By Track Profile Specialist Alistair Hunter
After three exciting rounds of the 2014 Formula One World Championship, Nico Rosberg takes an eleven point advantage at the top to the Shanghai International Circuit in the People’s Republic of China. The 2014 UBS Chinese Grand Prix will be the eleventh edition of the race since it appeared on the Formula One calendar in 2004.
The circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke and became part of the Formula One calendar in 2004, the culmination of eighteen months of hard work converting an area of swampland outside the world’s most populous city proper into a state of the art race track. Alongside Bahrain and Malaysia, it was a sign that more expensive new tracks would be appearing on the sport’s radar in years to come.
The complex was described as “a fascinating statement in architecture and many a race track in Europe could learn from it” by BMW’s CEO at the time, Dr. Helmut Panke. While there are many newer tracks now that surpass their standards, at the time China was innovative and a completely different experience.
The importance of Shanghai and China were emphasised by several people before the inaugural race. Norbert Haug described it as “probably the most important race in the history of motorsport“, adding that it was a “new era and I think we will have more spectators worldwide for television than for any race before, especially in America I think there will be a lot mentioned about the race“. These sentiments were typical of the pre-race atmosphere, as China is one of the countries where many more fans could come from, and where many companies could sell their products to.
However, as Formula One is now on its way to becoming firmly established in the country, it is hoped that it will soon be time for China to become established in F1. Maybe, with a few more years and an increase of optimistic Chinese drivers, Formula One’s future in one of the most important countries in the world can be secured.
The design of the circuit is inspired by the Chinese character Shang (上, the first part of the name Shanghai). One of the defining features of this track is the long straight towards the end of the lap, where drivers reach a top speed of around 323 kilometres per hour, and contributes to an average speed of 213 kilometres per hour. With the changes in top speed and aerodynamics this year, the action at the end of this straight could get more interesting.
The lap starts with a very tight first sector that is tricky to get right, before getting to a faster flowing section of the track in sector two. After the long straight, a tight hairpin directs the drivers back to the pit lane or a tight left hand corner leading to the start line.
59% of the lap is spent on full throttle, while the circuit is one of the easiest of the year on brake wear; both of these can be attributed to the faster parts of sector two and three. It exerts a medium amount of pressure on the engines and gearboxes, but this shouldn’t be an issue for the teams.
Unfortunately for the fans, the majority of the races have been won from pole position, with the polesitter going on to win five times out of the nine occasions F1 has come to the track. Overtaking here can be quite difficult, but the places that the drivers have suggested to keep an eye on are turns four, five, ten and thirteen, with many DRS passes coming at the end of the long straight.
The Shanghai International Circuit with Lewis Hamilton
Pirelli and China 2014
The Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai, where the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tyres will be used, is a race that has been traditionally been dominated by strategy.Even using several different strategies, drivers have often ended the race in close formation, setting up a thrilling finish. With a smooth surface and some sweeping corners – including the banked Turn 13 – this versatile tyre combination is well suited to the varied demands of the Shanghai circuit.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “With this being the third race featuring the combination of medium and soft this year, coming shortly after the Bahrain test, the teams are beginning to accumulate more knowledge of how our tyres work with the complex 2014 – specification cars. As a result, tyre strategy is starting to become a bigger factor in the races.
China is a circuit that has showcased the effectiveness of a good tyre strategy in the past, so the teams will be hoping to put their data from the first part of the season to good use and explore some of the strategy options available with our latest – generation P Zero tyres. We’ve seen changeable weather at Shanghai before, so as always the ability to assimilate information quickly according to changing circumstances will be the key to getting the most out of them.”
Jean Alesi, Pirelli consultant: “China is not a circuit that I know well but it always seems to provide a lot of entertainment and this is the point of the year when strategy starts to get important, because the teams are beginning to explore the capabilities and potential of their cars after the first development period. For tyres this is very important, because we are seeing already that the teams are getting more and more out of them all the time, as the development accelerates. Bahrain was a fantastic race, so if we can see battles like that all the time we can look forward to a fantastic season.”
The circuit from a tyre point of view:
There are a number of fast corners that the drivers accelerate through in Shanghai, meaning that they can make the most of the extra torque this year. In particular, turns 3 – 4, 7 – 8, and 12 -13 require progressive acceleration but it is also important to have the right engine map in order not to experience too much wheelspin and damage the tyres.
