Formula One Circus Heads To China

One of Formula One's smallest teams, Caterham, has new ownership after an announcement on Wednesday. (Steve Etherington photo)
The Formula One field sprints to the start of the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. (Steve Etherington photo)

SHANGHAI — After a two-week hiatus, Formula One fires up again as China and the Shanghai International Circuit play host to the third round of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship.

The 10th year of the Chinese Grand Prix sees teams arriving at the expansive SIC paddock with as many questions as answers generated by the first two grands prix of 2013.

Uppermost in many minds is the perennial early-season issue of tire degradation. In recent years race strategies here have been on the cusp between two and three stops, leading to out-of-sequence racing and grands prix that remain tense right up until the closing laps.

As was the case in 2012, Pirelli will bring the white-banded medium and yellow-banded soft compounds to Shanghai. While the medium tire has been used already this year both in Malaysia and Australia, this weekend is the first time the new soft compound has been seen at a race. While this tire was used extensively during testing, the differences of temperature, track configuration and surface construction render that data largely irrelevant: teams will need to develop their understanding over the weekend.

Even without that particular complication, SIC has the capacity to deliver captivating grands prix. Its long start-finish and back straights, in combination with the hairpin and tight ‘snail’ corner complexes, provide great overtaking opportunities with or without the assistance of DRS.

The opening two rounds of the 2013 Championship have provided intrigue rather than a definitive form guide for the season ahead.

Kimi Räikkönen’s win for Lotus in Australia was an assured performance but the much different conditions of track and temperature in Malaysia saw Red Bull return to dominance. The Shanghai International Circuit will be different again, equally capable of providing a strong indication of form or shuffling the pack further.

Fast Facts

• The nine Chinese Grands Prix held to date at the Shanghai International Circuit have produced eight different winners. Only Lewis Hamilton (2008 and 2011) has triumphed more than once.

• Only three times has the winning constructor in China gone on to lift the Constructors’ Championship trophy at the end of the season (Ferrari 2004, 2007, Renault 2005), and only three times has the winning driver gone on to win the Drivers’ Championship (Fernando Alonso 2005, Kimi Räikkönen 2007, Hamilton, 2008).

• Defending champions have faired even worse: McLaren’s Jenson Button is the only driver to win in China with the number one on his car; Ferrari (2004) are the only defending constructors’ champion to win the race.

• Ferrari (2004, 2006, 2007) and McLaren (2008, 2010, 2011) share the honors as constructors, they have each won three times in Shanghai. Red Bull (2009), Renault (2005) and Mercedes (2012) have each won the race on a single occasion.