By sportswriter Michael Butterworth
SHANGHAI, April 11 (Xinhua) -- After emerging victorious in the first two races of the 2019 Formula 1 season, Mercedes will be looking to fend off the challenge from a resurgent Ferrari and make it three wins from three at this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
Designed by renowned F1 architect Hermann Tilke, the Shanghai International Circuit opened in 2004 at a cost of 450 million U.S. dollars, making it at the time the world's costliest motorsport venue.
The track's design is inspired by the shape of the Chinese character "Shang", and its notorious first turn is one of the most challenging corners on the F1 calendar. The 270-degree double right-hander is entered at great speed and gradually tightens towards the exit, requiring drivers to brake and steer at the same time. Difficult enough in dry conditions, Shanghai's frequent downpours make this an even trickier proposition in the wet.
Since holding its first Grand Prix in 2004, Shanghai has seen its fair share of on-track agony and ecstasy, as well as a number of notable F1 milestones.
The 2006 Chinese Grand Prix marked the last ever race win for seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, while the 2012 event saw Nico Rosberg cruise home to his first ever Grand Prix victory, and Sebastian Vettel took the first of many wins for Red Bull Racing in torrential conditions in 2009.
Shanghai has also been a happy hunting ground for current champion Lewis Hamilton, who has won here no fewer than five times, though he may want to forget his first Chinese Grand Prix in 2007. After leading the first half of the race and appearing set for a fairytale championship win in his rookie year, the Briton slid off the track in damp conditions, ending his afternoon's work and ultimately seeing him pipped to that year's title by Kimi Raikkonen.
Turning attention to this weekend, while Mercedes have maximum points after two races, Ferrari may yet emerge as slight favorites for the win, with young charger Charles Leclerc looking set for a debut victory last time out in Bahrain before an engine issue dropped him to third. But with the Shanghai circuit's long straights likely to be to Ferrari's advantage, the young Monegasque will fancy his chances of breaking his Grand Prix duck this Sunday.
However, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will not relinquish their top spot easily, with the Briton looking to add to his five Shanghai wins, and Red Bull will be keen for a repeat of last year's race, when their former driver Daniel Ricciardo romped to victory after overtaking several cars following a mid-race tyre stop.
The 2019 Chinese Grand Prix weekend runs from April 12 to 14 at the Shanghai International Circuit. Xinhua will be there to keep you updated of all the happenings across practise, qualifying and, of course, Sunday's race.