Chinese Grand Prix: Keep your eyes at the sky

Chinese Grand Prix: Keep your eyes at the sky

2010 Chinese GP preview The fourth round of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) Formula One World Championship will take place at the Chinese Shanghai International Circuit. The Shanghai circuit, located 30 kilometers...

2010 Chinese GP preview

The fourth round of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) Formula One World Championship will take place at the Chinese Shanghai International Circuit. The Shanghai circuit, located 30 kilometers northwest of China's business capital, joined the FIA Formula One championship in 2004, and its grand scale and ultra-modern architecture immediately identified it as a truly 21st-century Grand Prix venue. Designed by German Hermann Tilke, the circuit has the capacity for 200,000 spectators -- 29,000 of them in the main straight grandstand alone -- making it a Formula One facility of high ambition. Located in Shanghai's Jiading district, the Shanghai circuit forms the centerpiece of an area earmarked for development as an 'Auto City'.

Rain is expected for the Chinese Grand Prix.
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Tilke designed a circuit with a layout that offers seven left turns and nine right turns, and a 330 km/h back straight leading into a hairpin that is good for overtaking because it is unusually wide. The gentle banking at the ever-tightening opening sequence of corners is also a hit, with Turn 13 being the opposite as it opens out onto the back straight. The team offices are built on stilts above a lake and are an imitation of the water gardens in Shanghai's Yu-yuan garden. Although the circuit is unremittingly modern, the detailing on many of the buildings is in traditional Chinese red and gold.

FIA stewards

The FIA has appointed four stewards who will make up the F1 Stewards Panel for the race in China: Swiss Paul Gutjahr and Venezualan Enzo Spano will represent the FIA, Heping Wan, represents the hosting country China, and ex- Formula One driver 36-year old Austrian Alexander Wurz, will represent the drivers. Wurz is the youngest steward to join the panel this year, and was active in Formula One from 1996-2000, and after a few years as test driver. he drove one race for McLaren in 2006. In 2007 he joined the Williams team and completed another full race season. He participated in 69 races, scored three podium places and 49 world championship points during his career. He also won the Le Mans 24 Hours race in 1996 and 2009.

FIA warns teams about ride height system

The FIA has send a letter to all teams, with a warning that any ride height or self-leveling system is illegal. According to the FIA "Any system, device or procedure, the purpose and/or effect of which is to change the set-up of the suspension, while the car is under parc ferme conditions will be deemed to contravene art 34.5 of the sporting regulations." To prevent teams from seeking a non-mechanical solution the FIA also stated: "Furthermore we believe that any self leveling damper system is likely to contravene 3.15 of the technical regulations."

McLaren was already working on a ride height system. McLaren's engineering director Paddy Lowe: "Now that the FIA has taken a fresh view of it and drawn a different line, we are reacting to that too. Basically, we had a system we were working on, and we've now suspended that." Whether this clarification of the rules will force other teams to change there current suspension set-up is unknown.

New start for BMW-Sauber

BMW-Sauber hopes to make a fresh start during the Chinese GP, technical director Willy Rampf will leave the team and his duties will be taken over by James Key, who earlier this year left the Force India team. Team principal Peter Sauber has mixed feelings about Rampf's (planned) retirement: "I feel most sorry for Willy Rampf. For nearly 15 years he was our loyal technical boss, and at his very last race he had to live through such a debacle." Sauber is of course referring to the problems the team had with the Ferrari engines during the Malaysian GP. Pedro de la Rosa didn't even make it to the start grid because his engine failed after he had left the pit lane to join the rest of the field. Nine laps after the start Kamui Kobayashi also had to abandon the race after his engine blew up.

Willy Rampf retires, but will be present in China to assist James Key.
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New Sauber technical director Key is looking forward to his new job, and to his first race for the Sauber team: "I arrived in Hinwil after the Easter weekend and met a lot of people. I got a very good impression of what's going on. There is obviously work to be done, but the spirit within the team and the motivation are very high." And added: "I haven't been to the track this year, so it's going to be interesting to see how things are run, learn a bit about the tyres and talk to the drivers."

Sauber thinks changes are needed and he admitted the team needs to improve its performance: "In terms of performance we are not where we expected to be or where we should be given the means we've had at our disposal in the development of the C29." But he is also very optimistic about the future: "We're experiencing a new beginning as a team and are in the process of adapting from a works outfit to an independent team. As an organization, everything is in place to get us back to our former strength."

Mercedes: everything going according to plan

The Mercedes team have been working very hard to catch up with Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. Ross Brawn has admitted his team was lacking some speed, but still thinks the overall performance is good and also said there is nothing wrong with the reliability of the car. Bawn about the race in China: "We hope to continue these signs of improvement in China and it would be particularly good for Michael to be able to have a clean race and show the progress that he has made since the start of the season."

Michael Schumacher gathered only nine points this season, while his team mate Nico Rosberg has now 35 points and is only four points behind Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, who leads the championship with 39 points. Although many have claimed the championship is already over for Mercedes, this is far from true, with 25 points for the first place during the race, standings in the championship can rapidly change.

Schumacher himself is still adamant his Formula One return is still right on track. This weekend he will return to the circuit where he in 2006 scored the last win of his career. Schumacher about the last two races: "Admittedly, the last two races have not been very fortunate for me, but I am very much aware of the reasons for it. I know how things go in F1 and, if you look into the detail of the two races, I think everything is still going according to plan. You can only improve step-by-step and I am confident that we are achieving this."

