Button eyes hat-trick at Shanghai (Chinese Grand Prix preview)

Championship leader Jenson Button aims to extend his winning streak

Championship leader Jenson Button aims to extend his winning streak

F1 returns to Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix just five races since its last visit.

The earlier appearance for the track on the schedule means the teams can expect cooler conditions – and a greater chance of rain.

They will also have to get to grips with the super-soft tyre which caused so many problems in Melbourne. And tomorrow’s ruling on the diffuser appeal could see changes in the balance of power at the front of the field.

The Chinese Grand Prix makes its sixth appearance on the F1 calendar and, for the first time, ever, the race is being held in April instead of its usual October slot.

April in Shanghai sees average temperatures around 4C cooler than in October. Perhaps more significantly, average rainfall in April is 90-95mm compared to 55-60mm in October. The 2006 and 2007 Chinese rounds were rain-affected.

Partly because of the cooler conditions, this year the teams have a radically softer selection of tyres to use. Last year Bridgestone brought their hard and medium compounds – this year the teams will use the medium and super-soft tyres.

This was the same selection the teams had in Melbourne, where they found the super-soft tyres degraded rapidly after just a few laps. If we see a repeat of this phenomenon in Shanghai the teams will be faced with a difficult strategic question: use the super-soft tyres in the first stint to get rid of them and hope to take advantage of a safety car period; or save them until the end when the extra rubber build-up on the circuit may help them last longer.

The Shanghai races comes after the teams’ first two-week break of the season, and it’s likely many of them will have new parts to test on Friday. If tomorrow’s appeal court hearing upholds the legality of the ‘double decker diffusers’ used by Brawn GP, Williams and Toyota, keep an eye out for which teams have their own versions ready to run. If the appeal goes against the ‘diffuser three’, all eyes will be on the times sheets to see how much of an effect it has on their performance.

Shanghai has the second-longest flat-out section of any F1 track on the calendar this year: the 1.37km blast from turn 13 to 14. This will likely hand a considerable advantage to any KERS-equipped cars when it comes to overtaking. Will any other drivers join the seven that have used the device so far?

Drivers to watch

Heikki Kovalainen – It’s easy to get distracted by the Lewis Hamilton Show, particularly when Kovalainen has failed to complete a racing lap so far this year. That can’t last forever though – remember Sebastian Vettel last year – and Kovalainen has shown promising pace in qualifying and practice. A surprise could be on the cards.

Fernando Alonso – Made a scintillating start at Sepang, watch for more of the same on Sunday.

Nico Rosberg – Fastest in five of the six pre-race practice sessions so far, can Rosberg finally translate promise into performance?

Rubens Barrichello – It’s two-nil to Button so far, and if Barrichello wants a crack at the championship this year he needs to get on terms with his team mate.

Shanghai International Circuit map and information (click to enlarge)

Shanghai International Circuit map and information (click to enlarge)

More on the Chinese Grand Prix

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43 comments on Button eyes hat-trick at Shanghai (Chinese Grand Prix preview)

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  1. scunnyman said on 13th April 2009, 9:41

    I think if the diffuser issue is solved this coming tuesday and are deemed legal then it could still be Brawn GP at the front in China once again.

    But my betting this time is that Rubens will be the victor this time, and maybe even see a retirement of Buttons car.

    We could even see a much better race from hamilton.

    Does anyone know if the start time is going to stay normal for china or could we have another Sepang this weekend with China being suseptable to rain in april?

  2. Christian Edwards said on 13th April 2009, 9:49

    If diffusers are legalised which teams will have their versions ready for China?

  3. Ayrton said on 13th April 2009, 9:54

    I would include Glock and Trulli in that list. They are looking likely to break Toyota’s duck. But I think it will be Barrichello all the way on Sunday. Or at least I hope so :-)

  4. Thestig84 said on 13th April 2009, 9:56

    I dont think the diffusers will be banned. If they are how will the teams with them go back to normal ones so quickly?

  5. sainaa said on 13th April 2009, 10:09

    Watch out for Toyotas as well.

  6. Jay Menon said on 13th April 2009, 10:28

    I’m gonna put my my money on Trulli to make a significant impression on this race. I believe that the Brawns will be the team to beat, with Vettel and Kubica trying to spoil the party in Brackley.

    I would like to see Alonso challenging at the front, but his car seems a long way from it. Like concluded in an earlier discussion, not only does it look like a truck, it seems to handle like one too. If anyone can win a race by optimising aero setups and tyre choices, coupled with race strategy in an inferior car, Alonso can. I’d like to think Kovy will finally break out of the Hamilton shadow, we know he’s got pace, he’s just been in a bit of mess so far.

