China set for F1 Grand Prix

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> China is set to host the first F1 Grand Prix on Sunday.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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A bird's eye view of the circuit at Shanghai shows what an event Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix will be. The course is arguably one of the best there is, and so it should be considering the amount of money that has been spent on it. Jacques Villeneuve's much anticipated return along with that of Ralf Schumacher - is injecting added drama into China's first Formula One race. The race is being hailed as a breakthrough for the global sport and a bonanza for sponsors targeting the country's 1.3 (b) billion people. Up for grabs Ferrari's Michael Schumacher has already clinched the driving title this season- his seventh overall and fifth in a row. He and Rubens Barrichello helped Ferrari take its sixth consecutive team title ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, the latest addition to the Formula One schedule. Yet second and third place are still up to grabs, and Villeneuve, who also won the 1995 edition of the Indy 500, hopes to help Renault overcome his old teammates at BAR-Honda, who are in second place just three points ahead of Renault at third. Villeneuve returns after nearly a year away from F1 after his contract was ended by BAR-Honda before the last race of the 2003 season. He was replaced by Takuma Sato. The struggle for second and third in the team standings, which counts for valuable money from commercial revenues, is a tight race. Behind Ferrari's 234 points, BAR-Honda has 94 and Renault has 91 with three races left - points awarded for finishes range from ten for first place to just one for eighth place. Renault's boss Flavio Briatore says that Villeneuve would love to confound his critics and put one over his old team BAR. "You know, we have 800 people in the team, we are pushing everybody very hard to make pieces for both cars to make sure the car is competitive and afterwards you see one driver doing the best effort and one driver doing less effort. It was very, very difficult for the team when you're doing something and I believe what I've done is something sensible if you see, it was only one opportunity," said Flavio Briatore, Renault. "I talked with Jacques and Jacques looked like he was together. He wanted to race and he was very motivated to race against BAR anyway, this was something more, a plus and it looked good. If you tell me tomorrow what he's doing on Sunday, he can make the car finish in the points. This is what I need from Jacques, motivate the team, motivate Fernando (Alonso) , this is what I try to do, to have a point, to finish second in the championship," added Briatore. Jaguar's worry But while there are smiles in the Renault camp, the same cannot be said for Jaguar, who are going out at the end of the season after their engine suppliers Ford decided to pull the plug on the struggling team. There are still moves to find a rescue package for the famous marque with its distinctive green livery, but no one is holding their breath. Another team that is struggling is Jordan. The popular owner Eddie Jordan knows the writing is on the wall, but he was in typically combative mood. "I will fight tooth and nail to be on the grid in Australia next year. But can I guarantee anything? I'm not prepared to discuss that at the moment, but for sure I won't go down without a bog fight," said Eddie Jordan, Jordan. Jordan announced on Wednesday it has terminated the team's contract with Giorgio Pantano and will replace him with backup driver Timo Glock. While the Chinese Grand Prix offers untold opportunities for the teams at the top of the grid, for those at the bottom it will be another harsh lesson in the realities of Formula One. (AP)