "Mercedes is in a strong position."

The heat in Malaysia caused Mercedes problems on two levels.

They were forced to race on the harder and slower of the two tyres because they could not make the softer and faster tyre last long enough.

Even on the harder tyre, they were unable to achieve the mileage Ferrari managed on the softer one.

Malaysian GP: Pits and Giggles from Formula 1's second race weekend

"For here and for the next races, things can be up and down," added Vettel. "We want to ensure that there is more 'up' than 'down'."

He added that Ferrari's focus is on establishing that they are the "team right behind Mercedes" and try to close the gap as much as they can.

Defending champion Hamilton, winner of the opening race in Australia, is three points clear of second-placed Vettel in the championship.

The Englishman, who finished second in Sepang, said: "It wasn't the best weekend for us. There were lots of things we could have done better."

But he added: "We are not stressed and we will be stronger this weekend."

Victory in Malaysia was Ferrari's first since Fernando Alonso won the Spanish GP in May 2013.

It was also Vettel's first victory since the final race of the 2013 season in Brazil - and the 40th of his career.

It puts him one behind Ayrton Senna as the third most successful driver in terms of wins in F1 history.

"It's very special," said Vettel, adding. "It's not really fair compared to the guys in the past, as we have 19 or 20 races a year now."

Chinese Grand Prix coverage

Chinese Grand Prix - the track
It may have the longest straight and, in Turn One, probably the longest corner on the F1 calendar, but the Shanghai International Circuit is more memorable for the smog that perpetually envelopes it than any of its physical characteristics.It ticks the box of giving F1 a race in China - a requirement that in the modern world no self-respecting 'world' championship could do without - but inspirational it is not.The track's stand-out feature is probably the back end of the paddock, where the vast concrete expanse behind the garages gives way to a series of pavilions dotted around a small lake, which the teams use as their offices for the grand prix weekend.It's a lovely idea, and really quite attractive, but it can turn finding anyone to talk to into something of an odyssey.Still, the place has thrown up some decent races in the past, and there is an element of exoticism about any trip to Shanghai.