AHEAD OF THE CHINESE GRAND PRIX
What’s the best thing about going to Shanghai?
The city’s pretty cool and the markets in particular are a bit of an eye-opener. They seem to have more technology than I ever thought existed. I stay close to the track, so I’ll only really dip into the city for one day, to do a bit of shopping or go out. I’ve found a few nice restaurants in the last few years, and I do like the local food.
What stands out at the Shanghai International Circuit?
The paddock – it’s enormous! You need to be an athlete just to get around. As for the track itself, I’d call it ‘technical’. Turns One, Two and Three are all very long and technical. I don’t think there’s any other corner like it on the calendar. And it’s very, very aggressive on the front tyres.
…It also has the longest straight in F1.
Yep, it’s long alright. You could drink a can of Red Bull driving down it. I’ve heard quite a few drivers saying it’s pretty boring. Ha! If they think it’s boring in a Formula One car, they should have tried coming here in Formula BMW. I drove here as a kid, all massive afro and enthusiasm and, trust me, it was the sort of straight where I’d definitely have been reaching for a book if I’d had one.
We’ve seen excessive tyre wear in recent years with the life of the option tyre being measured in corners rather than laps. What’s that like to drive?
It’s pretty extreme – but I’d still prefer it to the scenario with a tyre that takes three laps to come in. The fact it comes in straight away is awesome. In qualifying, you drive the out-lap like your grandma, desperately trying to not kill it before the flying lap starts.
What’s the most challenging part of the Shanghai International circuit to get consistently right?
The start of the lap is always really tough and it’s very easy to get wrong. The lap starts with a big test but the big thing is to find a good rhythm through it. That’s the case everywhere there really. The long straight is good and the heavy braking zone at the end of that is interesting. It’s a pretty good circuit, wide open, you can really push hard all the way through. I had a good race there last year and managed to get a points finish, so I’m happy to go back.
What’s the most difficult thing about the race weekend off-track?
The paddock! It’s huge and really hard to find anything. It looks completely unreal. The best thing about it is that you can hide, walk around on your own in there and not be bothered by anyone!
What about away from the track completely, did you have a look around Shanghai last year?
We stayed close to the track last year, so it’s not easy to get a good look around the centre of Shanghai. But we did get a chance to do a bit of sightseeing last year, it’s an impressive city. It’s a really interesting place, but absolutely huge, you drive through all these towns on the way in to the centre that are part of the city and they’re huge.