On Tuesday, the cars with which Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa finished the Japanese Grand Prix in third and sixth place respectively, will already be available to the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro crews to start work at the Shanghai International ...
On Tuesday, the cars with which Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa finished the Japanese Grand Prix in third and sixth place respectively, will already be available to the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro crews to start work at the Shanghai International Circuit, in preparation for this Sunday's penultimate round of the World Championship.
Shanghai is another of the new generation of race circuits designed by Hermann Tilke whose work provided such a thrilling race in Mount Fuji just a few days ago. It can be considered a track where the driver plays a more significant role than at many other venues. It boasts a variety of very interesting corners that feature radius and camber changes, as well as some high speed corners. Therefore, although the cars are the same F2007 as used at the Fuji Speedway, they will be set up to run with higher levels of downforce.
The track provides some useful overtaking opportunities, thanks in part to a long main straight. However, this combination of a very long straight with much tighter turns brings the usual difficulties in finding the right compromises in the aero package. Grip levels are high here and the long lap (5.451 km), in terms of distance, means that fuel effect is quite important at this track, while it is easy on the brakes. However, tyres have a hard life here, especially going through the very long and totally unique Turn 1.
After living in the cold and wet for much of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, the weather should be much better here with temperatures expected to be in the low thirties Celsius, although as usual in Shanghai, the sun often has difficulty breaking through and in fact, there is a risk of some rain over the weekend.
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro will be based in Pudong, an area near the airport, in an attempt to avoid at least some of what is a major headache for everyone this weekend, namely the very dense traffic that seems to run day and night. After the very disciplined and courteous driving witnessed in Japan, the Chinese driver's more flamboyant approach and integral use of the horn for all manoeuvres, is something of a shock for first time visitors!
The Scuderia first appeared in China in 2004, when the team was officially invited by the Government to inaugurate the Shanghai International Circuit. Since then it has a good record at the track with two wins, courtesy of Rubens Barrichello in 2004 and with Michael Schumacher just twelve months ago. China is also very important to the road car sides of the Maranello marque and has had a sales operation here since 2005.
"To be in China is no longer something new for us therefore," says Ferrari's Head of Communications for the Asia Pacific Region, Matteo Bonciani. "China is definitely a booming market. In our first year, we sold 65 cars doubling that figure in 2006 and now, according to comments from President Montezemolo at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show we are expecting to reach a 2007 target of over 150 cars."
"We have seen already how important the Asian markets are to Ferrari as Japan is now one of our biggest markets on a global scale. In China, the arrival of our Formula 1 colleagues for the Grand Prix is crucial because the Chinese people are definitely very enthusiastic about our company. Recently, ten thousand people came to the Shanghai circuit back in June for the Ferrari Festival, which featured the FXX, and also F1 cars giving people the chance to experience F1 outside the Grand Prix weekend."
"China is very open to the idea of F1 and the fans are particularly keen on Ferrari. One should not forget that last year's Chinese Grand Prix was an historic event in the context of Ferrari as it was in Shanghai that Michael Schumacher recorded the last of his 91 victories in Formula 1, and his 72th with the Scuderia. For us this weekend's race will be a way for Ferrari in China to celebrate a successful year."
The company aims to build on that success, bringing new products onto the buoyant market here. Again, as the President said at Frankfurt, "China is becoming much more important than ever for us." Ferrari has thirteen dealerships in China, but since the end of 2006 what has changed is that the company has now created Ferrari's Asia-Pacific Division.
"President Montezemolo set up a special task force to run our business over two continents: Asia and Australasia, so that from New Zealand to South Korea, the headquarters for Ferrari are in Shanghai and that is another reason why this race is particularly important for us," says Bonciani. "You can say that, in a way, this is our "hometown" race."
"Ferrari's Asia- Pacific division includes, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, so it covers a very big area and currently represents twenty percent of the company's total business and this is definitely going to increase in the near future. It is certainly the area of the globe with the greatest potential for growth."