Team McLaren Mercedes travels to the People's Republic of China this week for the third Grand Prix held at the Shanghai International Circuit. The race sees Formula 1 leave Europe for the final three fly-away races of the 2006 season. Following the Chinese Grand Prix, the sport moves to Japan next weekend and then the culmination of the year in Brazil on Sunday 22nd October.
The Shanghai International Circuit is northeast of the city, the track has the shape of the Chinese symbol 'Shang', which translates as 'high' or 'above'. China first hosted international motor racing in the mid nineties, with the BPR sports car championship that raced on a temporary street circuit in downtown Zhouhai, southwest of Hong Kong.
Shanghai's first international race was also on a temporary street track when a DTM event took place in Pudong close to the centre of the city in July 2004, two months before the inauguration of the Shanghai International Circuit.
Since 1986, DaimlerChrysler has been represented in China with its own Mercedes-Benz subsidiary. Last December the company launched the production of E-Class models in a purpose built plant in Beijing in co-operation with Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Company (BAIC). It is also planned to manufacture the next generation of the C-Class there.
The plant which has been officially launched on 15 September, has a production capacity of 25,000 Mercedes-Benz cars per year. Meanwhile, a total of 140,000 Mercedes-Benz cars run on China's roads. The country is the fastest growing market for cars worldwide. In 2005, about 2.7 million passengers have been sold in China, this was an increase compared to 2004 of more than 25 percent.
"The Shanghai track is great to drive, it is quite wide so can be good for overtaking in places. You do need good mechanical grip for the slower corners, this is really important for turn 13 as it exits out onto the long back straight, that is over one kilometre, so having good speed as you leave the corner is vital. The final hairpin, turn 14, at the end of the back straight is probably the most obvious overtaking opportunity."
"You can get into a slipstream, as speeds reach nearly 330km/h, and the go for position under braking as you drop down to around 85km/h. Turn four is also pretty important, as you need to take quite a precise line through turn five, which is very long to be quick. So far in China I have finished in third and second and my aim for this year is to take the top step of the podium with Team McLaren Mercedes!"
Pedro de la Rosa:
"Since the Italian Grand Prix three weeks ago, we tested at Silverstone for two days. My programme with the team focused on Michelin tyres for Shanghai and Japan, alongside set-up for both races, it was a good session. I am now really looking forward to getting back to driving in Shanghai. I drove there last year on Friday with the team, and really enjoyed the track. It is the kind of circuit that you understand really quickly, so can start pushing to the limits right away."
"I completed 50 laps last year, so I have some good experience of the track and can't wait to race on it. The track has some pretty fast straights, and our set-up will be medium downforce, but towards the lower end to ensure we are quick along these sections of the track whilst also being fast on the slower, windy sections."
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula One, Team McLaren Mercedes:
"During the three week gap since the Italian Grand Prix at the start of September, the team has been out on track at Silverstone with Pedro and Lewis Hamilton working through preparations for the Chinese and Japanese Grands Prix. It was a productive couple of days and although we are arriving in China in a different position to last year when we were battling for the Championship, we are going to fight as hard for the victory."
"The two races at the Shanghai track to date have both seen some very close and exciting battles and Team McLaren Mercedes would like to continue this trend. The car felt strong in Monza, the performance had increased and there was some positive work completed at the Silverstone test. It is going to be hard however, the Shanghai International Circuit is a tough track, but we will push to the maximum."
Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
"Not only is China one of the most important markets for automobiles worldwide; the Grand Prix there is also of great importance to us, because DaimlerChrysler has been manufacturing models of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class in China since December 2005. In addition, we launched a new plant there 11 days ago, which is able to produce up to 25,000 Mercedes-Benz E- and C-Class cars per year."
"Within a competitive environment, we want to present ourselves positively to the interested Chinese spectators and TV viewers. Therefore, we have intensely prepared ourselves for the third-to-last World Championship race of the season. The circuit, with its two long straights and both very fast and slow corners; is demanding for brakes and engines. More than 70 percent of the almost 5.5km lap will be run under full throttle. Two years ago, in the Chinese Grand Prix debut, Kimi was third and 1.5sec behind the winner, in 2005, he placed second, four seconds behind."