Chinese Grand PrixView

By on Thursday, April 9, 2015
Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

After a stunning Malaysian Grand Prix, which proved that the championship fight is open for more than one team, Formula 1 now heads to China for round three of the season. We don’t know yet if Sebastian Vettel’s victory for Ferrari at Sepang was only thanks to the unusual circumstances but we do know it took Mercedes out of their comfort zone and added some extra fight to the season.

The Chinese Grand Prix presents a different challenge to Malaysia despite the similarities in the circuit characteristics. Tyre management will be a key factor at Shanghai as around 80% of the lap is spent cornering, with the high-speed corners and heavy breaking areas accelerating degradation. Graining can also be an issue with both compounds due to the weather conditions that are significantly cooler than those experienced in Malaysia.

Finding a good balance for the car this weekend means a set-up with braking stability, traction and a downforce level which can provide optimal top speeds through both the corners and straights.

The circuit

The idea of hosting a Chinese Grand Prix came in the early 1990s when a circuit was built in the city of Zhuhai and was provisionally added to the 1999 Formula 1 championship. The event was soon dropped from the calendar as the track failed to meet the FIA standards. A few years later, the first Chinese Grand Prix was held at the Shanghai International Circuit which has been a permanent fixture on the Formula 1 calendar since its inaugural event in 2004. The track was financed by a government-funded joint-venture company and built within 18 months. By that time, it was the most expensive Formula 1 circuit facility.

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

"The paddock is enormous! You need to be an athlete just to get around. As for the track itself, I'd call it 'technical'. Turns 1, 2 and 3 are all very long and technical. I don't think there's any other corner like it on the calendar. And it's very, very aggressive on the front tyres,” says Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

“[Tyre wear] is pretty extreme – but I'd still prefer it to the scenario with a tyre that takes three laps to come in. The fact it comes in straight away is awesome. In qualifying, you drive the out-lap like your grandma, desperately trying to not kill it before the flying lap starts."

The track layout has never changed and offers an interesting mix of low, medium and high speed corners as well as several technical sections and the longest straight on the calendar.

"The start of the lap is always really tough and it's very easy to get wrong. The lap starts with a big test but the big thing is to find a good rhythm through it. That's the case everywhere there really. The long straight is good and the heavy braking zone at the end of that is interesting. It's a pretty good circuit, wide open, you can really push hard all the way through,” Daniil Kvyat explained.

The race

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

No driver has managed to win back-to-back races at Shanghai but Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are the only ones to win the Chinese Grand Prix more than once. The Briton comes to China with a 3 point lead in the championship to Vettel while his team has a 24 point advantage over rivals Ferrari.

As in 2014, Pirelli has nominated the Medium and Soft compounds for this weekend which should be well suited to the weather and track conditions at Shanghai. The top 15 cars completed the 2014 race on a two-stop strategy, most of them running the Soft tyre in the first stint and the next two on Medium.

Temperatures will vary between 11 and 15 degrees this weekend, with a 10% possibility of rain on Sunday.

The two DRS zones in China are on the back straight and pit straight, with the detection points at Turn 12 and before Turn 16, and the activation points before Turn 14 and after Turn 16.

Mark Blundell is the FIA’s driver steward.

Facts and stats

Circuit length: 5.45 km

Turns: 16 (7 left, 9 right)

Direction: clockwise

Altitude: 4m above sea level

Capacity: 200,000 spectators

Race laps: 56

Top speed: 339 km/h (210 mph)

Gear changes: 61

First Grand Prix: 2004 - won by Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)

Lap record: 1:32.238 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)

Lowest starting position for a winner: 6

Wins from pole: 6

Most pole positions: Lewis Hamilton (4)

Most wins (driver): Lewis Hamilton (3)

Most wins (constructor): Ferrari (4)

2014 Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

2014 Race: 1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), 3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)

Timetable (GMT +8):

Friday 10 April (GMT +8)

  • Practice One: 10:00 – 11:30
  • Practice Two: 14:00 – 15:30

Saturday 11 April

  • Practice Three: 12:00 – 13:00
  • Qualifying: 15:00 (60 minutes)

Sunday 12 April

  • Race: 14:00 (56 laps or two hours)

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