Hi folks,

China beckons this coming weekend and the penultimate round in the championship could well see Lewis Hamilton take the title in his debut year, which is quite remarkable.

He really has had a fantastic season and, with a twelve-point cushion, he is on the verge of becoming Britain's next Formula 1 world champion and joining an elite group that already includes Graham and Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell, James Hunt, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Mike Hawthorn and Jim Clark - a very exclusive club indeed.

The Shanghai International Circuit is a relatively new one to the F1 calendar and this will be only the fourth time the country has hosted a round of the series following its debut in 2004.

The 5.451km track is very impressive and another Hermann Tilke effort - although, like a lot of the newer venues, it doesn't have quite the same 'feel' as some of the older circuits, like Monza, Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone.

It is still very good though and the drivers' tend to like it as it is challenging and there is also plenty of room for overtaking.

Last year, the event was won by Ferrari and Michael Schumacher and the Scuderia will, of course, be right up there again this coming weekend, along with McLaren-Mercedes. That has been the pattern all season and it's not going to change this late on.

For Lewis, the main target will be to finish in front of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen and then he will be sure of taking the 'big prize'.

After his performance in Japan, he is more than capable of doing that. He made absolutely no mistakes in Fuji and took command from the off. Apart from that incident with Robert Kubica, which could have been a disaster, he looked strong throughout.

I can't see anyone catching him now in terms of the championship and, while we still have to keep our fingers crossed, I don't think we will need to.

Fernando, by contrast, has it all to do, and he was lucky not to get hurt when he had that big accident around two-thirds distance. It looked quite nasty and could well prove critical - not that he will have given up until, mathematically, there is no chance for him to overhaul Lewis.

Kimi Raikkonen is also still in contention thanks to his third place finish, although his hopes are even slimmer, with a 17-point deficit to Hamilton.

Ferrari shot themselves in the foot a bit by starting both of their drivers on the 'intermediates' and why they were the only team not to get the e-mail communiqu? from the FIA insisting that all cars start on the 'extreme' wet is a bit of a mystery.

Whether the Scuderia were trying to pull a fast one is open to debate and is not for me to comment on. I am not in a position to know all the ins and outs on that one, but it was very strange.

What is clear, though, is that Kimi was outstanding and while - unfortunately for him - he couldn't overhaul Heikki Kovalainen for second, where he found the grip in the closing stages - both on and off the track - was really something to behold.

Felipe Massa also had a good battle near the end and he and Kubica were really going for it. That was great to see and, while Felipe took sixth and the extra points, both of them, as well as Kimi and Heikki, deserve a big pat on the back for giving us all such entertaining finish.

It was nice to see Heikki get his first podium finish in F1 as, after a difficult start, he really has come on in leaps and bounds and is definitely starting to live up to what we expected from him coming into the year.

With Giancarlo Fisichella fifth, Renault got another good haul, although Fisi may be running out of time if he wants to impress and secure a drive for 2008. Certainly, he has been overshadowed of late by Kovalainen.

Of the other point scorers, David Coulthard did well for Red Bull Racing in fourth and, while it was a shame he couldn't do anything about Kimi, who passed him late on, it will still have been a boost for him and the Milton-Keynes-based outfit.

No doubt it was somewhat bittersweet after Mark Webber was taken out by Red Bull 'B' team member Sebastian Vettel, but that is the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. Mark was certainly quite vocal post-event and left us in no uncertain terms how he felt!

The other point has gone provisionally to Spyker's Adrian Sutil, after Vitantonio Liuzzi picked up a penalty post-event.

Toro Rosso are appealing that decision and, whoever ends up with the point, it could be very significant as it could make the difference between finishing ninth or tenth in the constructors' championship. Financially, that is important for both outfits.

All-in-all, all the drivers need to be saluted for their efforts at Fuji. To compete in those conditions really is extremely difficult and, as a former F1 driver myself, I know just how tough it is to try and race when it is that wet and when there is so much spray.

Visibility really is a big issue, and I take my hat off to all of them for their efforts. Every driver out there really earned their money on Sunday, believe me.

It was also a difficult one for FIA race director Charlie Whiting and, to juggle everything the way he did, should be applauded.

Postponing the race was never a possibility, and even delaying it has a big knock on effect in terms of TV commitments and schedules. In that respect, to start the event behind the safety car was a wise call and while, if the whole race had been run that way, it wouldn't have been good for the sport, in the end it worked out and the decision to go racing around lap 20 was a good one.

We had a great race and while, admittedly, it was a bit of a lottery, it was no more so than the European Grand Prix back in the summer, which was also severely affected by the weather.

So, to sum up, I'm going to stick with what I said pre-Japan and that's that Shanghai will probably suit Ferrari more than McLaren.

After that, there will be the usual battle further back, led by BMW Sauber and followed by the likes of Renault and Williams, with maybe an RBR or Toyota or Honda thrown in for good measure.

Whatever happens though, I'll make no apologies for saying I want Lewis to wrap up the title. I'm sure most of us Brits will be keen to see that.

Come on Lewis!

Enjoy the grand prix.

MB

 

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