As the F1 drivers drove competitively for the first time in Saturday's qualifying session, the circuit proved to be a challenging one and quite a few had a 'mishap' or two as they tried to find the limit of the track, and of their own cars. Even...
As the F1 drivers drove competitively for the first time in Saturday's qualifying session, the circuit proved to be a challenging one and quite a few had a 'mishap' or two as they tried to find the limit of the track, and of their own cars. Even World Champion Michael Schumacher has fallen foul of the new layout as he spun in qualifying and will start from the back of the grid.
There are a number of support races and the Volkwagen Polo Celebrity Race has given a host of former top drivers the chance to try out the International Circuit for themselves and overwhelmingly they have given the brand new race track the big thumbs up.
Martin Brundle, the former McLaren and Benetton driver who raced F1 cars for 13 years thinks this is a very technical track. "You have to be precise and position the car very well as it certainly won't pay to attack the corners here. There are two fast corners, which definitely keep you on your toes. As for the 'snails', the line through them is not very obvious. It's very hard to find the sweet spot, but all the present F1 drivers won't take more than 10 laps to figure the best racing lines."
Brundle adds that this is very much a car circuit, where driver input will be negated if the car is not set up right. "These corners will cause understeer, so proper balance is fundamental. You might see lots of Noah's Ark qualifying, that is teams getting it right, or wrong, and placing their cars on the grid one after the other, two by two. Controlled attack into the corners will do, aggressive attack won't."
Former Ferrari driver Stefan Johansson finds the track has good rhythm, "but he was surprised at the layout. The corners are not too tough, but it is essential the car is very well balanced. Tyre wear will be critical." adds the Swede.
Another Ferrari driver, Ivan Capelli, was also surprised by the track layout. Like Brundle, Capelli is now a television pundit and vastly experienced and knowledgeable of racing tracks. "I like this track as it has a great variety of bends, fast slow and with different cambers."
"There is still not much rubber on the surface so there are bound to be a few more spins. I think most overtaking will happen on bend 6 and on bend 14. Fitness will count too as there is a lot of demanding deceleration and side pull. I think Villeneuve might struggle as he does not have much conditioning and this is a tough track to come back to F1."
On Sunday there will also be a glittering and unique opening ceremony, as the organisers of the Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix put on the longest ever display to herald the start of a F1 race. There will be a strong Chinese cultural bias, with music, martial arts, dance and other aspects of local and city tradition. There will be more than 1,200 performers and a parade comprising 22 cars manufactured in China.
Saturday's qualifying session was watched by 80,000 spectators and the organisers are expecting 160,000 for race day. There are still a few seats left as the organisers increased the early limit of 150,000 by another 10,000 to meet the enthusiastic demand for tickets.