By Ollie Barstow
F1 Editor

They say a week is a long time in politics, but it's an adage that rather succinctly sums up Formula 1 as well.

Little more than a week ago fans and commentators watched on as F1 agonised over its qualifying format before rejoicing as sense mercifully prevailed and elimination qualifying was eliminated once and for all. For the teams this battle is a satisfying win, but the war... well that is far from over.

By the time the F1 circus had headed back east to the stifling climes of Shanghai and the Chinese Grand Prix, the qualifying malady had all but been forgotten. Whilst the bigger picture of F1's power struggle will no doubt be raised again, sooner rather than later, it was put to one side for at least one weekend in favour of matters that (should) actually matter... the racing.

And the Chinese Grand Prix delivered exactly that with no behind the scenes squabbles to distract from what was happening on track... even if this was taken rather too literally at one stage as qualifying was halted and a slightly baffled viewing public watching on as a pesky puddle received a disproportionate amount of attention and airtime.

Indeed, following Friday's tyre debris problems, there was a point in the weekend where it seemed we had seen more of a battered Nissan pick-up truck on course than we had of the Saubers.

Arguably the most entertaining moment of the weekend came in the pre-podium cool down room as Sebastian Vettel - probably now wishing he kept quiet until he had seen a replay - launched into a tirade at a clearly bemused Daniil Kvyat for their turn one (non)incident.

Labelling the Russian 'crazy' and 'suicidal', Vettel didn't mince his words, though you would have to suggest his argument that Kvyat wouldn't have made the corner is redundant by the fact Kvyat did exactly that.

Similarly enjoyable was the way Kvyat held his ground in the cool down room, the podium and the press conference, irking his rival further by acknowledging Vettel's grievances before rather clearly mentally filing them under 'don't care'. You can only imagine Christian Horner's glee as this played out...


Whether you are on Team Vettel or Team Kvyat - most of you are on the side of the latter based on the forum feedback - the spiky exchange marked a welcome return to arguing about on-track incidents rather than off-track politics. That said, there is some irony to be had from the fact the argument was had as they celebrated a podium and didn't involve the person whose race it actually ruined. Kimi Raikkonen's response? Bah.

Rubbing is racing, they say, but Vettel was just rubbed up the wrong way and couldn't admit his own mistake in the presence of Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne, who remained remarkably po-faced throughout as though he wasn't even paying attention. After all, taking out your team-mate because you are spooked by a car up the inside with room to spare is difficult to justify however many bold adjectives and cursing you use to deflect it...

With Ferrari tripping over itself, there is the impression the 2016 F1 championship hasn't properly kicked off yet, with Nico Rosberg's relatively easy three wins tempered by Lewis Hamilton's rather alarming run of poor luck. Gene Haas joked that he wouldn't stand next to Esteban Gutierrez in a lightning storm such has been his disappointing run of fortune, but he'd be better off leaving the country if Hamilton was around too.

Gearbox problems, grid penalties, ERS failures, engine changes, turn one collisions - his third in a row -, Hamilton couldn't take the blame for any of them, yet there was still some surprise he couldn't haul his admittedly damaged W07 higher than seventh.

Indeed, some sections of the media tend to relish Hamilton's moodier moments, but though he has had more than one reason to air his frustrations this year, he has turned a refreshingly positive spin on every set-back. It's welcome to see, Hamilton smiling and joking through his debriefs and literally shrugging off the weight of the world that keeps trying to piggy back onto his shoulders. Tomorrow is always another day, as Raikkonen once wisely pointed out...


So it's somewhat bizarre then that over on the other side of the Mercedes garage, Rosberg has the demeanour of someone protecting a one point lead in the standings before the final race and not a 36 point one - his biggest ever margin over his arch rival.

Granted, three races out of 21 gives Hamilton plenty of time to recover ground, but when your main competition is largely coming from just one source, it's still a handy margin for error.

Even the statistics are on Rosberg's side. He is only the tenth driver to win the opening three races of a season and each of the other nine has gone on to win the title. This is all without considering the three successes he ended the 2015 season with.

However, when this was put to Rosberg this weekend he gave the rather defeated response of 'None of them had Lewis Hamilton as a team-mate...'

Wary, cautious or generally worried about establishing a healthy lead he cannot maintain, Rosberg doesn't appear to be allowing himself to enjoy the moment. Then again, if this is all to maintain his focus, you cannot say fairer than that.

Continuing the theme of this year so far, the Chinese Grand Prix itself was a cracker in terms of on track action... albeit perhaps more for those who watch for the overtakes, than for those who are trying to follow the nuances of strategy.

Indeed, never before has a strategist played such a crucial role in F1, the decision to open up the tyre selections proving more critical than many - least of all Pirelli - had seemingly expected. With safety cars deployed and faster cars coming through the field, the pit wall was a hive of calculations as the drivers did their bit on course with passes, switch-backs and dummy selling.

The pit crew are certainly earning their wages - 66 pit-stops took place during the Chinese Grand Prix, helped in part by it being the first race in 11 years that featured not a single DNF.

The flip-side is it does make a race slightly hard to follow at the moment - and this is even with the benefit of our timing screens -, while Kimi Raikkonen admitted to being rather confused as where he was projected to finish at times as he yo-yoed through the order.

However, though this is one complexity to add to F1's already thought-muddling mix, the fact it has played its part in providing three entertaining races out of three means long may it simply - or complexly - continue...

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