2011 Chinese Grand Prix
Pirelli prepares for another Shanghai surprise
What’s the story?
Malaysia provided an action-packed race with plenty of overtaking and a podium battle that went right down to the very last lap – and in China Pirelli is hoping for more of the same. Shanghai is designed to test the limits of a modern Formula One car, particularly when it comes to traction and braking, where the tyres are under most stress.
Temperatures in China are expected to be considerably lower than they were in Malaysia, with much less humidity. Added to the smoother surface found in Shanghai, in theory there should be much less degradation. Rain is not an uncommon occurrence in China, so after a dry Malaysia, this could be where the intermediate and wet PZero tyres finally make their competition debut.
Otherwise, it will be the hard and the soft tyres that once again take centre stage, which were also nominated for Australia and Malaysia this year. The soft tyre in particular should be well-suited to the 5.451-kilometre track, but China is a race that is always hard to predict. Since the Chinese Grand Prix was first held in 2004, there has been a different winner every year: a sign of the diverse characteristics and complex variables that characterize the race.
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director says:
“So far I’m very pleased with the way that our tyres have helped the show, but I’m always impressed by the way that the teams and drivers learn so quickly: I’m sure they will be finding different solutions to make the tyres last longer all the time. So far we have accurately predicted two pit stops in Australia and three in Malaysia but we’ll have to wait until we see the data after Friday free practice before having a completely clear idea of what to expect in China.
I’m hoping that we’ll see the same again in China!
Unlike Malaysia, where we provided the teams with an experimental tyre for free practice, we will give each team one extra set of the usual hard tyres for Friday’s first free practice session – just as we did in Australia. We saw then that it worked well, allowing the teams to maximise their track time and prepare as thoroughly as possible for the race, so we’d like to give them the same opportunity again. The first two races have been absolutely thrilling; I’m hoping that we’ll see the same again in China!”
The men behind the steering wheel say:
Michael Schumacher (Mercedes):
“After Australia and Malaysia, once again we have a very different type of circuit at Shanghai, so it’s still going to be a steep learning curve with the Pirelli tyres for everyone. We’ve seen so far that strategy is important as well as tyre management, and I would certainly expect that to be the case again in China.
In terms of tyre wear, Shanghai should be more forgiving than Malaysia with temperatures generally being a lot lower and the surface smoother. In general the performance of the Pirelli tyres is good, but learning how to control the window during which they are at their best is the big challenge. My job and the job of the team is to find the best solution for our car and this will be our objective once more in Shanghai.”
Technical notes and tyre choices so far:
One of the characteristics of the Shanghai circuit is heavy braking, which tends to put more stress on the front tyres than the rears. In severe braking zones, the car and tyres are subjected to deceleration forces equivalent to 5G.
China has a special significance for the world championship leader and winner of Pirelli’s first two grands prix, Sebastian Vettel. In 2009, it was the scene of the German’s first ever pole position and win for Red Bull Racing.
Last year saw the highest number of pit stops in the history of the Chinese Grand Prix. There were a total of 67 stops: an average of 2.79 per driver, at a race that was held in mixed conditions. By way of comparison, the Malaysian Grand Prix that has just taken place had 59 stops.
The tyre choices so far:
Pirelli in China:
Pirelli China is part of Pirelli Asia-Pacific. China is one of the fastest-growing markets for Pirelli, and the Italian firm has two factories in the Shangdong province: one for car tyres and another for truck tyres. The latest factory has been designed with capacity to expand to 10 million units per year.
Pirelli tyres have been successful in FIA GT racing in China, at the Zhuhai circuit, and also on the China Rally, part of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
China forms a huge part of Pirelli’s motorsport history. Pirelli’s first major international win was on the 1907 Peking to Paris road race, won by Prince Scipione Borghese in a seven-litre Itala.