Formula One soap opera moves to China

SHANGHAI - Formula One's season of the unexpected will likely continue its unpredictable pattern with many leading figures looking carefully over their shoulders during this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.

SHANGHAI - Formula One's season of the unexpected will likely continue its unpredictable pattern with many leading figures looking carefully over their shoulders during this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.

Championship leader Jenson Button, victor in both the season-opening Australian and rain-affected Malaysian races, is waiting to find out if his sensational Brawn GP car remains 'legal' with a ruling due from Paris.

If a hearing of the International Motoring Federation (FIA) International Court of Appeal declares the Brawn, Williams and Toyota team's diffusers are within the rules, then he will be free to race to extend his lead.

If not, Button may face losing his points and his position and having to start all over again.

And defending champion Lewis Hamilton, who has been deeply embarrassed by his part in the lying scandal that erupted after the Australian Grand Prix, is also on tenterhooks as he awaits a ruling on his and McLaren's future.

He and his team are expected to appear at a meeting of the FIA's World Motor Sport Council in Paris on April 29. McLaren's deliberate misleading of the stewards at the Australian race will be analysed in detail.

The case, which has already cost Hamilton his points gained in Melbourne and much of his once-glowing reputation, has also cost long-serving McLaren team manager Dave Ryan his job.

Since taking the driver's title at the last corner of last season's final race in Brazil, Hamilton has struggled to show the form of his early F1 career and complained that his car lacks the performance to make him competitive.

McLaren, however, did not join Ferrari in claiming that the Brawn, Williams and Toyota cars are using illegal diffusers, claiming they did not have the energy to spare for anything other than improving their own car.

All of which, together with the politics, chicanery and melodrama, suggest that another race weekend could be overshadowed by off-circuit stories. - Sapa-AFP

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