Formula One action got under way on the Shanghai International Circuit for the first time on Friday and the drivers' first impressions of the new track were enthusiastic. The two hour-long practice sessions saw everyone's first real experience of...
Formula One action got under way on the Shanghai International Circuit for the first time on Friday and the drivers' first impressions of the new track were enthusiastic. The two hour-long practice sessions saw everyone's first real experience of the 5.45 km circuit and the overall opinion was that it's a superb facility.
Ralf Schumacher, who is back in the Williams cockpit after a six race absence, is looking forward to some good race action. "The circuit is really well designed," he said. "Driving here is a lot of fun as it is something really new, especially the long corners which offer brilliant overtaking opportunities on exit."
F1's prodigal son Jacques Villeneuve was smitten. "I think that the circuit itself is gorgeous!" Declared the Canadian, who took to the track for Renault. "It includes a bit of everything, with quick corners and slow corners, and it is challenging for the drivers. It is not easy, but you can find a good rhythm, it really flows well."
The first couple of turns attracted some comments. "The thing that really makes this track different to the others is the long corners at the start of the lap and before the main straight: you don't find this kind of corner at any other track," said Fernando Alonso. McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen concurred: "The circuit is interesting and the first two corners are particularly challenging," was the Finn's opinion.
Olivier Panis retires from racing at the end of this season so this weekend may well be the only chance he gets to enjoy Shanghai. "The circuit is fantastic, really," the Toyota man opined. "It is quite complicated, especially the long first corner. It took some time to find the best line and to be precise all the way through there."
Nick Heidfeld was also a fan of the start of the lap: " I really enjoyed the first corner, as I -- and many other drivers -- expected to. It's really special and very nice to drive." Jordan teammate Timo Glock, who is promoted to a race seat this weekend, commented: "It was cool to drive here today and I really like this circuit."
The Jaguar drivers expect some good competition at the track. Christian Klien, who was stretching the legs of the revised Jaguar R5b in the practice sessions, commented: "It has a good mixture of fast and slow corners and this is making both the car and driver work hard," Teammate Mark Webber added: "I think we are going to see a good competitive race this weekend."
Felipe Massa already visited Shanghai this summer but the demonstration run by Sauber took place on a temporary street circuit, as the track wasn't finished at the time. "It's a really nice track," he said of the real thing. "Turn One is very technical, the two quick corners are great fun and I can see some good overtaking opportunities. My first impressions are even better than I expected."
Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello was more curious about the Shanghai roads than the circuit. "This place is superb, but I don't understand why there are not yet any Chinese F1 drivers, because on the roads it is mad," he commented. "They say Brazilians make good racing drivers because of our traffic, but here they should have much better ones than us!"