– Pirelli has brought an unusual staggered tyre selection to China, bringing the ultrasoft, soft and medium compounds, skipping the supersoft. Esteban Ocon believes that will create a great deal of strategy drama and even more overtaking than in Bahrain.

– Rain was the word on Thursday, with conflicting forecasts bandied about by all. For the record, the first FIA forecast is for a 60 per cent chance of light showers for FP1 and FP3 and a 30 per cent chance of the same for FP2 and qualifying. The race should be sunny and bright (as much as is possible), hence the excitement over unrepresentative practice conditions.

– Talk still abounds about Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas’s last-lap ‘showdown’ — or perhaps lack of showdown. Daniel Ricciardo said that he would’ve “tried to win, definitely”, and Romain Grosjean, (in)famous for his sensitivity when it comes to brakes, commented that he was surprised from how far back drivers were able to out-brake rivals into turn one, noting he pulled off a late-braking move on Carlos Sainz.

Pierre Gasly continued stirring the Fernando Alonso pot in the Thursday press conference. After finishing fourth in his Honda-powered Toro Rosso last Sunday, Gasly shouted over team radio, “Now we can fight!”, mimicking the words Alonso used as he crossed the line in fifth at the Australian Grand Prix, which were taken to be a dig at the Honda engine McLaren ditched in the off-season. Asked about his comments, Gasly said he had the utmost respect for Fernando Alonso and that he was only trying to compliment Honda’s hard winter work. He also added that it was just a ‘yoke’ — that is, a joke, but with the soft ‘j’ a Spaniard like Alonso would use…

– Haas made a late call before the race in Bahrain to switch Kevin Magnussen to his second of two available control electronics and energy stores. Team principal Gunther Steiner said the units themselves aren’t broken but rather “one of the auxiliaries”, and therefore both remain in the pool and available for use.

– In further tales of computer algorithms going wrong, Romain Grosjean says his woeful P16 qualifying performance was partly down to abandoning his final Q3 lap in error after the team wrongly calculated the cut-off time to make it into Q2. The Frenchman set an identical time to Fernando Alonso, who progressed to Q2 by virtue of having set it first. Romain went on to finish the race in 13th place.

– To the surprise of no-one, Daniel Ricciardo will also adopt a second energy store from FP1 tomorrow, taking him to his maximum allocation. Asked whether the first one would be available for reuse, the Australian responded, “It’s in Bahrain somewhere — at the bottom of the sea”.

– The midfield is relishing the closeness of the fight. Though the relative performances of the mid-grid teams may appear random, Esteban Ocon said one or two-tenths of a second are the difference between scoring points or going home pointless at this stage of the season.

– Further to Liberty Media’s 2021 proposals, presented to the teams last weekend in Bahrain, and Ross Brawn telling Sky Sports F1 that qualifying races could come under consideration, Gunther Steiner has weighed into the debate to say he’s concerned that having a race on Saturday could cannibalise Sunday’s race audience or vice versa. Qualifying is its own spectacle, he contended, rather than just a duplication of the Sunday grand prix.

– Sebastian Vettel’s angular haircut continues to confound, and finally the question was asked: what’s it all about? Was there a story behind it, or a bet? “Not really,” came the reply. “I like it, otherwise I wouldn’t do it.”

 

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