Chinese GP - Uncertain climate Maranello, 14th April 2009 - There are have been five Chinese Grands Prix to date and Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro can claim to have a good record in this relatively new fixture, as it has won three of them. These ...
Chinese GP - Uncertain climate
Maranello, 14th April 2009 - There are have been five Chinese Grands Prix to date and Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro can claim to have a good record in this relatively new fixture, as it has won three of them. These victories have undoubtedly contributed to the Prancing Horse's reputation in China, which is an important market for Ferrari and even in these difficult economic times, the Maranello marquee is expanding here, with a growth in sales of 20% last year. Rubens Barrichello won the inaugural race in 2004, Michael Schumacher was victorious in 2006, followed a year later by Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn having made two previous visits to the Shanghai podium with third place in 2004 and a second in 2005. Felipe Massa finished third in 2007 and second last year, so it would be a logical progression if he made it to the top step of the podium this weekend. While this success means that walking into the Shanghai International Circuit brings back happy memories for the team, it is clear that there is no room for sentiment in Formula 1 and this year's form book is currently radically different to anything we have seen in the recent past.
Apart from the form book, the other element that has changed for China this year is its position on the calendar. In the past, it has always been held towards the end of the season and while this is of little significance, more importantly, the new date means the race no longer takes place at the end of summer and one can expect cooler temperatures this weekend, which means that data concerning track conditions and their effect on the car package, could be slightly wide of the mark. However, current forecasts are for the temperatures to rise through the week, peaking in the low 20s on Sunday. If it is cooler this will impact on the tyres and here in Shanghai, Bridgestone is supplying the teams with the same specifications seen in Melbourne; the super-soft and the mediums. While this combination and specifically the super-softs, caught the majority of teams by surprise in Australia, this time they will be used on a track surface offering far more grip. It is possible that it will be the medium specification that might be harder to manage if lower temperatures mean it struggles to reach optimum operating temperatures.
The circuit itself presents a tough challenge for the cars, with a very long straight and a mix of fast and slow corners, with the very long banked turn leading onto the back straight, putting a lot of stress onto the left hand side tyres, while the opening two corners are very tricky slow tightening turns that can lose a driver a lot of time and can be the deciding factor in setting a quick qualifying lap. The circuit is also demanding on brakes, with heavy braking required at the approach to the first two and last two turns. Using the adjustable front wing flap might well come into its own, rebalancing the car to deal with these slow turns. Additionally, those cars fitted with KERS should be able to defend themselves well from coming under attack at the end of the straights.
Although there has been a break since the Malaysian race and what was a difficult start to the season for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, there has been no testing. Nevertheless, the team has worked hard to address the problems it encountered, particularly the reliability issues. The problem with the KERS in Sepang has been fully understood and in terms of performance, putting to one side the diffuser issue, Ferrari accelerated its development programme on the F60, with test driver Marc Gene carrying out an aero test at Vairano last week, evaluating some new components. This means there will be some aero updates on the car for the third round of the championship, including modifications to the front wing, the front wheel flanges and the turning vanes.
In order to achieve this accelerated development, Ferrari has set up a specific task force back at the factory, coordinated by Aldo Costa with a major contribution coming from Luca Baldisserri, who provides the link between the race track and the design office. While remaining in the role of team manager, for the time being, Baldisserri will work out of Maranello and his responsibilities at the races will be taken on by Chris Dyer, Head of Race Engineering. Assessing the tyres will be the main target for this new task force during Friday's practice.