Formula 1 first came to China in 2004 following a lengthy design process orchestrated by Hermann Tilke. The centrepiece of the circuit was a beautiful structure over the start-finish straight, which remains the focal point of the track. Although the Shanghai International Circuit has rarely produced a classic race, it has become a mainstay on the calendar as China’s boom seeps into the world of Formula 1.
Laps – 56
Track length – 5.451km
Race first held – 2004
Most wins – Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton (2)
2013 pole position – Lewis Hamilton 1:34.484
2013 winner – Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
2013 fastest lap – Sebastian Vettel 1:36.808
Flying Lap of the Shanghai International Circuit
Formula 1 first came to China in 2004 following a lengthy design process orchestrated by Hermann Tilke. The centrepiece of the circuit was a beautiful structure over the start-finish straight, which remains the focal point of the track. Although the Shanghai International Circuit has rarely produced a classic race, it has become a mainstay on the calendar as China’s economic boom seeps into the F1 world.
Upon starting a lap, the track drops slightly across the line, and it is best to move from right to left in order to find the best line into turn one. Drivers can afford to brake late, and simply shift down through the 270-degree complex that includes turn two. After a touch of power, it’s back on the brakes for turn three, before pushing through the kink of turn four. There is a small apex at turn five that is easy to hit, albeit unnoticeable on the run down to turn six, which acts as one of the best overtaking zones on the lap. It is crucial that drivers do not run wide here as the outside kerb is elevated to make mistakes costly.
Heading into sector two, there are two sweeping corners (left then right) which leave little room for overtaking, Due to the pace of these two corners, turns nine and ten which follow don’t allow much chance for overtaking despite their slow speed. However, if a mistake is made, the medium straight to turn eleven is there to punish the tardy.
The slow speed of turn eleven catches many drivers out into turn twelve as they get on the power too early for turn thirteen, before sweeping onto one of the longest straights in Formula One. At its end is a first gear hairpin, a prime overtaking spot. Another kink follows, but this is nominal as the drivers will already be on full lock through the hairpin, and there is then a short run to the final corner at turn sixteen before running to the line to complete a lap of the Shanghai International Circuit.
China’s Technical Challenge – William Tyson
The Shanghai International Circuit throws up numerous challenges, requiring strong downforce in the in-field section but at a cost of straight line speed. The back straight was once the longest in F1, so trimming drag is essential. A setup with good direction change throughout the medium speed corners will reap the rewards, but they will have to bear in mind the abrasive track surface – front tyres are very much the limiting factor here. This is why Mercedes tended to do well in the past as their car chewed up its rears, and we all remember Lewis Hamilton’s infamous pitlane off in 2007…
Images courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari.