The Shanghai International Circuit, Jiading, Shanghai, designed by Hermann Tilke, when completed in 2004 was the most expensive Formula One circuit facility, costing $240 million. The track is 5.451 km long and features one of the trickiest corners combinations on the Formula One calendar, comparable to that of Istanbul Park's turn 8, also designed by Tilke. Turn 1 and 2 are a very demanding 270 degree, right-handed corner combination that requires a lot of speed whilst entering and it tightens up towards the end.
Two long straights with the inevitable DRS zones present opportunities for overtaking. The back straight leading to the turn 14 hairpin is one of the longest of the season. Yet despite this drivers are at full throttle for less time than at almost every other circuit. This makes the track less demanding in terms of fuel consumption and brake wear. The cars pass beneath a vast grandstand as they accelerate towards turn one, which is one of the quickest opening turns of the season.
The UBS Chinese Grand Prix is always an intriguing race and strategy has played a significant role in the outcome in recent years. Overtaking is easy here because of the longest straight in F1 at 1.17km, so teams can plan for the fastest strategy knowing that traffic will not be a huge problem. That said, the speed differential between cars due to the new hybrid turbo engines, could see cars with less straight line speed struggle to pass midfield cars with good straight line speed.
Track length : 5.45 kilometres
Race distance : 56 laps (305 kilometres)
Corner : 16 corners in total, a mixture of slow, medium and fast
Aerodynamic setup : Medium/high downforce
Top speed : 322km/h (with Drag Reduction System on rear wing) – 310km/h without
Full throttle : 55% of the lap
Time spent braking : 15% of the lap. 8 braking zones
Brake wear : Medium
Total time needed for pit stop : 22 seconds
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried) : 0.34 seconds (average)
A large band of rain will have reached Shanghai by now and is likely to create wet conditions for Saturday’s qualifying session. Dry and fairly warm conditions are expected for the first two practice sessions at the Shanghai International Circuit on Friday. But in the evening rain will arrive from the east and linger for the next 24 hours.
This will be persistent drizzle rather than a downpour. It will build slightly in intensity throughout the day but the 3pm qualifying session is expected to miss the heaviest rainfall. The dull, cloudy conditions will persist into Sunday but the drivers will be spared any further rain. Temperatures for race day will be slightly lower, peaking at around 20C, some two degrees cooler than Saturday.
Although the air temperature will be only slightly cooler than during last year’s race the cloud cover should keep the track temperatures from reaching the 47C high seen in this race 12 months ago.
Pirelli tyre choice for Shanghai: Medium, soft, super-soft. As in the opening two rounds, the Super Soft, Soft and Medium tyre compounds will be used at Shanghai. Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have opted for different choices, with the Briton selecting an extra set of Medium tyres compared to his team-mate. While both Ferrari drivers have selected the same number of each tyres, the pair have chosen an extra set of the Super Soft tyres compared to their Mercedes counterparts. Williams, Renault, Toro Rosso and Haas drivers have all made slightly different choices compared to their respective team-mates.
The front tyres are the limitation, especially the left front which gets hammered by the two long corners T1 and T13. With the three different tyre options available for the race, we’ll see a mixture of different strategies again. We can see already who tends to be aggressive (Red Bull, Haas) and it should be another fascinating his speed chess game.
Weather conditions are nearly always unpredictable, which have a big effect on tyre behaviour. Key tyre info for Shanghai from Pirelli:
- As a result, graining is sometimes an issue when it's cool: especially in the early sessions.
- Around 80% of the lap is spent cornering, meaning that lateral loads are a crucial factor.
- The track is front limited, because of all the turns and high-energy corners.
- The crucial corners are Turn 1, which is almost a full circle, and Turn 13, which is banked.
- Drivers also have to avoid wheelspin out of the corners, in order to minimise rear degradation.
The chance of a safety car at Shanghai is reasonably high, at 43% and there is an average of 0.7 safety cars per race. In the 2005 and 2010 races there were 2 safety car periods.
The DRS sectors at the Shanghai International Circuit will be as last year. The detection point of
the first zone is at Turn 12 and the activation point is 752m before Turn 14. The second zone’s
detection point is 35m before Turn 16, with activation occurring 98m after Turn 16.
Lewis Hamilton has an enviable qualifying record in China with five pole positions to his name including the last three in a row. But he’s unlikely to extend that run this weekend as he arrives carrying a five-place grid penalty for an expected gearbox change.
That will hand the initiate to his team mate Nico Rosberg who arrives looking for his sixth win in a row – something only three drivers have achieved in F1 history. More importantly, Rosberg could increase his 17-point championship lead – especially if Hamilton makes another poor start.
Race strategy will again be crucial, as will qualifying. Sebastian Vettel was in touching distance of the Mercedes after the first runs in Q3 in Bahrain, but then they opened out a half second margin in the second runs. They denied that it had anything to do with advanced engine modes, saying that the cars were at the maximum from Q2 onwards.
But the Ferrari’s end of sector time speeds were encouraging, especially in the race and give grounds for hope. They still have a reliability concern, especially on the turbo, but new fixes are on the way.
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