The Argentinian knows that if that gap goes up up to 110 points he will be crowned champion as early as at the end of Race 2, which will not be an easy task.
Sébastien Loeb is in third, a further 35 points adrift, and with a 101 points disadvantage over his team-mate, he may well be out of contention at the end of the weekend, leaving the title a fight between López and Muller.
All the other drivers are already mathematically out of contention. Citroën had its first weekend without a win in its WTCC history, but the French squad is now sure it has won the Drivers’ championship. With a huge 270 points margin over Honda in the Manufacturers’ championship, they are also likely to be crowned champions in China, even as early as the first race.
Honda proved to be a very serious contender, despite a tough weekend in Beijing. The Japanese manufacturer has its drivers in the lead of the ‘best of the rest’ championship, with Tiago Monteiro in fourth despite the double zero scored last week. The Portuguese driver has a 20 points margin over team-mate Gabriele Tarquini, who looked set for a podium finish in Race 1 in Beijing before hitting debris on track and having to retire as a result.
The opponents should not be underestimated, though. Tom Coronel made the most out of the reverse grid to come second after a very strong defensive drive over Citroën’s Loeb. The Dutchman is the highest-placed Chevrolet driver and is tied on points with Honda’s Norbert Michelisz, both on 118 points.
Tom Chilton’s dominant win in Beijing put him up to eighth in the championship, just one point shy of his team-mate. All-inkl.com driver Gianni Morbidelli is in ninth after two points finishes in China, with Rob Huff jumping up to tenth after taking Lada’s maiden win in the WTCC history.
Leaving the twisty and short Beijing track, several teams will have the chance to feel the benefits of the new parts developed during the Summer break. That is particularly true for Honda and Chevrolet, with the Japanese manufacturer now focusing on its 2015 campaign and the RML-built cars being updated after a test in Spain.
Having gained weight due to Tom Chilton’s stunning performances in China, Chevrolet cars could still be competitive thanks to the updates, especially at the front end of the car, where a revised version of several bodywork pieces seems to have increased the Cruze’s aerodynamic grip.