Rarely do teams approach a grand prix with as little knowledge about the likely conditions and performance of their cars as they do for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix.
After a near-useless Friday, a dry Saturday gave them some chance to make up for lost time. But with high confidence in tomorrow’s forecast for persistent rain, that will be of little use for the race.
A thick band of rain is passing across eastern China which is expected to bring heavy rainfall throughout Sunday morning. This will ease ahead of the race’s 2pm start time but the possibility remains strong that we will see fairly saturated conditions at the track.
This comes just three races after the quality of F1’s wet weather tyres were criticised following the Brazilian Grand Prix. Pirelli has been hard at work developing its new, wider 2017 wet weather rubber and has revised its product again in time for this race. But after minimal pre-season running much of their characteristics remains a mystery.
Romain Grosjean expects a rapid rate of drop-off from the tyres. “Tomorrow’s going to be a long race,” he predicted after qualifying on the back row. “We know the tyre degradation will be a huge thing here in the rain, and it should rain.” when he tested the previous version of Pirelli’s intermediate tyre last month Grosjean said they were falling apart after just one lap.
It’s not just the tyres which have been overhauled following Brazil but F1’s rules too, in a bid to increase the likelihood of a standing start being used for wet weather races. Note that race control can still start races behind the Safety Car if they choose to.
Given how dire tomorrow’s forecast is and how little running teams have had on the revised wet weather rubber it would come as no great shock if a rolling start was used, or if we see a lot of laps behind the Safety Car before any kind of start is considered.
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Once all those hurdles are passed comes another unknown: Which cars will be competitive in the rain? Wet weather ‘shortens’ straights making it good news for the likes of McLaren and, to a lesser extent, the Renault-powered teams.
In terms of set-up the more aerodynamically powerful cars and larger tyres should offer greater grip to all the drivers. Beyond that there’s not as much room for drivers to exploit a ‘wet weather set-up’ as there once was.
“In Formula One it’s not too often where we have to set the car up for a wet race,” explained Lewis Hamilton. “Particularly when you don’t know if it’s definitely going to be wet so you set it up for what you’re faced with that day and tomorrow you can make changes to the wing.”
“Tomorrow, for example, if it is wet, that’s the only real difference you need to make. It’s not like go-karting where you loosen everything off, you slacken the car off. You don’t really need to do that necessarily. If we know it’s a completely wet weekend and maybe we can do some small things but it’s quite similar.”
After what we saw in Australia, where Ferrari’s speed pressured Mercedes into a strategic mis-step, wet weather might actually enhance Hamilton’s chances of converting his pole position into victory. But once the rain starts falling the variables will multiply and then all bets are off.
Qualifying times in full
|Driver||Car||Q1||Q2 (vs Q1)||Q3 (vs Q2)|
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1’33.333||1’32.406 (-0.927)||1’31.678 (-0.728)|
|2||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||1’33.078||1’32.391 (-0.687)||1’31.864 (-0.527)|
|3||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1’33.684||1’32.552 (-1.132)||1’31.865 (-0.687)|
|4||Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||1’33.341||1’32.181 (-1.160)||1’32.140 (-0.041)|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1’34.041||1’33.546 (-0.495)||1’33.033 (-0.513)|
|6||Felipe Massa||Williams||1’34.205||1’33.759 (-0.446)||1’33.507 (-0.252)|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||1’34.453||1’33.636 (-0.817)||1’33.580 (-0.056)|
|8||Sergio Perez||Force India||1’34.657||1’33.920 (-0.737)||1’33.706 (-0.214)|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1’34.440||1’34.034 (-0.406)||1’33.719 (-0.315)|
|10||Lance Stroll||Williams||1’33.986||1’34.090 (+0.104)||1’34.220 (+0.130)|
|11||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Toro Rosso||1’34.567||1’34.150 (-0.417)|
|12||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||1’34.942||1’34.164 (-0.778)|
|13||Fernando Alonso||McLaren||1’34.499||1’34.372 (-0.127)|
|14||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||1’34.892||1’35.046 (+0.154)|
|19||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1’35.433|
|20||Esteban Ocon||Force India||1’35.496|
|Driver||Sector 1||Sector 2||Sector 3|
|Lewis Hamilton||24.036 (2)||27.079 (1)||40.563 (2)|
|Sebastian Vettel||23.998 (1)||27.191 (3)||40.620 (3)|
|Valtteri Bottas||24.152 (4)||27.244 (4)||40.469 (1)|
|Kimi Raikkonen||24.121 (3)||27.150 (2)||40.741 (4)|
|Daniel Ricciardo||24.408 (5)||27.428 (5)||41.075 (5)|
|Felipe Massa||24.540 (9)||27.717 (6)||41.242 (6)|
|Nico Hulkenberg||24.439 (7)||27.816 (9)||41.269 (7)|
|Sergio Perez||24.501 (8)||27.863 (12)||41.341 (9)|
|Daniil Kvyat||24.434 (6)||27.729 (7)||41.390 (10)|
|Lance Stroll||24.754 (15)||27.848 (10)||41.328 (8)|
|Carlos Sainz Jnr||24.589 (12)||27.802 (8)||41.711 (12)|
|Kevin Magnussen||24.588 (11)||28.090 (16)||41.486 (11)|
|Fernando Alonso||24.693 (13)||27.862 (11)||41.762 (13)|
|Marcus Ericsson||24.727 (14)||28.115 (17)||42.016 (17)|
|Antonio Giovinazzi||24.957 (20)||28.200 (18)||41.796 (14)|
|Stoffel Vandoorne||24.910 (17)||28.078 (15)||41.982 (16)|
|Romain Grosjean||24.586 (10)||27.953 (13)||42.684 (20)|
|Jolyon Palmer||24.930 (18)||28.971 (20)||42.573 (19)|
|Max Verstappen||24.948 (19)||28.258 (19)||42.220 (18)|
|Esteban Ocon||24.791 (16)||27.966 (14)||41.862 (15)|
