Philadelphia, PA – After winning last month's Malaysian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso from Ferrari is surprisingly atop the Formula One world championship point standings.
Alonso's win gave Ferrari a huge boost after the Italian team endured numerous performance and reliability issues with its car during pre-season testing.
Heading into Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix -- the third round of the season -- Alonso holds a five-point lead over Lewis Hamilton from McLaren. Alonso won the Chinese GP in 2005 when he drove for Renault. The Spaniard finish seventh in this race one year ago.
"Here we are in Shanghai for the start of the third race weekend of the year," Alonso said. "Arriving here in China as the leader of the championship is something I would never have expected, at least given the way winter testing went [for Ferrari]. It means we have done a good job, managing to make use of all the potential at our disposal and making the most of every opportunity. I'm not expecting any surprises in this race, compared to what we saw in Australia and Malaysia."
Hamilton is a two-time Chinese GP winner (2008 and 2011).
Last year, Hamilton experienced a fuel leak prior to the start of the race at Shanghai International Circuit. His team corrected the fuel-line problem by changing the air filter in his car. Hamilton was then able to make his warm-up lap in time to line up third on the starting grid.
After making his third and final pit stop, Hamilton, with fresher tires, chased down Sebastian Vettel and overtook him for the lead with four laps remaining. Vettel made just two pit stops during the 56-lap event. Hamilton crossed the finish line 5.2 seconds ahead of the Red Bull driver for the win.
"I'll be heading to China looking to win, but it's just as important to pick up some good points if, for whatever reason, a win isn't on the cards. I have some vivid memories of racing in China - some good and some not so good. I've won there twice. Both were victories I'm really proud of."
So far this season, Hamilton has started on the pole in the Australian GP and the Malaysian GP but has finished third in each of those events.
"I won't deny that I'm disappointed to have had two pole positions and not to have been able to convert either of them into victories, but I prefer to think of it that luck just hasn't been on my side, and that it will swing my way sooner or later," he said.
Vettel, the two-time defending world champion, has won the pole for the Chinese GP the last three years. The young German won this event in 2009 and finished second last year.
"I've had some good races there in the past," Vettel said. "We got a great result in 2009 when we took the team's first win, and in 2011, when we were second. Hopefully, we can get a strong finish and some more points."
Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, April 15. Race: Chinese Grand Prix. Site: Shanghai International Circuit. Track: 5.451 km (3.386 miles), 16-turn road course. Start Time: 3 a.m. (et). Laps: 56. Miles: 189.568 (305.066 km). 2011 Winner: Lewis Hamilton. Television: Speed.