The more durable tyres Pirelli have supplied for 2017 should mean we see a very different race at the Shanghai International Circuit to those we have become used to.
“In Shanghai last year everyone had their eye on the tyres as wear is typically high there and we often saw graining,” explained Fernando Alonso. “But it’ll be interesting to see how the new compounds perform on this type of track.”
The new, quicker 2017 cars should also make for a spectacular sight on Shanghai’s quicker corners. But will be see a better race than we had in Australia?
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A lap of Shanghai International Circuit
Track data: Shanghai International Circuit
|Lap length||5.451km (3.387 miles)|
|Grand prix distance||305.066km (189.559 miles)|
|Lap record (race)||1’32.238 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)|
|Fastest lap (any session)||1’32.238 (Michael Schumacher, 2004, race)|
|2016 Rate the Race||7.85 out of 10|
|2016 Driver of the Weekend||Daniel Ricciardo|
Last year drivers approached turn one at over 320kph, nudging 200mph, but had to back off considerably on the way in. With much more downforce underneath them the approach speed may be a whisker lower this year but they will be able to tackle it at much higher speeds.
“Turn one is actually my favourite corner on the whole calendar,” Fernando Alonso admits, “and it provides a good test for the driver with a high average speed compared”.
For Kevin Magnussen this is the only high point on an otherwise unremarkable circuit. “Turn one is pretty good fun.” says the Haas driver. “It’s a very unique corner where you turn in at very high speed and you end up at very low speed.”
“It’s an incredibly long corner and pretty unique for that. The rest of the track is pretty straightforward.”
Turn one gradually tightens, merging into turn two, which can cause some consternation among the drivers as they all pile in on the first lap. They then slow even further for the sharp left at turn three. The next two corners, four and five, are easily taken flat-out. Sector one comes to an end as the drivers approach the braking zone for another slow hairpin, turn six.
Some cars tackle the fast, left-hand turn seven in top gear, then scrubbing off a little speed as they flick right into turn eight. Again the drivers have to bring the speed down while cornering as they arrive at turn nine. A short straight brings them from turn ten to the beginning of the next sequence of corners.
After slowing for the sharp left at turn 11, drivers begin to build speed for the long back straight. Turns 12 and 13 used to be a serious drain on their tyres but they should be able to attack these corners harder with Pirelli’s more durable 2017 rubber.
“Historically, looking after the tyres has been hard work because turn 13 is another long right-hander that takes even more life out of them,” Nico Hulkenberg explains. “The tyres and the cars are very different this year so we’ll have a lot to learn on Friday.”
Next comes the 1.4-kilometre sprint to one of the hardest braking zones on the calendar. “There’s a big long straight where you have enough time to complete your tax return and have an espresso as you’re going in straight line with your foot hard down for so long, then you wake up and you’re hard on the brakes,” says Hulkenberg. “It’s really important to get your braking right there as it’s a pretty important corner.”
Last year cars were approaching 350kph before slamming on the brakes for a 60kph hairpin. The ferocious stopping performance of this year’s cars should mean they can brake even later now. The final significant corner is a quick dodge left which feeds the cars back onto the start/finish straight.