Here we are, at yet another Hermann Tilke circuit design. The shape of the track is inspired by the first Chinese character in “Shanghai”, which means “upwards” or “ascend”. The first race held by the International Circuit of Shanghai was in 2004.
The first seven Grand Prix were won by seven different drivers. In 2008 and 2011, Lewis Hamilton was the winner, becoming the first driver who managed to win twice in the Chinese GP. In 2013, the Spanish driver Fernando Alonso also got to win for the second time in Shanghai, having done it for the first time back in 2005. In 2014, Hamilton won in China for the third time. It would be natural to think that he can do it for the fourth time in 2015 but, after Ferrari showed its potential in Malaysia, who knows what can happen?
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 Shanghai’s circuit, to complete a total of 305.066km.
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. In this part of 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 lead immediately to turn 3, a 180º corner to the left. They find right after the corner number 4, 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 behaviuor in the final stint compared to the first one. Pirelli brings the soft and medium compounds to China.
“The weather tends to be quite unpredictable in China, although generally we can expect to see temperatures that are significantly cooler than those we experienced in Malaysia. Last year we had reasonably stable weather conditions in China whereas in previous years it has been more up and down – so this throws in a very interesting variable. The front-left tyre is the most stressed in Shanghai, while the traction demands of the circuit also give a lot of work to the rear tyres. Although we haven’t actually yet seen a very hot Chinese Grand Prix during our time in Formula One, if you look at the weather history there is potential for this to happen as well. This would make things very difficult for the tyres – Shanghai is a big, open circuit and if you add in heat, it creates a lot of energy – but we’ve seen from Malaysia that these tyres will rise to the challenge. As Shanghai is a large circuit there’s plenty of opportunity for overtaking and big on-track battles. Strategy-wise, we’d normally expect a two-stop race.”
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 two times and Red Bull and Renault just once.
There are a lot of things to sort out in China such as if Ferrari can make things difficult for Mercedes again, or if Williams can regain the position of best of the rest. Renault comes to China very confident, as Remi Taffin, director of operations, says: "For China we will have some small steps forward. We have continued the intensive test program started after Australia and we will see further results in Shanghai.”
"Performance was likewise an improvement in Malaysia, although we did keep some in reserve to safeguard reliability. Now we are getting more confident in this area we can afford to be more aggressive and we should see better results on the straights, with a higher top speed."
Race local times
FP1 Friday 10 10.00h
FP2 Friday 10 14.00h
FP3 Saturday 11 12.00h
Qualifying Saturday 11 15.00h
Race Sunday 12 14.00h