SHANGHAI — Following a thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix and last week’s test at the Sakhir circuit, what is fast proving to be a fascinating FIA Formula One Championship resumes this weekend with round four — the Chinese Grand Prix.
The Shanghai Int’l Circuit, located in the Jiading district of one of China’s most vibrant cities, presents a markedly different set of challenges to those offered up in Bahrain. Gone is the high heat and the point and squirt nature of the BIC’s layout. Instead, Shanghai offers up cooler climes, two long straights and a tough mix of slow, medium and high-speed corners, all of which test a team’s ability to find a good balance for their cars.
It is a layout that in the past has also given tires a good workout too — particularly rear tires. That issue is likely to be exacerbated by the torque available from the new power units and the reduced aerodynamic grip available under this year’s regulations.
Tire manufacturer Pirelli is, however, bringing its medium and soft compounds to Shanghai and it will be interesting to see what effect this combination has on race strategies.
The race in Bahrain was again dominated by the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Rosberg might have lost out in the pair’s exciting battle to the flag but the German still leads the Drivers’ World Championship and will be undoubtedly seeking revenge, and a repeat of his maiden F-1 win here in China in 2012. Hamilton, meanwhile will be looking for a first hat trick of wins.
In the teams’ battle, Mercedes lead the way from Force India, whose excellent results from the past two races have catapulted them into previously unknown territory. They’ll surely be looking to stage a Shanghai surprise this weekend to widen the gap between them and third-placed McLaren to more than the single point that currently separates the Mercedes-powered outfits.
► This will be the 11th running of the Chinese Grand Prix, the race having joined the Formula One calendar in 2004.
► The first five editions of the race took place towards the end of the campaign, with the 2005 race being the season-ending event. At that race, Renault wrapped up its first constructors’ championship title as a manufacturer thanks to Fernando Alonso’s win and Giancarlo Fisichella’s fourth place. The race moved to the front end of the season in 2009 in an April slot that has become now traditional for the event.
► The winner of the inaugural race was Rubens Barrichello, who took his ninth career victory in Shanghai for Ferrari. It would be the Brazilian’s last win for five years. Barrichello’s 10th win came when driving for Brawn GP at the 2009 European Grand Prix in Valencia, some 1793 days after his Chinese GP win.
► Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton are the only multiple winners here. Alonso won the 2005 race for Renault and last year’s event for Ferrari. Both of Hamilton’s wins to date have been for McLaren, in 2008 and 2011.
► The other winners here are: Michael Schumacher in 2006; Kimi Räikkönen in 2007; Sebastian Vettel In 2009; Jenson Button in 2010 and Nico Rosberg in 2012. Vettel’s win here was his first for Red Bull Racing, while Rosberg’s was, of course, his maiden GP victory.
► Rosberg’s 2012 victory was Mercedes’ first grand prix win as a manufacturer since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix when Juan Manuel Fangio took victory ahead of Piero Taruffi, also driving for the three-pointed star.
► Ferrari are the most successful constructors at this race, with four victories (Barrichello ’04, Schumacher ’06, Räikkönen ’07 and Alonso ’13). McLaren are the Italian squad’s closest rivals, with three wins (Hamilton ’08 and ’11 and Button ’10). Renault, Red Bull Racing and Mercedes have one win each.
► Five of the 10 events held so far have been won from pole position – in 2004, ’05, ’08, ’09 and 2012. Michael Schumacher’s 2006 win was from the furthest back on the grid so far. The Ferrari driver started sixth.
► The pole position man has only failed to finish on the podium twice in the 10 runnings to date. Sebastian Vettel finished sixth in 2010 and in 2007 Lewis Hamilton famously crashed out at the pit lane entrance.
► None of this year’s rookies have any experience of the Shanghai International Circuit. However, when Marcus Ericsson takes to the track on Friday he won’t be the first Swede to turn laps here. Back in 2004, Björn Wirdheim was a test driver for Jaguar Racing. The racer from the town of Växjö, took part in both Friday sessions for the team, recording the 12th fastest lap in the morning session and the 17th best time in the afternoon, three seconds down on fastest man Anthony Davidson, who was testing for BAR-Honda.