Williams eager to convert competitiveness to points
After some competitive races, the Williams team is looking to gather some valuable points. Despite showing competitiveness, the team failed to get the points it deserved. Doing better than last year should also not pose a problem, as that was also an unfortunate race for the team.
Shanghai International Circuit in a nutshell
A standard two-stop race, although Timo Glock proved last season that a one-stop strategy can be converted into a points finish. Long stints demand a great deal of finesse because certain parts of the track, notably turn two which doubles back on itself, place tremendous lateral loads on the left-hand tyres. The race traditionally takes place during the European autumn but unfamiliar weather might be a factor this year because it has been brought forward to April.
Average turn angle indicates the average angle of a circuit’s corners expressed in degrees. The higher the average turn angle, the more acute the corners in the circuit’s configuration and the greater propensity for understeer to compromise lap time. At Shanghai, the average turn angle is 133.690, against a season average of 1100, ranking it as the circuit with the second highest average turn angle across the Championship. As a consequence of the circuit’s physical layout, an understeering car balance will have a high punitive effect on lap time.
The end of straight (EOS) speed at Shanghai was 306kp/h in 2008. Shanghai ranks as having the 7th fastest EOS speed on the 2009 calendar, and this is one indicator of the wing level typically selected to optimise the downforce/drag ratio. As the average speed around Shanghai is the 13th fastest of any of the tracks, a compromise is required.
Pitlane & refuelling strategy
The pitlane length and profile (i.e. corners in the pitlane entry) contribute to the determination of the optimum fuel strategy. The pitlane loss at Shanghai is approximately 23 seconds, the 6th most penalising pitlane in the Championship. To complete a normalised distance of 5km around the Shanghai circuit requires 2.55kg of fuel against an average of 2.42kg per 5km across all circuits this season, making the circuit the 4th least demanding track of the year in terms of fuel consumption.
Another key contributor to the determination of race strategy is the likelihood of safety car deployments, which are influenced by weather considerations, the availability of clear run-off areas that allow racing to continue while recovery takes place and the circuit profile, especially the character of the entry and exit into turn one at the start of the race. Since the race debuted on the calendar in 2004, there have been 2 safety car deployments in China, both in 2005, making it statistically unlikely that the circuit’s character will induce safety car periods. The first two races of this season have already seen 3 safety car periods, however, so anything is possible!
Temperature, pressure & humidity
It is a long observed tradition that drivers arriving at China complain about a lack of grip and an absence of engine power. Having become acquainted with a baseline of engine and aerodynamic performance during the season, the climb to 750 metres above sea level for one of the final races can, courtesy of the reduction in air density, rob a Formula One car of engine power, aerodynamic performance and cooling. The losses can come close to double digit percentages and thus have a very real impact on car performance. Air density is a factor of the prevailing ambient temperature, which varies most significantly by season, air pressure which is closely linked to altitude and, to a much smaller degree, by humidity. Thus if races are run at the same time each year, the factor that tends to have the greatest bearing on air density is elevation. Like half the races on the calendar, Shanghai is close to sea level, just 10m above, and has an average pressure (1,014 mbar), so engine power will be good. A change for 2009 is that the race has been moved from October to April. Ambient temperatures are therefore expected to be cooler which will have an influence on the tyres.
What the Drivers Say
Standing back from Sepang – Reflections from a rain-drenched Malaysia
: “We may not have finished where we would’ve like, but it was another strong weekend for us. We qualified well and then taking the lead at the start was great. It was just a shame circumstances didn't go our way as I was looking good for another podium.”
: “Even though I qualified out of the top ten, I was looking to make some progress through the field as I was on a good strategy. Unfortunately, the rain completely compromised that. Starting the race lower down the grid, I was alongside a lot of the KERS car who are able to make better starts so my aim is to improve my qualifying position in China.”
On the Shanghai track
: “Shanghai is definitely a challenging circuit, but at least I’ve now had some experience of it so it’s not new for me anymore. Last year, we struggled on tracks like China, but now our car is looking quite strong. It’s well balanced in the high and low speed corners so I’m hoping we’ll go much better there this year and I can score my first points of the season.”
: “Shanghai’s a driver’s track. There’s a great mix of corners and then there are those two long straights so plenty of overtaking opportunities around the lap which will be good for the racing. Sepang showed that the team seem to have fixed the problem we had last year on these types of circuits so it’s now looking like we have consistency. I’m confident that we’ll have another competitive weekend in China. Top eight for sure.”
: “I enjoy visiting Shanghai. Experiencing a different culture is always very interesting and there are some great places to go, like the malls for shopping or the restaurants and bars in the evenings. The fans are also very enthusiastic which is nice!”
: “Like Nico, I like this part of the world and for me it’s close to home so I get to enjoy something similar to my own culture for a little longer.”
On the break between Sepang and Shanghai
: “First I have a PR day at Suzuka for Toyota
. I love Suzuka. It’s such an iconic track so to go back is special for me. I won’t get to drive it though. If I want to go round it, it will have to be on foot! I haven’t been home for four months now so I’m then going to my parents’ to spend a week with my family before flying to China.”
: “I went to Bali last year and loved it so I’m heading back there with my girlfriend and trainer. I’m lucky in that this job allows me to do things like that. I’ll obviously be keeping up my training, but we will be spending time in the mountains so it’ll be a cultural trip too. My camera will be making the trip and I hope to add to my portfolio with some shots of the locals, the rice fields and the great views! Among other things, I will be mountain-biking near the top of one of the volcanoes which will be cool!”