Formula 1 returns to Shanghai after an absence of five years. It practically starts from scratch.

This is why I find myself in line with the drivers who are complaining – Verstappen first and foremost – about the decision to schedule the Sprint race (scheduled for 5.00am on Saturday) precisely in China, with barely an hour of free practice available before the qualifying for the Sprint (starting from 9.30 Friday)

Compared to the last edition we have completely different cars, tyre with 18” rims and asphalt subject to precision grinding, shot peening and sealing to eliminate the unevenness that has developed over time. A further unknown factor. In addition, some drivers do not know it at all.

On the compounds front, Pirelli has brought the C2 (Hard), C3 (Medium) and C4 (Soft compounds). In particular, the front left tyre will be particularly stressed on a track that has two very long straights and significant braking.

Red Bull remains the car to beat, but there could be some variables in the rear. This year there is a clear divide between the top five teams (Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Aston Martin) and the rest of the grid. One person under special observation in Racing Bulls will certainly be Daniel Ricciardo. He must try to come out of his anonymity, to safeguard his past, and above all to help the team to keep sixth place. Tsunoda alone (excellent in this start of the season) is not enough.

As is normal when we move towards the end of a cycle, we are faced with many negotiations behind the scenes, especially with an eye to 2026, which interests the drivers and especially the technicians and the engineers.

WEC. In addition to Formula 1, this weekend will also see the second round of the FIA WEC, which will stop in Italy at Imola’s Circuit.

For the first time the World Endurance Championship makes a stop in Imola, fifty years after the Mille Chilometri (Thousand kilometres) of Imola race. We are satisfied with advance sales, despite the current uncertain weather. It is important to show the organizers of the World Championship is of interest to the Italian public. We are talking about a calendar of eight rounds and many nations aspire to host it. It is an honour for us.

We are talking about a starting grid of the highest level, made up of 14 car manufacturers, including the LMGT3 and Hypercars, and the spectacle will certainly not be lacking, starting from Friday. Let us not forget that with the ticket you can go all around the circuit to see the cars in action in all the sectors of the track. In 6 hours of racing (start at 1.00pm) there will be fun to be had.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Imola.

Gian Carlo Minardi