After Bahrain, the Formula 1 fraternity moves to China, where a grand prix has been held in Shanghai since 2004 and will continue until at least 2018. The Shanghai International Circuit was designed by German architect Hermann Tilke, as is the case with most modern F1 circuits; we can see it in the long back straight followed by a hairpin. The shape of the track is inspired by the first Chinese character in “Shanghai”, which means “upwards” or “ascend”.
The total length of the circuit is 5.451 km, which is about the average for a modern Formula One circuit. 56 laps will be done around the Shanghai Circuit, to complete a total race distance of 305.066km.
The first seven grands prix were won by seven different drivers. The inaugural race was won by Rubens Barrichello in his F2004. Spanish driver Fernando Alonso got the victory in 2005, and again in 2013. The most laureate F1 driver in history, Michael Schumacher, was the winner in 2006. Kimi Räikkönen got the trophy in 2007. In 2008 Lewis Hamilton reached the finish line in first position, and in 2011, he became the first driver who managed to win twice in the Chinese GP. He won again in 2014 and 2015. Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button climbed to the first position of the podium in 2009 and 2010 respectively. German Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has also a victory in Shanghai, back in 2012.
Scuderia Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen remembers a brilliant win he achieved here in 2007, which helped him to get his World Champion title with Scuderia Ferrari, the last one of the team.
“There were tricky conditions, it was wet to start with and then the track was drying up, so obviously there was a point to change the Intermediates tires and then we got a ride. Obviously not the easiest race to anybody, but we came out quite easily. The circuit is quite challenging. First of all, you must mind the start with first few corners where you can get a lot of lap time, if you can get it right though. It’s not an easy circuit, but it’s fun. I was always in the middle of the city but I haven’t been out the door. I’ve only been at the circuit and in the hotel, so all I can say is that sometimes in the morning the traffic can be really tricky”.
The first corner right after the main straight is a very long open curve to the right, which becomes blind, followed by turn 2, a bit more closed and also to the right. This is the biggest challenge of the track; it is difficult to maintain the balance of the car as drivers start at 200 km/h and brake until 100 km/h during the corners. There is a huge load on the front tyres.
Then they head immediately to turn 3, a 180º corner to the left. They find right after the corner number 4, a long left-hand curve. A good exit from it is very important since speed for the following straight is needed. The straight is divided by a soft and fast corner to the right and it ends in the turn 6, a kind of hairpin taken at second gear and 80 km/h, and where Sector 2 starts.
Following corners 7 and 8 conform a high-speed left-right chicane, being the number 7 a long open corner and number 8 a shorter one. Speed in the chicane varies from 240 to 170 km/h. Then, there is a short straight leading to corner 9 and 10, a slow section of the track, both to the left. Here it comes a quite long straight, so drivers will have to ensure a good exit from the previous curves.
At the end of the straight there is a heavy braking point before corners 11 and 12, a slow chicane. Drivers shift down to third gear and reduce speed until 85 km/h to start the Sector 3. The first DRS detection point is in the middle of the chicane. Turn 13 links the chicane with the 1.2km back straight, the longest one in F1. That is why kerbs and traction are very important in that part of the track. Full throttle to get up to 320 km/h. DRS can be opened here, before the hairpin. This corner is the slowest of the track and a good overtaking point. Turn 15 is a very soft curve to the right followed by a short straight and turn 16, a 90º one to the left before taking the main straight. DRS detection point 2 is located just before the last corner and it can be used in the straight.
Tires and technical requirements
A good balance between top speed and downforce will be the key to this track, which despite being one of the widest of the calendar, doesn’t have many overtaking points. Nevertheless, the downforce requirements are medium-high.
The track is usually cold, and with very low grip, especially on Friday. It evolves very quickly throughout the weekend, even during the race. So tyres may show drastically different behaviour in the final stint compared to the first one. Pirelli brings the supersoft, soft and medium compounds to China.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s director, commented on Shanghai: “China is a very different type of circuit to the two that we’ve visited up to now this year, yet the tyre nomination is the same, which underlines the adaptability of our product under a wide range of circumstances. Shanghai is also likely to be quite a cool race, although the nature of the place means that anything is possible, so teams will have to keep an open mind on strategy and carefully correlate the data captured in practice to the eventual race conditions. The three compounds selected have led to a number of different tactical permutations up to now, and we expect an ample variety of strategies once more in China.”
To have in mind
The lap record is held by Michael Schumacher since 2004, with a 1.32.239s. That year Barrichello brought his Ferrari to the highest level of the podium, securing the first of the four triumphs for Ferrari in Shanghai. McLaren has won at three occasions, Mercedes three times and Red Bull and Renault just once.
Will Nico Rosberg continue to maintain advantage over his teammate? Will Ferrari fix the reliability problems they had in the first two races? Will Fernando Alonso be able to drive this weekend? There are a lot of things to sort out in China.
Race local times
FP1 Friday 15 10.00h
FP2 Friday 15 14.00h
FP3 Saturday 16 12.00h
Qualifying Saturday 16 15.00h
Race Sunday 17 14.00h
by Cristina DeLarge