2015 CHINESE GRAND PRIX PREVIEW
10-12 April 2015
Shanghai International Circuit snapshot
“Like Sepang, Shanghai’s got a real mix of corners and some interesting fast stuff around the back of the circuit. Despite those similarities, however, I don’t think our car package will be as well suited here as it was in Malaysia, especially if the weather is as cold and windy as it usually is in early springtime in Shanghai.”
“China’s two long straights – each preceded by slow- to medium-speed corners – will place extra emphasis on the power-unit. And there is a feeling that the expected cooler weather will make it hard to generate tyre temperature – which could mean that any progress we make doesn’t necessarily translate to a laptime benefit.”
The Shanghai International Circuit has been a regular fixture in Formula One since 2004. The track was designed and built by Hermann Tilke, whose company has been involved in the creation of nine circuits on this year’s calendar.
Before construction could begin, Tilke was forced to insert 40,000 concrete pillars into the marshland selected as the location for the 5.451km/3.387-mile circuit. What was created thereafter was one of the most impressive venues the sport has ever seen, with two 140-metre structures dominating the start-finish straight and seating for 50,000 spectators.
The track layout has several challenging features. Its two 270-degree right-hand corners place enormous stress on the front-left tyre and the 1.1km back straight is the longest of the entire season, along which straight-line speed is at a premium.
Following track temperatures of 62 degrees at Sepang two weeks ago, the teams can expect much cooler conditions in China. The ambient and track temperatures are usually around 20 degrees and, as was the case last year, Pirelli are taking their Medium (Prime) and Soft (Option) compounds to the race to deal with the challenges.
Shanghai International Circuit facts & stats
It’s all about: the race
Start time 1400 (local) / 0700 (BST)
Race distance 56 laps (full world championship points awarded after 75% distance/42 laps)
2014 winner Lewis Hamilton
2014 pole position Lewis Hamilton 1m53.860s 172.348km/h (wet)
2014 fastest lap Nico Rosberg 1m40.402s 195.450km/h
Chances of a Safety Car Medium. There’s a 43 percent chance of a Safety Car.
Don’t put the kettle on… Between laps 12-17 and 34-38. The top 15 cars completed last year’s race on a two-stop strategy, with most cars electing to run the soft tyre in the first stint, followed by two stints on the medium compound.
Weather forecast After the heat and humidity of Malaysia, Shanghai is going to feel cool. Typically, the ambient temperature is around 18 degrees at this time of year, with a track temperature of around 22 degrees. There’s a high chance of rain because nearly half of the Chinese GPs to date have been affected by wet weather.
It’s all about: the track
First race 2004
Circuit length 5.451km/3.387 miles
Run to Turn One 380 metres
Longest straight 1.17km, on the approach to Turn 14
Top speed 326km/h on the approach to Turn 14
DRS zones Two – the first on the approach to Turn 15, the second on the approach to Turn one
Key corner Turn 14. The slowest corner on the track, this hairpin comes at the end of a huge 1.2km straight, and is the likeliest place from which to launch an overtaking attempt. Both the entry and exit can see some pretty frantic action!
Pitlane length 380 metres
Major changes for 2015 None
It’s all about: the car
Fuel consumption 1.7kg per lap, which is similar to the last race at Sepang
Full throttle 56 percent
Brake wear Medium. There are eight braking events around the lap, but the long straights help to cool the brakes
Gear changes 51 per lap/2856 per race
Did you know?
Last year’s Chinese GP was stopped at 54 laps, instead of the scheduled 56, after a local dignitary waved the chequered flag too early.
Technical words of wisdom
Matt Morris, director of engineering
“Shanghai is a front-limited circuit, which means the front axle is the one that’s stressed the most. As a result of the low track temperatures, one of the keys to success is getting the tyres up to temperature quickly to ensure they’re working effectively through some of the long, high-speed corners. If you don’t get the tyres working properly, which is something we struggled with last year, you tend to suffer from graining and very high tyre wear. That’s something you need to avoid, and that’s the main challenge of China.”
McLaren at the Chinese Grand Prix
Wins 3 (2008, ’10, ’11)
Poles 2 (2007, ’08)
Fastest laps 3 (2005, ’08, ’10)
Our most memorable Chinese Grand Prix: 2008
“Lewis Hamilton’s emphatic victory in this, the penultimate race of the 2008 season, set up the epic finale in Brazil two weeks later that resulted in him winning his first world championship. He was untouchable all weekend in China: he took pole position by 0.342s and was never headed in the race, streaking ahead of Kimi Raikkonen at the start and winning the race by 15s. “There were very, very few mistakes today, by me or the team,” he said. “The car was phenomenal.”
#14 Fernando Alonso
Age 33 (July 29 1981)
Fastest laps 21
Best result in China 1st (2005, ’13)
“I have lots of positive memories of racing in China – I’ve won there twice, and I really enjoy the track. Like Sepang, it’s got a real mix of corners and some interesting fast stuff around the back of the circuit. Despite those similarities, however, I don’t think our car package will be as well suited here as it was in Malaysia, especially if the weather is as cold and windy as it usually is in early springtime in Shanghai.
“Nonetheless, the steps we took between Australia and Malaysia were extremely impressive: it was a great feeling to be able to mix it with other cars and drivers, and I hope we can do more of the same in China this weekend.
“That sort of progress really gives the whole team belief and confidence in the path we’re taking, so I hope we can keep moving forwards every time we take to the track.”
#22 Jenson Button
Age 35 (January 19 1980)
Fastest laps 8
Best result in China 1st (2010)
“It’s a pity we didn’t finish the race in Malaysia. We’d made solid progress up until that point in the weekend, and it would have been a fantastic boost to get a car home in amongst some of the cars in the midfield pack. Still, it’s a target to aim for in China, and I hope we can build upon our pace and performance in Malaysia.
“However, China’s two long straights – each preceded by slow- to medium-speed corners – will place extra emphasis on the power-unit. And there is a feeling that the expected cooler weather will make it harder to generate tyre temperature – which could mean that any progress we make doesn’t necessarily translate to a laptime benefit.
“But there is definitely progress being made, and it’s great to be able to play a role in helping move the whole team forwards. It’ll be fascinating to see how much change we can effect over the forthcoming races.”
Racing director, McLaren-Honda
“We came away from the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend feeling optimistic about our state of development and the improvements we’d made relative to our closest rivals. However, we don’t take anything for granted, and are fully aware that the next two races probably won’t show quite the same rate of improvement as we witnessed at Sepang.
“That’s a natural consequence of the fact that, first, the performance gains we’re finding aren’t linear in fashion – some will be for performance, some for efficiency, and others for reliability; and, second, because the different tracks subtly colour and shade pace in ways that can be hard to read, particularly from the outside looking in.
“Nonetheless, we’re pushing hard on every front to improve our competitiveness, and our aim is to bring continuous developments to both chassis and power unit to every race, at a rate that enables us to catch and pass the teams ahead of us.”
Chief officer of motorsport, Honda R&D Co Ltd
“We felt positive heading into last month’s Malaysian Grand Prix, as we’d managed to introduce a successful update to the power unit in the weeks between the first and second rounds of the championship.
“It was therefore disappointing to see both cars retire at Sepang – Fernando with an ERS cooling issue, and Jenson with a turbo problem.
“In the next two races we’ll face Shanghai’s two long, full-throttle straights and the high fuel consumption of Bahrain – both will be new challenges for our power unit.
“At Honda, we’ll work to balance both good energy management and positive reliability in an aim to be more competitive in these upcoming races.”