FORMULA 1 MOTO BLOG

Preview: F1 set to resume battle in China

History China joined the Formula 1 calendar in 2004 at a purpose-built circuit on the outskirts of one of the largest cities in the world, Shanghai.Installed as a late-season event – holding the finale in 2005 – the Grand Prix switched to an April date in 2009 and has remained as one of the early rounds since.


The event is scheduled to remain on the Formula 1 calendar through 2020, with the country having been earmarked as a primary market for the sport going forward.

Circuit

The 16-turn 5.451 km circuit, built on swampland, has remained relatively unchanged since its debut in 2004, the track layout bearing inspiration from the Chinese symbol ‘shang’, in deference to the nearby city.

The track features a mixture of corners, with the most iconic surely the snail-like Turn 1, a gradually tightening right-hander that bends 270 degrees before opening out to send drivers propelling towards the Turn 6 hairpin.

A fast sequence of sweeping turns follows, before a couple of medium-speed left handers, culminating in a tight left-hander, which leads onto the all-important kilometre-long back straight, the best overtaking opportunity on the track.

Picking a braking point for the Turn 14 hairpin is vital, while the final corner – a fourth-gear left-hand flick – can be deceptively tricky, with plenty of drivers misjudging the bend and compromising their downhill run to the pit straight, itself ensconced beneath overarching paddock buildings, creating a stadium-like feel for drivers.

“The first few corners are notorious for tyre degradation and later on in the lap, Turn 13 is another long right-hander that takes even more life out of them,” says Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg of the front-limited circuit.

“After that unique first sector, the rest of the lap has a bit of everything from low-speed to high-speed, which makes it challenging to find a balanced set-up.

“There’s a big long straight where you have enough time for a game of chess as you’re going in a straight line with your foot hard down for so long, then you wake up and you’re hard on the brakes.

“It’s really important to get your braking right there as it’s a pretty important corner.”

What happened in 2017?

Rain before the race prompted most drivers to start on Intermediate tyres and pole sitter Lewis Hamilton led away – though rival Sebastian Vettel blinked first, switching to slicks.

However, Vettel’s prospects were hampered when the Safety Car was deployed after Antonio Giovinazzi crashed heavily on the pit straight, giving his opponents a free pit stop for dry rubber, and he dropped to fifth.

From there, Hamilton was relatively untroubled en route to the chequered flag, while Vettel put in a starring recovery to reclaim second, rubbing wheels with Daniel Ricciardo before profiting from a Max Verstappen error.

In turn, Verstappen’s outstanding first lap from a compromised grid position contributed towards his third-placed finish, as he fended off late pressure from Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Hamilton’s victory was his fifth at the Chinese Grand Prix, extending his record as by far the most successful driver at the venue.

Hamilton triumphed for McLaren in 2008 and 2011, and also took back-to-back victories in 2014 and 2015 in Mercedes colours.

Fernando Alonso (2005, 2013) and the now-retired Nico Rosberg (2012, 2016) are the only other multiple winners at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Of the current crop of drivers, Kimi Raikkonen (2007) and Sebastian Vettel (2009) are the other victors – the latter marking Red Bull’s first win in Formula 1.

Hamilton is also the one-lap expert at Shanghai, having led qualifying on six occasions (2007, 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017), while Vettel (2009, 2010, 2011) and Alonso (2005, 2006) are the other Chinese Grand Prix polesitters on the current grid.

Source: Motorsport Week