Will Sunday see a repeat of last year’s Chinese Grand Prix drama?

2012 Chinese Grand Prix preview

Start, Shanghai, 2011Last year’s Chinese Grand Prix was rated the best race of the season by F1 Fanatic readers.

In dry conditions the race showcased the best F1’s new tyres and rules changes had to offer, with the outcome in doubt until the end. Lewis Hamilton snatched victory from Sebastian Vettel late in the race while Mark Webber raced from 18th on the grid to finish third.

Will we see another race to remember this year?

The vast scale of the Shanghai International Circuit – built for the first Chinese Grand Prix in 2004 – dwarfs almost anything else on the F1 calendar.

But the track itself offers little to get excited about: “one of the pretty standard modern tracks,” says Heikki Kovalainen.

“It’s a mix of low and medium speed corners, a very long straight with a tight corner at the end that provides a natural point to overtake, and a couple of tight fiddly bits you never quite feel like you get completely right.”

He’s not the only driver left underwhelmed by the venue: “It?s not my favourite race of the year” admitted Nico Hulkenberg.

Shanghai circuit information

Lap length 5.451km (3.387 miles)
Distance 56 laps (305.1km/189.6 miles)
Lap record* 1’32.238 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)
Fastest lap 1’32.238 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)
Tyres Medium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Shanghai track data in full

However the track, which holds its ninth F1 race this year, has begun to acquire some character with the passage of time. The high-speed entry to turn one features one of the fiercest bumps in F1 that can easily catch the unwary.

Exiting turn 13 the drivers are hard on the throttle for a whisker under 1.4km before arriving at one of the hardest braking zones of the year. Deceleration peaks at 6G as they shed over 250kph (155mph) for the 68kph hairpin at the end.

The DRS zone is situated here in the race and is unchanged from what was used last year, when it tended to make overtaking rather too easy. The race saw 77 overtakes, more than half of which were the new breed of ‘motorway-style’ DRS passes.

Rain is often a feature at the Chinese round. Since the race was moved from the end of the calendar to the beginning, two of the three races held have been in wet conditions.

But as last year’s race showed, you don’t necessarily need rain for a great race here. Pirelli are bringing their soft and medium tyres – the same compounds used in Melbourne – which will take a pounding around Shanghai’s many fast corners. Last year’s race saw drivers adopt a range of different strategic approaches.

Red Bull

The RB8 has looked quick over a race distance. But it doesn’t have the edge in qualifying the team enjoyed last year, which was the cornerstone of much of their success.

The same goes for Sebastian Vettel, who has been fractionally slower than his team mate in the two qualifying sessions so far.

After a solid damage-limiting drive to second in Australia, Vettel was on course for a similar result in Malaysia. Then came that needless tangle with Narain Karthikeyan.

However the car isn’t far off the McLarens and they could well be back on form in China.

McLaren

McLaren won’t be disappointed with their start to the season but nor can they be entirely pleased at having turned a pair of qualifying one-twos into one win and a couple of third places.

China has been a happy hunting ground for them with three wins in the last four races.

Jenson Button, who won the 2010 race, expects to see teams converging on set-up after spending time analysing the data from the first two rounds: “There will be the usual set-up compromises: setting the car up to offer good downforce through some of the faster corners, but without sacrificing too much speed along the straights.

“We saw different teams address that balance in different ways over the first two races, so it will be interesting to see if things start to converge this weekend after a few weeks back in Europe.”

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Sepang, 2012That Fernando Alonso is leading the drivers’ championship is a tribute to his superlative skills rather than the performance of the F2012. The team admit their car is the best part of a second off the front runners.

The team have brought forward some updates for this race but even so they expect a weekend of damage limitation while they ready their major upgrade for the start of the European season.

Mercedes

The intrigue around the W03, and its controversial ‘front wing F-duct’, is far in excess of what the car has actually achieved so far this year: a single point inherited by Michael Schumacher after Pastor Maldonado retired in Malaysia.

The car’s superior straight-line performance will be a boon on Shanghai’s long straight in qualifying. But more important is whether the team can get to the bottom of their poor tyre degradation which is hurting them in races.

Nico Rosberg led the last two races here and finished on the podium in 2010. He said: “The track is quite different to the first two, as it demands more from the front tyres than the rears – in other words, what is termed a front-limited circuit.

“We know that we have a quick car, but we are looking to improve our long run pace in China next weekend and to have a better race performance.”

Lotus

The feeling at Lotus is that they have a car with considerable potential but have been unable to capitalise on it due to various setbacks in the opening races: particularly Kimi Raikkonen’s qualifying problems and Romain Grosjean’s inability to make it beyond lap three.

What they want in China is a “normal” weekend – no hiccups, no rain and no hospitality unit fires.

Raikkonen is also hoping to eradicated the power steering problems that have plagued him since the start of the year. “We?re almost there,” he said.

Force India

Paul di Resta, Force India, Melbourne, 2012Force India are in the thick of a fierce midfield battle. They started the season well and have already bagged nine points.

However they’re not in as comfortable a position as they were at the end of last year and will need to wring every last hundredth from the VJM05 to keep scoring.

The pair were closely matched in Malaysia – Paul di Resta finishing less than four seconds ahead of Hulkenberg. This weekend Jules Bianchi will drive di Resta’s car in first practice.

