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Chinese Grand Prix preview: Can Red Bull get its act together?

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All you need to know about the Chinese Grand Prix (0:53)

Jennie Gow brings you the best facts and stats ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix. (0:53)

The momentum continues to be with Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel as they arrive in Shanghai on the back of wins in Australia and Bahrain.

Focus on... Can Red Bull assert itself?

After a productive winter testing in Barcelona, Red Bull's expectations ahead of the 2018 season were rightfully sky high. However, an underwhelming first two races already has the Milton Keynes outfit playing catch-up.

Heading into China, Red Bull are 45 points adrift of championship leaders Ferrari and without a single podium finish after failing to capitalise on their pace in Australia and then suffering a double retirement in Bahrain -- the team's first since Korea, 2010 -- when both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were reduced to spectators inside the opening two laps.

While running in P4, Ricciardo suffered a lap two electronics failure on his engine before teammate Verstappen, who was forced to start 15th after crashing at Turn 3 during qualifying, tagged Lewis Hamilton, picked up a puncture and retired soon after with transmission failure.

Red Bull's long-run pace in Friday practice ahead of both races has been comparable to Mercedes and Ferrari, so if they can string together an uninterrupted qualifying and fix their reliability gremlins, expect them to be right in the hunt.

Despite not claiming a win in China since 2009, the Shanghai International Circuit has been a track Red Bull has fared well at in recent times. They have managed double top five finishes in three of the last four races and haven't failed to get a car in the top four since 2010.

In need of a win? Lewis Hamilton

Ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix we highlighted Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas as someone who was in desperate need of a win, and while he didn't quite get the job done, his performance was a step in the right direction.

This week we are shifting the focus onto his teammate. Hamilton has had plenty of success in China having started on pole there six times and claiming victory on five occasions but it's now been five races since his last win -- his second longest winless drought since the beginning of 2014.

We're certainly not saying this is a must-win for Hamilton but he has never won a championship in a year which he didn't claim a win in the opening three rounds...

In need of points? Williams

It's pretty simple. After two races, Williams is the only team that has failed to score points. In fact, the team's best result thus far is a disappointing P14.

With the inexperienced pairing of Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin, no one was expecting miracles, but even the most senior heads at Williams will be perplexed with such an uninspiring start to 2018.

Williams struggled in Australia and Bahrain's warm conditions so a cooler weekend in China could be exactly what is needed for them to snatch their first points of the year.

Tyre talk

Available compounds: Medium, Soft and Ultrasoft

Pirelli's pointers:

  • Turns 1 and 13 are the most demanding corners for tyres. Turn 1 is a decreasing radius corner leading straight into Turn 2, while the long Turn 13 is taken at high speed.

  • The long straight between Turn 13 and Turn 14 can have the effect of cooling the tyres, meaning that drivers need to pay attention to the braking area: this is also a key opportunity for overtaking.

  • The circuit isn't used much during the year, which can make it quite 'green' and slippery.

  • Lewis Hamilton won in 2017 with a two-stop strategy, starting on the intermediate and then completing two stints on the soft.

Minimum starting pressures: Front 21psi, rear 20psi

Weather forecast

Cool temperatures are expected over the grand prix weekend but there's a strong chance we'll see a rain-interrupted Friday practice in Shanghai with light rain expected throughout the day.

It should clear for an overcast qualifying with the sun likely to return on race day.

Betting

Vettel's perfect start to the season still hasn't been enough for bookmakers to install him as favourite in China with Hamilton at 10/11 to take a sixth win in Shanghai. The German is marginally back at 9/4 while there's plenty of value to be had by backing either Red Bull for the win at 9/1.

Speaking of value, Pierre Gasly impressed in Bahrain with a career-best P4 for Toro Rosso, if you think he can find his way onto the podium in Shanghai it's paying a handsome 61/1.

ESPN's prediction

Ferrari may be the red-hot team heading to China but history suggests this is a race Mercedes should win. The Silver Arrows have claimed five of the last six and it's hard to see them not adding to that record this weekend. However, which Mercedes will it be?

Winner: Valtteri Bottas

Bonus prediction: Max Verstappen to finish P2

Formula 1 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix U.S. coverage presented by Mothers Polish (All times Eastern)

Practice 1 - Thursday, April 12 09:55 PM - ESPN3
Practice 2 - Friday, April 13 1:55 AM - ESPN3
Practice 3 - Friday, April 13 11:00 PM - ESPNEWS
Qualifying - Saturday, April 14 1:55 AM - ESPN2

On the Grid - Sunday, April 15 - 1:30AM - ESPN2
Race - Sunday, April 15 - 2:05AM - ESPN2
Encore - Sunday April 15 - 1:00PM - ESPNEWS
Encore - Sunday, April 15 - 09:00PM - ESPN2