With the European season at an end, Formula One's next stop is Asia and the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday 1st October. Debuted on the calendar in 2004, this year's race will be only the third Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, one of the most remarkable venues visited all season.
The state of the art facility, located in the north-western suburbs of the city, is in size and scale the most impressive venue anywhere in the world, the bold architecture unparalleled in F1. With just two races to go before the season finale in Brazil, the team is working hard in an effort to re-establish its competitive form.
Between the races
With no testing responsibilities prior to Shanghai, both Mark and Nico enjoyed a few days at home before traveling to China for a busy week of marketing engagements in the lead up to the race. Nico's first commitment is on Tuesday in downtown Shanghai where he will be launching the first official Oris Nico Rosberg Limited Edition watch. At the same time, Mark will be joining Neil Pryde's award-winning ship, Hi-Fi, twice the winner of the Asian Yachting Grand Prix Championship.
Mark will be joined on board by skilled members of the Hong Kong Sea School for a day of sailing around Hong Kong with RBS. On Wednesday, Nico will take a trip down the financial district of Guangzhou in his Formula One car, an event arranged by Allianz, while Mark will be favouring a two-wheeled method of transport over his race car when he joins China's premier cycling squad, The Marco Polo Team, for a day of fitness challenges in Beijing.
Both drivers' final commitment en-route to the GP weekend will be their attendance at the Royal Bank of China for the official unveiling of the dual branding that RBS and the Royal Bank of China will share on the car this weekend.
Making the car go faster
The team completed a four day test at Silverstone last week with Alex Wurz and Narain Karthikeyan. Using an FW28A chassis, with the Cosworth engine, Alex concentrated on testing a new aero package that will be rolled out for the final rounds of the season and comprehensive tyre evaluations to assist the team in selection at the track. All FW28s will benefit from new front wings and barge boards in China, as well as minor bodywork modifications.
Alongside preparations for China, Japan and Brazil, the test team carried out the first track test of the Toyota-powered interim Williams FW28B. Completing 745kms and experiencing only minor teething problems, the debut outing of the new engine and 2007-spec gearbox, two months' ahead of last year's schedule, proved promisingly successful.
Shanghai from a technical perspective
Resembling the Chinese symbol for "high", Shanghai's track layout is a demanding mix of straights, turns and hairpins. Over the 5.4km lap, the drivers will negotiate seven left- and seven right hand turns, the tightest of which being turn one, entered into flat out but exited in second as the corner squeezes tighter and tighter before a left-hander into turn two. With so many slow and medium speed corners over one lap, the car must have perfect balance, achieved through an efficient aero package.
Although dominated by corners, Shanghai has two long straights (the longest being between turns 13 and 14 which stretches to 1,175m) which will see drivers reach speeds of 327km/h and raise the average lap speed to 205km/h. The engineers must, therefore, provide a set-up which also offers high top speeds and low drag levels without compromising the cornering stability.
Similar to Istanbul Park, the track at Shanghai measures, on average, between 13 and 15 metres in width (20 metres at turn 13) so offers ample room for overtaking manoeuvres and the perfect setting for a riveting race on Sunday afternoon.
"I like going to China. It's a very nice city and the track is amazing, it's probably one of the best we compete at all season. A Tilke-designed circuit, it's inevitably very demanding for the drivers and the car, but I enjoy driving there. The race only made its debut on the calendar in 2004, but the fans are getting more and more interested in Formula One, which is great because it's such an important market for us. It wasn't a great result for the team in Monza so we'll be looking to finish the season with some points scoring finishes."
"I've had a quiet time since Monza, just relaxing at home and concentrating on my training. I haven't raced at Shanghai before, so I obviously don't know the track at all. I went to the race there last year, just to see how a Grand Prix weekend goes in preparation for this year, and thought that the track looks great. I'll have my work cut out for me on Friday to learn the circuit as quickly as I can, but overall I'm looking forward to driving there and I'm really hoping we will have a good weekend."
Sam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1:
"Shanghai circuit has a unique layout, with a good mixture of corner speeds and straights. It is quite twisty in areas, particularly at the first corner where the track continues to tighten up, which can often catch some drivers out. Combined with a few straight sections around the lap, Shanghai requires a high downforce configuration on the car. The car must be well balanced and have the ability to change direction quickly. Previous races have shown that overtaking opportunities are available in China, most notably going in to the second to last corner of the lap. Strategy will most likely be two stops."
"We had a positive test at Silverstone last week where Alex tested a revised aero package that we will bring with us for the final three rounds. We also concentrated on tyre testing in preparation for these races and are confident of our selection. This season has been tough for the team, so some good results in Asia and Brazil would be welcome and well deserved for everyone at Grove, and for the crew at Cosworth, who have all worked so hard this year."
Simon Corbyn, Head of F1 Race Engineering, Cosworth:
"Shanghai circuit's most significant feature is the combination of relatively long straights and several key, tight corners which drop the engine down to low speeds, such as those seen at the hairpin at turn 14. These low, mid-corner engine speeds potentially pose drivability and traction control issues, but no problems have been flagged on our test cells in Northampton. The wide engine operating speed range of the latest CA2006 engine, coupled with Cosworth's experience of engine tuning without the use of variable inlet trumpets, will be advantageous in Shanghai."