Preview – Chinese Grand Prix

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Celebrating the 1000th race of the Formula One World Championship, teams and drivers descend in Shanghai, China this weekend for Round 3 of the 2019 season.

Formula One is about to reach a milestone in its history. After the Championship began on 13 May 1950, this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix will mark the 1000th Grand Prix of the pinnacle of motorsport.

The sport – including the Commercial Rights’ Holder, the promoters, the journalists, teams – have been long working on promoting this event to commemorate this milestone. Several venues wanted to secure this spectacular event, including Silverstone, but the plans did not materialize after the initial discussions and the sport decided to go ahead with the usual schedule.

History

The vision of a Chinese Grand Prix started long ago before the sport finally visited the large country for the first time. The government originally planned a race in the city of Zhuhai. The track was built and the event was added to the 1991 Championship calendar, but the governing body finally decided to cancel the event, because the track could not meet certain safety conditions.

The sport announced in 2002 that FOM signed a 7-year contract to host the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. The construction works posed a set of challenges for the Hermann Tilke-led architect group as the ground had to be first strengthened. The race debuted in 2004 and was won by Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello. In the following year, the Chinese Grand Prix hosted the last round of the Championship and saw Renault securing the Constructors’ Title thanks to the newly crowned world champion Fernando Alonso.

In 2006, Michael Schumacher took his maiden Chinese Grand Prix victory which was his last win in Formula One. 2007 saw a thrilling battle between the three title contenders, Kimi Räikkönen, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. After leading the majority of the race, the Briton went into the gravel trap at the pit entry which ended his race and handed the race victory to Räikkönen.

In September 2017, a new three-year contract to host the race was announced, keeping the race on the calendar until 2020. Last year it was Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo who took a surprising victory thanks to a safety car period.

The Shanghai International Circuit has established itself as a popular race track over the past years. It has been a fixture on the Grand Prix calendar since its inaugural year with hosting some spectacular, thrilling race, especially in wet conditions. Next to the pinnacle of motorsport, WTCC, V8 Supercars, World Endurance Championship, GP2 Asia and MotoGP all visited the venue.

Most successful drivers and teams

Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver in the history of the Chinese Grand Prix. The Briton has taken the victory in Shanghai on five occasions of which he won two for McLaren and three for Mercedes. Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg complete the list of drivers who have won the race on more than one occasion. Driving for Renault, the Spaniard took the victory in 2005 which secured the Constructors’ World Title for the French marque. He also won in 2013 for Ferrari. Nico Rosberg was victorious in 2012 and 2016 for Mercedes on both occasions.

Over the years, the Shanghai International Circuit has become the territory for Mercedes. The Anglo-German team took its first-ever victory in 2012 with Nico Rosberg after returning to the sport in 2010. When the hybrid power units were introduced in the sport in 2014, Mercedes started its domination in China. The Brackley-based outfit was victorious from 2014 until 2017, and, last year, it was on course to take its fifth consecutive and sixth overall victory before a safety car period ruined the chance for a race win from the two leading drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas.

Ferrari is the second most successful team with its four wins followed by McLaren which collected its three victories with Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. The victorious team of last year, Red Bull secured its maiden F1 victory in 2009 with Sebastian Vettel in China.

Track layout

The 5.451-km-long track is made up of 16 corners. The race lap record is held by Michael Schumacher who clocked in a 1m32.238 during the first ever Chinese Grand Prix which has not been beaten until now.

The start-finish straight ends in the most interesting combination of turns. Turn 1, 2 and 3 present a big challenge for drivers. Cars arrive at high-speed into the first bend while the speed drops continually before drivers reach the extremely slow Turn 3. Accelerating is of great importance as the next section is a full-throttle part. The braking zone at the end of this straight mark the start of the second sector.

After the uncomfortably slow Turn 6, the next section features a series of high- and medium speed corners where the focus is on the aerodynamic balance of cars which usually tend to show understeer on corner entry. Turn 10 and 11 confine a shorter straight before cars reach another slow part of the track.

Turn 11 marks the start of the third sector of the circuit where drivers have to pray for good traction to be able to carry good speed on to the longest straight of the entire track. Top-speed is not only a key for overtaking, but the lack of it makes the car vulnerable, which forces engineers to find the best compromise in terms of set-up between the top-end speed and the downforce. Turn 13 is another brutally slow corner where brake balance plays a key role. It is then followed by a short straight before drivers reach the last corner, Turn 15 where the high and wide kerbs can make cars unstable.