    My drivers to watch (apart from the Brawns) – Trulli, Vettel and Kubica, maybe Rosberg with an outside chance. He’s seems fast over a couple laps, seems like he’s too eratic to follow it through just now.

    Has anyone thought about who’d be in the front if the diffusers are deemed illegal? My bet..Vettel and Kubica.

  7. KingHamilton said on 13th April 2009, 12:34

    Ofcourse the Brawns will be challenging in this race. Watch out for Toyota, I get the feeling they’re going to be formidable this season, especially in China. I wouldnt even rule out Toyota 1-2 if the Brawns have problems. Red Bull and Rosberg will be strong as well and I hope Hamilton will be in there. BMW will be strong but im not so sure about renault, although alonso will probably be overachieving in his mediocre car. Then ofcourse you cant rule out Ferrari. Blimey, everyone apart from STR and Force India seem to have a chance!

    Like 1982 all over again, with 6-8 teams all with a chance of victory. Just this a safer, more modern 1982 called 2009, but you get my drift.

  8. Juhhi said on 13th April 2009, 13:09

    I think there is one and only one which is able to win surely without problems, BRAWN. Car is so much faster than others. After Brawn we can discuss Toyota, Williams, BMW and maybe Ferrari….and after those comes rest.

    Wondering when Barrichello could face clean weekend and really challenge Jenson…

    Also thinking (like others) what if diffusers are banned…then Brawn is like others, Toyo and Williams will dropp to tail..?? And what is schedule to do changes for their car?….AND are they even started to design new solution IF present diffuser is banned?

  9. Chris said on 13th April 2009, 13:14

    Although i dont think it is likely

    If the diffusers are found to be illegal. Do BRAWN and Co have to have a diffrent design in place for China and if they cant will they be disqualified at checking in China???? Because if so that will bring back memories of Indi 2005!

  10. Damon said on 13th April 2009, 13:29

    Yup, guys, I’ve been wondering about the same thing.

    The teams who would like to also have a dd difusor say it’d take them months to have one as it requires completely rebuilding their cars in order to fit a different difusor.

    Now, if Brawn and co.’s dd diffusors are illegal then they are in big trouble, aren’t they?
    They’d have to have a different difusor ready in a couple of days for China, right??
    That would ruin everything for them.

    • The dd diffusor teams might already have non-dd diffuser cars ready for china just in case they are illegalised tomorrow.

  11. StrFerrari4Ever said on 13th April 2009, 13:38

    I believe this year in China we could see a drive like Schumacher in 06 @ Shanghai where his car was slower then the others but he drove a magnificent race.
    Brawn Gp are obviously gonna be at the front however with the diffuser hearing if it doesnt go to plan for them then they might be in a bit of bother RedBull seem to be right up there with the diffuser teams but Toyota is showing strides in strength wont be surprised if Trulli can nail Pole Position as for the other teams
    Mclaren=Q2(Maybe)Race=We Need Luck BMW=Q3 Race=Strategy Puts them up there Ferrari=Q3possibly Race=Felipe Baby You Need To Stay Cool :P Renault=Q2or for Piquet Q1 Race=Heavy Fuel Strategy=Nowhere
    and STR=Q3:) Race=Well amongst the top 5 due to the better understanding they are getting of the car its only a matter of time till they get the sort of pace the RB5 has and Force India=Q1 Race=Rear

  12. My money for China is on the toyota’s

  13. Paige said on 13th April 2009, 15:03

    Brawns will dominate once again, with Button completing the hat-trick.

    It’s their year and his year.

  14. i wish that the duoble decker diffuser will be banned so other teams can win something also i think that alonso deserves to win this race

    • Phil said on 13th April 2009, 22:31

      Why does Alonso deserve it? He hasn’t been able to help the team create a winning car (which he’s meant to be very good at, see the quote about bringing 0.7s to McLaren when he joined) and that’s part and parcel of getting wins in F1.

  15. kurtosis said on 13th April 2009, 15:37

    The diffuser ruling is effectively make-or-break for the two sets of teams. Both, having the laggard teams update their diffusers or having the double-decker teams move to a simpler diffuser, will take a long time to see competitive results. Dialing-in the front of the car to a relatively large change in downforce (increase or decrease) at the rear is going to be difficult and time-consuming even with computer simulations.

    For each team, the change may favor one driver’s style over the other initially, depending on who likes understeer or oversteer.

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