SHANGHAI: Ferrari's Charles Leclerc is gunning for his first win this week in China after cruelly missing out in Bahrain as Formula One's 1,000th race coincides with the emergence of a bright new star.
The supremely talented 21-year-old upstaged five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain but ultimately limped home third when his Ferrari lost power with 10 laps left.
The Chinese Grand Prix is replete with sub-plots: can Hamilton win the race for a sixth time? Can Sebastian Vettel silence the doubters? How much faster are Ferrari?
But the focus in Shanghai will be on Leclerc, the Ferrari rookie from Monaco who fully deserved victory two weeks ago but had to settle for the first podium of his career.
In just his second season in F1, it is widely assumed that it is just a matter of time until Leclerc tastes victory.
"Usually the Chinese race is good fun because the weather can be unpredictable and rain can arrive when you least expect it," said Leclerc. "It's the 1,000th race in the history of Formula One and I hope the car will be as good as it was in Bahrain (until late on) so that I can continue to go for the results we deserve."
Shanghai has one of the longest straights in the 21-race championship and should be perfect for Ferrari's searing pace, with reliability the main concern for the Italian marque.
While there has been fulsome praise of Leclerc, particularly the mature way he handled the Bahrain disappointment, his Ferrari team-mate Vettel is facing criticism.
It seems absurd for a four-time world champion to have to defend his ability and temperament, but the German is having to do just that after a series of unforced errors stretching back to last season.
Former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer, who left Renault during the 2017 season, called Vettel's spin in Bahrain — where he was duelling with Hamilton — "amateur".
Vettel finished fifth and was comfortably eclipsed by Leclerc, who is a decade younger.
"If a backmarker rookie had spun in the manner Vettel did, they would have been a laughing stock after the race," Palmer told the BBC. "For a four-time world champion to do so should be unthinkable."
With all the talk about Ferrari, it is easy to forget that Mercedes won the opening two races.
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