The high levels of downforce used in China mean high speeds through the corners, with forces that can exceed 3.8g. The softer tyres are subjected to greater cornering forces as they generate more grip. Around 80% of the lap is spent cornering.
The Shanghai circuit features a number of long straights, which have an effect on the tyres. The straights actually cool the tyres down, meaning they have to get back up temperature quickly for the corners that follow.
The P Zero White medium is a low working range compound, while the P Zero Yellow soft is a high working range compound. This pairing ensures the capability to work effectively under a wide range of conditions: one reason why the combination has proved to be so effective this year.
China is the most demanding circuit on brakes of the entire year, with
the new brake by wire system also having an effect on the tyres. The tyres are subjected to braking forces in Shanghai that peak at
Last year, Fernando Alonso won the race for Ferrari with a three – stop strategy, starting from third on the grid with the soft tyre, then completing three stints on the medium tyre. Jenson Button finished fifth
for McLaren with a two – stop strategy
China preview with Pirelli
Shanghai with Brembo
Despite the 14 turns, at the end of the straight stretch, both the one that subjects the drivers and cars to a violente decelerantion of more than 4 Gs, the circuit is not very critical for brakes on the whole since the cars are normally quite aerodynamically charged. In fact, aerodynamic resistance contributes to the deceleration of the single-seaters, helping the braking action. However, the remaining braking sections are relatively light and free of any particular difficulties for braking systems.
Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are the only drivers to have won the race on multiple occasions, as Hamilton first claimed victory there during the 2008 season in order to extend his lead over Felipe Massa to seven points, a gap that would not be overhauled in the next race in Brazil, while his second race victory there in 2011 was an example of the strategic advantage that could be gained by understanding the Pirelli tyres, introduced that season in order to create more unpredictable racing. Alonso was first victorious here in 2005, while he took his second win here last year after being better on tyres and strategy.
Ferrari are the most successful constructors at the circuit, who oversaw Rubens Barrichello’s first place finish in the inaugural event, followed by the same result for Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen in 2005 and 2007 respectively, and Alonso’s victory in 2013.
2004 – The inaugural race saw a three way battle for the race win from Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen, with the Brazilian eventually ending up on the top step of the podium.
2005 – As this was the final round of the season, Renault secured the constructors’ championship after Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella finished in first and fourth place respectively, while their closest challengers McLaren came nine points short after Raikkonen came second, but Montoya suffered an engine failure after previously hitting an engine cover and bringing out the safety car.
2006 – Michael Schumacher’s final victory in Formula One was at this track, taking advantage of Fisichella’s tyre troubles to take the lead and hold off a late charge from Fernando Alonso.
2007 – Lewis Hamilton led the World Championship by twelve points coming into the penultimate round in China, but due to a team decision to keep him out on a rapidly drying track, his tyres were so worn that he ended up in the gravel while attempting to enter the pit lane. Long story short, he didn’t win the championship that year, due to the dominance of Kimi Raikkonen in the final two races.
2009 – Red Bull Racing took their first pole position and victory at the track thanks to Sebastian Vettel, as Mark Webber followed him to take a one two finish ahead of rivals Brawn GP, who finished third and fourth.
2010 – Notable for Sebastien Buemi’s front wheels coming off as he drove down the main straight in practice, while Jenson Button won the race ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton to achieve the first one two for two British drivers since the 1999 Austrian Grand Prix.
2011 – Lewis Hamilton’s victory after being on a different strategy to Red Bull rival Sebastian Vettel gave us hope that the season would maybe be a tad more competitive than the first two races had indicated – in the end, it wasn’t – while Mark Webber started from 18th on the grid and finished on the podium.
Nico Rosberg was victorious for the first time in Formula One in the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, and in doing so he took Mercedes’ first pole position and victory since Juan Manuel Fangio’s victory at Monza in 1955. This season he goes into the race with the championship lead, and will be very motivated after the last round in Bahrain.
However, the momentum surely lies with Lewis Hamilton. While it is a statistic that is likely to change in the near future, he has won every race he has completed this year, and with the sheer gap that him and his Mercedes teammate were able to pull out at the last round over everyone else after the safety car, it is hard to see any serious winner of the race coming from elsewhere.
The race will be supported by the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia series. After the first round of the season in Malaysia, 2013 champion Earl Bamber currently leads the standings after a tight battle for the race win with Martin Ragginger and Alexandre Imperatori, the latter setting the fastest lap.
|2009||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|