The star at the Mercedes team at the moment is Rosberg, he out qualified Schumacher three times, and finished ahead of Schumacher three times. The young German is confident about the Chinese GP: "I'm looking forward to continuing our consistent run of good results in China. The weather will be colder in Shanghai than at the previous three races and can be quite unpredictable so it should be an interesting weekend."

Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China
Circuit length:5.451 km
Corners:16 turns - 7 left, 9 right
Longest straight:1175 m
Total number of race laps:56
Total race distance:305.066 km
Top speed:330 km/h
Tyre wear:High
Tyre compounds:Hard/Soft
Brake wear:Medium
Downforce level:Medium to High
Lap record:1:32.238 M. Schumacher - Ferrari 2004
Speed limits in the pit lane:60 km/h during practice sessions;
100 km/h during qualifying and race

China, Shanghai weather forecast
Friday:Sunny and clear skies, min 7C, max 15C
Saturday:Mostly sunny and clear skies, min 12C, max 19C
Sunday:Cloudy with rain showers, min 13C, max 18C

Pit stops and tyres

Expected pit stop schedule for Shanghai:
For 1 stop - between laps 27-33
For 2 stops - between laps 16-27 and 35-41
For 3 stops - between laps 14-19, 25-30 and 38-43

Bridgestone will bring the Hard and Soft tyre compounds to Shanghai. Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone's director of tyre development thinks the circuit will be severe on the tyres: "There are very high lateral forces and we expect to see graining on the front left tyres, especially caused by the increasing radius turn two and the banked turn thirteen. We could also see graining on the rear tyres here too. We are a step harder in our allocation for this year compared to 2009 because of the heavier cars and the severity of this track." He also warned there could be rain like last year: "Last year the challenge was the weather, and we saw our wet tyres used for most of the race. It was not the first time we have had wet conditions in China so the sky will be a strong consideration for this weekend."

Ferrari and McLaren put Malaysian debacle behind them

Felipe Massa failed to qualify for Q2 in Malaysia.
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Both Ferrari and McLaren failed to qualify for Q2 in Malaysia, based on the info of the weather radar they thought the rain would subside during Q1, but it didn't, an embarrassing classic rookie mistake. McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh insists the team will not make the same mistake twice, and said it has made the team even stronger. Lewis Hamilton thinks Mclaren is still in a good position: "After three races, we've been satisfied with our race pace, and we feel comfortable that we'll be up at the front. Overtaking is possible at this circuit, particularly at the end of the long back straight, so I'm pretty confident we'll have another competitive weekend."

Ferrari has been plagued by engine troubles, both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa have already used three engines. But Ferrari is not concerned about the engines and they will re-use the Bahrain engines in China. Engine boss Luca Marmorini thinks the engine problems are not related to the Sauber engine problems. According to Marmorini, the engine failure Alonso experienced in Malaysia, was related to the gearbox problem he had, and he is not worried there could be a structural engine problem.

Massa fears something else: the McLaren F-Duct. With a very long back straight at the circuit, Massa believes McLaren will have an advantage. Massa about the F-Duct: "We will need to be careful on that straight this year, because we have seen that the McLaren in particular has a very high top speed, so in case of a close battle with them we will have to be careful and ready to defend [our] position." Ferrari is also working on a similar system, but is in no rush to use the system. Stefano Domenicali: "We will bring it as soon as everything will be reliable, and we will be 100 per cent sure that the system works."

Who to watch this weekend?

Sofar this season three teams have won a race: Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull. If they don't make mistakes, they will probably be the front runners again. But Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has also done well, he is now fifth in the championship, and he is closing in on the top three teams. Another driver who also performed remarkably well the last two races is Renault driver Robert Kubica, current seventh in the championship, only nine points behind the number one.

Fourth place for Robert Kubica in Malaysia.
Photo by Hazrin Yeob Men Shah.

The Pole feels at home at the Renault team, and his team boss Eric Boullier is very impressed with his achievements sofar, and even called him a 'huge asset' for the team. Kubica is certainly the key to the development of the car, but he is also impressed by the team's effort sofar: "It's great to see the team pushing so hard and bringing new parts for each race. We will have some more updates for the car to help us continue closing the gap to the front." The Renault team is now aiming to beat Mercedes, and if anyone can do that, Kubica is the man.

In its turn, Force India has set their sights on catching up with the Renault team. Adrian Sutil finished fifth in Malaysia, and was fourth fastest during qualifying. Sutil's fifth place was a real boost for the team, and the team is now aiming to become a regular points finisher. Force India will also have some more updates for the car and Force India is convinced they will again perform well in China.

Most weather reports forecast rain on Sunday, but it will be dry during qualifying. With rain during the race, anything could happen, and it could be any of the top eight drivers in the championship who will be in the lead of the championship after the race in China. No driver has ever won the race in China twice. Due to the rain, last year's race started behind the safety car, so keep your eyes on the sky Sunday.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Pedro de la Rosa , Michael Schumacher , Fernando Alonso , Alexander Wurz , Ross Brawn , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Peter Sauber , Nico Rosberg , Robert Kubica , Adrian Sutil , Martin Whitmarsh
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Force India , Williams