Formula One Ready For China Round

Fernando Alonso leads the way during the Malaysian Grand Prix. (Steve Etherington photo)
Fernando Alonso leads the way during the Malaysian Grand Prix. (Steve Etherington photo)

SHANGHAI — Shanghai will host the third round of the 2012 Formula One World Championship as the 12 teams head back to the Far East for the Chinese Grand Prix.

This will be the ninth running of the Chinese Grand Prix, all of which have been held at the Shanghai International Circuit. Built on marshland in the district of Jiading, SIC introduced F-1 to the plus-size grand prix venue.

Featuring an enormous paddock, team buildings perched above an ornamental lake and spectator facilities capable of seating over 200,000 people, including a main grandstand by itself capable of holding 29,000, the Hermann Tilke-designed circuit is very much a statement. But take away the infrastructure and what’s left is an intriguing track that has all the right ingredients to produce a race that mixes tactical challenges with real blood-and-thunder driver appeal.

The standout features of SIC are the two enormously long straights, both of which are prefaced by slow corners and terminate in heavy braking zones. It makes for excellent overtaking opportunities into the Turn 14 hairping and the turn one ‘snail’. SIC features two of these ‘snails’ – sections of track that curl back on themselves in very tight corners. The snail at Turns 1-2-3 has a closing radius — meaning it gets tighter — while the Turn 11-12-13 snail has an opening radius.

While Formula One delights in fast, flowing sections of track, the reality is that getting the slower combinations right is what makes for a good lap time and differentiates drivers.

Ferrari and McLaren are tied on three wins apiece, with Renault and Red Bull Racing being the other victorious constructors in Shanghai. Red Bull’s win in 2009 was its first in F-1, though in the 54 races since then they have added another 26 victories for a strike rate just under 50 percent. Going into this race, however, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso leads the Drivers’ Championship while McLaren are top in the Constructors.


Chinese GP

Fast Facts

► The only driver to win the Chinese Grand Prix twice is McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, victorious last year and in 2008 – however Hamilton is perhaps better remembered in connection with this venue for sliding out of the 2007 race while attempting to enter the pit lane on very worn tires. His failure to score in what was the penultimate event handed Kimi Räikkönen a lifeline in the World Championship which Räikkönen grasped by winning in China and again two weeks later in Brazil to take the title by a solitary point.

► The ‘snail’ at the end of the start/finish straight and the hairpin turn 14 are good overtaking points, though the winner of the Chinese Grand Prix has never come from beyond the front three rows of the grid. Mark Webber’s charge last season from 18th to 3rd was the only time anyone starting outside the top ten has appeared on the podium.

► The Chinese Grand Prix is the first in a triple-header of FIA World Championship events for the Shanghai Int’l Circuit this year. The six hours of Shanghai will be the final event of the inaugural FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of October and one week later the World Touring Car Championship will visit for its penultimate round, before heading off to Macau.

► Since hosting the first Chinese Grand Prix in 2004, the Shanghai International Circuit has also played host to Australian V8s (2005) and MotoGP (2005-2008). Of the four MotoGP rounds held at the circuit, Valentino Rossi won the first and last, sandwiching wins for Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner.

► The circuit is built on reclaimed marshland. It is supported by a buoyant polystyrene sandwich sitting on top of 40,000+ concrete piles, some of which go 80m deep into the soft earth. Built at a fast pace the circuit has been vulnerable to subsidence, requiring extensive resurfacing work over the year to even out bumps in the track.

► Four of the eight grands prix held at the Shanghai International Circuit have required intermediate or full wet tyres and rain has threatened on several other occasions. Changing race dates from September/October to April has not proved to make rain during the grand prix more or less likely.

► The Hermann Tilke-designed circuit was laid out to resemble the Chinese character ‘Shang’, meaning ‘upward’ or ‘to ascend’.

► Michael Schumacher’s lap record stil stands from the original 2004 Chinese Grand Prix. Three of the first four races of 2012 take place at tracks with a lap record set by Schumacher in 2004.

► Only Jenson Button has won the Chinese Grand Prix with the no.1 of a reigning World Champion on his car. And only three times in eight runnings has the winner in China gone on to lift the World Championship that season.

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