The exciting Bahrain Grand Prix is little more than a week behind us and F1 teams have arrived in China for the final race before starting the European racing season, in May at Barcelona, Spain.
The Shanghai International Circuit is host for the fourth race of the season. It's a Tilke designed circuit built on a swamp, including a mixture of sweeping corners and two long straights. It is however very different to BIC's layout and much less a power circuit. Instead, acceleration and deceleration in turns make the Chinese Grand Prix a particular challenge for the rear tyres.
Pirelli provides the White medium and Yellow soft tyres, a combination which it deems appropriate thanks to the usually mild climate and the fairly smooth tarmac. The company expects tyre strategy to become a more important factor now that teams get to know the tyres better and are getting to grips with the new regulations.
The lap record around Shanghai Circuit was set by Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari in 2004, completing a lap in 1:32.238. The pole position last year was set in 1:34.484 by Lewis Hamilton who thereby recorded his first ever pole position for Mercedes.
Not many car updates are expected, although Lotus have mentioned they will be active during free practice to evaluate some parts following their power unit problems during the most recent two day test at Bahrain one week ago. As has traditionally been the case, teams are now well underway to prepare major upgrades to be ready in time for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Front wing Front wing gives slightly less load than at the first three races.
Rear wing Slightly less downforce than in Sepang and Albert Park in deference to the opportunities for overtaking provided by the two straights in Shangai.
Suspension Kerbs are low meaning that the right height can be lower than would otherwise be necessary. Bumpy braking zone into turn one tests the car’s damping capabilities. The set-up needs to encourage good change of direction from the car at both high speeds (turns 7-8) and low speeds (turns 2-3 and 9-10).
Brakes Shanghai is not a severe circuit for brakes. There are some heavy braking zones of up to 5G of deceleration – turn 1 into 2, turns 6, 11 and 14 but they are well spread over a lap giving time for the discs and pads to cool.
Tyres Pirelli’s P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tyres are nominated, just as used in Bahrain. The asphalt is not especially aggressive and temperatures are not particularly high. The left front tyre gets a particularly hard time in T1 and T2 and the long right hander T13. There are some significant lateral forces on the car in turns 1, 8 and 13.
Engine Shanghai will be a good all round test for the power unit where we will see the acute importance of energy management. There is the long straight – at 1.3km the longest on the calendar – which has the double bind of using fuel, but also electrical energy through the MGU-K. The MGU-H will be able to recover energy on the straight, but recovering enough to be efficient is critical since the heavy braking periods at both ends of the straight put a focus on the MGU-H delivering power to avoid any hesitation or ‘turbo lag’ on the exit.
Number of corners: 16 (7 left, 9 right)
Distance from pole to Turn 1 apex: 380 m
Braking events: 8 (3 heavy)
Pit lane length under speed limit control: 351 m
Pit lane time at 80 km/h: 15.8 s
Silver Arrows in Formula One
Tyre energy: High
Brake energy: High
Races featuring safety car: 3 (05, 09, 10)
Total safety car deployments: 6
Historical safety car probability: 33%
Winners from pole position: 5
Lowest winning grid position: P6 (MSC, 06)