|1||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||Ferrari||329.7 (204.9)|
|2||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||Mercedes||328.8 (204.3)||-0.9|
|3||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Mercedes||328.0 (203.8)||-1.7|
|4||Felipe Massa||Williams||Mercedes||327.8 (203.7)||-1.9|
|5||Lance Stroll||Williams||Mercedes||326.3 (202.8)||-3.4|
|6||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||325.9 (202.5)||-3.8|
|7||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||Ferrari||325.3 (202.1)||-4.4|
|8||Romain Grosjean||Haas||Ferrari||324.9 (201.9)||-4.8|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Force India||Mercedes||324.6 (201.7)||-5.1|
|10||Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||Ferrari||323.9 (201.3)||-5.8|
|11||Jolyon Palmer||Renault||Renault||322.7 (200.5)||-7.0|
|12||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG Heuer||322.4 (200.3)||-7.3|
|13||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||Renault||321.5 (199.8)||-8.2|
|14||Antonio Giovinazzi||Sauber||Ferrari||321.4 (199.7)||-8.3|
|15||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Toro Rosso||Renault||320.7 (199.3)||-9.0|
|16||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||Renault||320.7 (199.3)||-9.0|
|17||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||Ferrari||319.3 (198.4)||-10.4|
|18||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren||Honda||315.6 (196.1)||-14.1|
|19||Fernando Alonso||McLaren||Honda||315.4 (196.0)||-14.3|
|20||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG Heuer||314.4 (195.4)||-15.3|
Over to you
Who will be quickest, rain or shine? Can Sebastian Vettel give Ferrari their first back-to-back victories for seven years?
Share your views on the Chinese Grand Prix in the comments.
2017 Chinese Grand Prix
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7 comments on “Wet weather tyre degradation will be “huge” in Chinese GP”
Fer no.65 (@fer-no65)
8th April 2017, 23:04
Those big tyres might offer more grip but they’ll also be prone to acquaplaining. I’m worried about the unknowns heading to this race. Too little testing, even in good conditions, and all these changes… hope everything goes well.
9th April 2017, 5:29
I believe that aquaplaning of the floor of the car becomes a problem before aquaplaning of the tyres. That’s why races are typically stopped or the safety car comes out if there’s anything more than light rain, regardless of how good the wet tyres may be.
8th April 2017, 23:31
So I’m confused. Can someone please simply explain the new standing start procedures during wet conditions?
This link from F1 on youtube has me confused…
When is the grid set after following the safety car around for a few laps and they decide it’s dry enough to start? From when the safety car is deployed? From when the lights go off and it dives for the pits? If someone goes off or boxes does everyone move up a slot or is the grid position left empty?
What if the safety car comes out later where it is a total downpour? How about “However, if the race is suspended before the Safety Car is called in, the procedures described in Articles 41 and 42 will be followed and there will be no standing start” is this a reference to a total red flag situation?
8th April 2017, 23:56
@eastman if the race is started behind the safety car, the safety car moves to the front of the grid. When they start, they follow the safety car. There is no parade lap.
When the track conditions have sufficiently improved, the cars slow down to allow the safety car to pit. The lead car controls the pace. Once the safety car has pitted and the cars are over the appropriate line, the racing can begin.
9th April 2017, 0:00
But the regs say…”Each lap completed while the Safety Car is deployed will be counted as a race lap, except the first lap when the procedure set out in 39.16 is followed (see also Article 5.3).” Isn’t that first lap then the parade lap?
But the sporting regs say the cars must now reform on the grid after it is deemed safe? I want to understand how that grid is now determined for a wet start.
9th April 2017, 0:04
Ah, I see what you mean!
So, after watching the clip, id say the race starts as normal, but if it’s too wet, the safety car will collect the pack.
I imagine that the new grid will be as qualifying if the start is aborted. If not, they’ll line up in the order they were when the safety car was deployed. Or not. I’m not sure.
Maybe we’ll see tomorrow.
9th April 2017, 2:20
@eastman Grid slots for the standing start, after the trundling around behind the safety car, are those the driver lined up in on the original grid – if a car ahead pits or drops out for any reason, they don’t move up a slot. Which sounds hopelessly confusing and likely to cause problems, especially with the reduced visibility caused by rain.
But, any car that pits during the safety car trundling has to return to the pits when the SC comes in, and take the start from the end of the pit lane – and they receive a penalty if they change to a different type of tyre – so that should act as a sufficient deterrent.
For the second question, safety car appearances later in the race will just be as they were last season.
And the last bit… as I understand it, yes, that refers to a total red flag – essentially, they realise there’s no way they’re going to be able to do a standing start because track conditions are too poor so they suspend the start procedure. If that happens it’ll mean the cars will end up doing a normal, 2016-style safety car start, not a standing start.
(That last part seems very silly indeed because it needlessly delays the start – it would be easier to simply include a line in the regulations saying the race director may choose to opt for a safety car start, and eliminate the need for everyone parking up in the pits, then setting off again).
Hope that makes some kind of sense.
Comments are closed.