Let's hope Shanghai lives up to this spicy F1 season

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 April, 2012, 12:00am


If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all, is 'Thumper's law' from Bambi. Perhaps Sebastian Vettel should be reminded of the principle after his spat with Narain Karthikeyan.

The two had a verbal coming together after they came together on the racetrack in Malaysia. Vettel even had time to flick his Indian rival the finger; such one-handed road rage at high speed is impressive but not to be copied by us mere mortals. Karthikeyan called Vettel a 'cry baby', which is not the most witty and sophisticated comeback. The two of them didn't even refer to the other by name during verbal hostilities, which is a long way from taking your helmet off and getting it on in the pits.

It was an amusing side dish to the tasty main dish that was the Malaysian Grand Prix, although that dish might have been a bit too watery for some. Indeed, the evidence is that the whole of the season is going to be pretty spicy.

Just how Fernando Alonso arrives in Shanghai with a victory under is his belt is still a thing of wonderment. The weather, a fortuitous pit stop and good luck with tyres is half the story. But the skill and sheer bloody-mindedness of the Spaniard has something to do with it. Remember he dragged the seriously misfiring Ferrari to fifth in Melbourne as well.

In Shanghai, he will need all the stars to align once again. It is not unconceivable it could rain, but another race win for the prancing horse is not something to bet on. The car is still something of a dog.

It might be worth a flutter on another stellar performance from Sauber. It was great to see the Swiss team on the podium and to see some concrete acknowledgment of the skill that Sergio Perez showed last season. His second place might have been down in some part to the elements, but it was indicative of a resurgent midfield.

Not only is Lotus (formerly Renault) back on song, but Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso are also showing strongly. It makes for a more entertaining spectacle and let's hope it continues this weekend.

How many people will be at the track to see the race this weekend is another matter. It is likely the stands will be empty again as Formula One struggles to ignite the imagination of locals. Autosport magazine has called China: 'The market racing can't crack'. It has concluded that people generally don't know about or care about the sport.

Private car buying in the country has only been happening for the last 20 years. The lack of a developed car culture is a problem for motorsport, and yet with China now the biggest car market in the world, manufacturers (and F1) are keen to go racing there.

Formula One isn't the only one to struggle to find a foothold and paying fans, but motorsport is still attracted to China like a moth to the flame. Indycar is heading out here with a race in Qingdao. The series believes it has the recipe for success. It will be a street race, and bringing the race to the people will be its creed.

The race will tie in with the city's beer festival, and the hope is the race will just add to the party, with word of mouth doing its part. The problem with F1 attendance may be down to the fact it's a circuit race, and some clever marketing may be needed - or perhaps a bit of patience as locals catch up with racing culture.

Perhaps all is not lost. We only have to look on the doorstep to find motorsport success in Macau. That though, started small and got bigger over time with the arrival of F3. It is also a fabulous street track. Shame it's too narrow for a modern F1 car.