Formula 1 heads to the Shanghai International Circuit in China this weekend for the third round of the 2016 season, with Nico Rosberg looking to extend his early advantage in the championship. Rosberg triumphed in both Australia and Bahrain, though World Champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton remains within touching distance despite a difficult opening pair of rounds.
Ferrari remains Mercedes’ primary challenger overall though reliability concerns have left both Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel adrift in the standings, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Haas’ Romain Grosjean excelling early on.
The biggest news since the Bahrain Grand Prix is that qualifying will revert to the format which was largely unchanged between 2006 and 2015; six drivers will be eliminated at the end of Q1 and Q2, leaving 10 drivers to fight it out for pole position in Q3.
McLaren's Fernando Alonso will have to pass a medical check-up on Thursday before he is passed fit to make a return; should he fail the examination then he will be replaced once more by Stoffel Vandoorne.
Located near to the sprawling metropolis of Shanghai, the circuit was opened in 2004 after construction workers transformed swampland into an international sporting venue. The 5.5km circuit features an array of challenges, with the iconic long-radius first corner leading to a middle sector in which the emphasis is firmly on handling, with a mixture of slow, medium and high speed corners. The final segment of the lap features tight corners, punctuated by a seemingly interminably long straight, which puts a high load on the power unit.
“Shanghai is a very front-limited track, which puts a lot of front load into the tyres,” says Haas’ Esteban Gutiérrez.” Turn 1 is very fast and a very long corner – one which is very different to other corners of the season. It’s quite iconic to Shanghai. You arrive at full speed, and when you enter into the corner, you have to wait very long into Turn 2. You have Turn 3, which has a very long exit, and it’s quite tricky on traction as you put a lot of lateral on the exit. You go through Turns 4 and 5, which is a very high-speed section, and then into Turn 6 and 7, one of my favourite parts of the track. You really come into Turn 6 with full speed and then change direction into Turn 7. You have to prepare for Turns 8 and 9 because this sequence is very important not to lose the rhythm. Then getting into Turn 10, it’s a small 90 degree corner which exits to a very, very long straight into Turn 11, which is the beginning of a very long corner. You go from very low speed to increasing the speed through the corner, and it’s a part of the circuit where it’s easy to hurt the front tyres. It’s an important part of the circuit when it comes to the car’s race setup. Then one of the longest straights of the season is the back straight, were you’re at maximum speed. You arrive into a very high-braking corner – the hairpin Turn 14. Then the last corner is 90 degrees – a medium-speed corner –which is quite tricky on the exit because you have the kerb which you can use quite a lot but, obviously, it has its limits. You’re always trying to maximise the track. It’s quite challenging.”
Rosberg arrives in China with a 17 point lead in the championship, having claimed his maiden Formula 1 victory at the circuit four years ago. In its 12-year history, only Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have claimed multiple wins at the circuit; Hamilton has triumphed on four occasions (2008, 2011, 2014, 2015) while Alonso has emerged on top twice (2005, 2013).
For the third successive Grand Prix, the Super Soft, Soft and Medium tyres will be available to drivers throughout the weekend, while 1980 Formula 1 champion Alan Jones will act as the driver steward.
Facts and stats
- Circuit length: 5.451 km
- Turns: 16
- Direction: clockwise
- Race laps: 56 laps
- First Grand Prix: 2004
- Lap record: 1:32.238 (Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 2004)
- Most wins (driver): Lewis Hamilton (4)
- Most wins (Constructor): Ferrari (4)
- 2015 Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
- 2015 Race: 1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), 3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
Timetable (GMT +8):
Friday 15 April
- Practice One: 10:00 – 11:30
- Practice Two: 14:00 – 15:30
Saturday 16 April
- Practice Three: 12:00 – 13:00
- Qualifying: 15:00 (60 minutes)
Sunday 17 April
- Race: 14:00 (56 laps or two hours)