Sebastian Vettel will be out to repeat his early season dominance as Formula One moves immediately from Malaysia to China for next Sunday's Grand Prix in Shanghai.
The major teams are all planning updates to their cars and Vettel himself is taking nothing for granteddespite his dominance in Melbourne and Sunday's race in Sepang. “We cannot stop pushing,” he said. “We have seen how close it is, much closer here than in Australia, so that's how quickly things can change. We have to keep our heads cool, keep working, keep pushing, but I am not worried to be honest.”
The 23-year-old world champion is threatening to race away with the 2011 championship in a Red Bull car which had the pace even after the German had been told to switch off his Kers energy boost button before the halfway stage because of a problem.
The international press is agreed that on the present evidence Vettel will take some beating.
Spain's El Mundo said: “Vettel is the heir to (seven-time champion) Michael Schumacher. The world champion has it in him to defend his title. The season is threatening to become a solo run for the German.”
“The rest of the 24-strong field were nowhere in sight,” Britain's tabloid Sun said. “The German is on a roll. It was his fourth win in a row and five in the past six races, stretching back to the tailend of last season.”
The Guardian said Vettel “is even more chillingly dominant than before; it will take an elephant gun to stop him now.”
McLaren appear to be Red Bull's chief rival after 2009 world champion Jenson Button finished second to move him second overall ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton, second in Melbourne, finished seventh but was handed a 20-second time penalty along with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, which put him back to eighth.
“Hopefully we can take the fight to Red Bull because everyone wants to see that,” said Button. “Our aim is to challenge these guys but it's not that easy - they are very, very fast.”
Ferrari again saw that the pace of their cars was better in the race than in qualifying but had to make do with fifth and sixth spots for Felipe Massa and Alonso respectively.
Alonso left the track encouraged by the fact that the Ferrari was competitive. “In Shanghai, we realise we can expect another difficult weekend,” he said. “We will have something new, but we don't know how much progress it will see us make. Everyone knows that, at the moment, we just have to grit our teeth and that’s what we will do. There is still a long way to go in the championship and we must leave nothing to chance.”
While Renault could celebrate Nick Heidfeld’s third place to follow Vitaly Petrov's similar finish in Melbourne, it was another disappointing race for Mercedes. Schumacher finished ninth to earn the first points for the team while Nico Rosberg was 12th.
The 41-year-old German said the team would “certainly have to work on our race pace which is not yet where we want it to be.”