Sauber

Sergio Perez was the star of the Malaysian Grand Prix. But he had already demonstrated the C31’s potential Australia where he briefly ran second despite having front wing damage.

Looking ahead to Shanghai Perez said: “The high speed corners of the track should suit our car. I especially like turn one – it is a long and pretty difficult bend. The long straight will not be the easiest part for us, but, again, we have to maximise our potential.”

Toro Rosso

The battle of the rookies at Toro Rosso is shaping up nicely, with both Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne getting their first points on the board in the opening two races.

The STR7 wasn’t quite as competitive in Malaysia as it had been in Australia, and both will be keen to avoid elimination in Q1.

Williams

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Sepang, 2012The team already seem to have made a significant step forward compared to last year. Had it not been for piston failure on Pastor Maldonado’s car they would have had a double points finish in Malaysia.

Valtteri Bottas will drive Bruno Senna’s car in first practice.

Caterham

Caterham appear to have fallen short of their goal of bringing the midfield in range but will continue to pursue them with some updates for the CT01 this weekend.

“We have bodywork updates targeted at increased load and more efficient cooling, given the lower ambient temperatures we will to see in Shanghai,” explained technical director Mark Smith.

HRT

HRT made it into the race in Malaysia – though Vettel and Button probably wished they hadn’t. Expect to see them most often when being lapped by the leaders.

Marussia

Timo Glock capitalised on problems for Heikki Kovalainen to split the Caterhams in Malaysia.

He’s not likely to repeat the feat without a bit of help, but the fact that the MR01 was capable of that much has come as something of a surprise given their lack of pre-season testing.

2012 driver form

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 5.5 6.5 2 11 2/2 Form guide
Mark Webber 4.5 4 4 4 2/2 Form guide
Jenson Button 2 7.5 1 14 2/2 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 1 3 3 3 2/2 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 10 3 1 5 2/2 Form guide
Felipe Massa 14 15 15 15 1/2 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 3.5 10 10 10 1/2 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 7 12.5 12 13 2/2 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 13.5 6 5 7 2/2 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 4.5 0/2 Form guide
Paul di Resta 14.5 8.5 7 10 2/2 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 12.5 9 9 9 1/2 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 15 6 6 6 1/2 Form guide
Sergio Perez 15.5 5 2 8 2/2 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 12.5 10.5 9 12 2/2 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 14.5 9.5 8 11 2/2 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 9.5 16 13 19 2/2 Form guide
Bruno Senna 13.5 11 6 16 2/2 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 21 18 18 18 1/2 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 19 16 16 16 1/2 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 22 21 21 21 1/1 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23 22 22 22 1/1 Form guide
Timo Glock 20 15.5 14 17 2/2 Form guide
Charles Pic 21 17.5 15 20 2/2 Form guide

Are you going to the Chinese Grand Prix?

If you’re heading to Shanghai for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you.

We’ve got a dedicated group and forum for people going to the race.

You can embed your pictures from the race via Flickr and videos via YouTube and other major video-sharing accounts. Join in here:

Your view: 2012 Chinese Grand Prix

Who’s your tip for success in the Chinese Grand Prix? Will anyone break McLaren’s monopoly on the front row of the grid?

Have your say in the comments.

2012 Chinese Grand Prix

Browse all 2012 Chinese Grand Prix articles

Image ?? Pirelli/LAT, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Force India/Sutton, Williams/LAT

Advert | Go Ad-free

59 comments on Will Sunday see a repeat of last year’s Chinese Grand Prix drama?

  1. GeorgeDaviesF1 (@georgedaviesf1) said on 11th April 2012, 17:07

    Only 08 wasn’t a decent China GP, but even that set up the finale in Brazil nicely. I reckon it’ll be more of the same this season, good race choice by the Beeb aswell.

  2. Slr (@slr) said on 11th April 2012, 17:22

    I hope Mercedes get their race performance sorted out so we can see their true potential. I also hope Rosberg stops messing up his qualifying laps so we can get a true comparison of raw pace between him and Schumacher.

    I see Hamilton winning this race, though that is presuming that it doesn’t rain. I hope it doesn’t rain as I’d rather no see a red flag or many laps wasted under the safety car.

  3. Sam B (@sb360) said on 11th April 2012, 17:22

    in the Force India section

    “However they’re not in as comfortable a position as they were at the end of last year and will need to wrong every last hundredth from the VJM05 to keep scoring.”

    that should be “need to wring every last hundredth” shouldn’t it ?

  4. ShaneB457 (@shaneb12345678910) said on 11th April 2012, 17:23

    Great summary of all the teams..Apart from HRT its Catherham who I am most dissapointed in..I really tought they could mix it with the midfield before the season started but it seems they are quite a bit behind..still its only 2 races in so hopefully they get some updates that will improve their pace.

    Also looking forward to the first live race on the BBC!

  5. Robbie (@robbie) said on 11th April 2012, 17:29

    Yes I think we will see a repeat of last year’s drama if not moreso…the field is only closer, Merc should benefit greatly from the F-duct on that long straightaway (at least on Friday and Saturday) and I think all teams (esp. Merc) will have poured over their tire perfomance vs. setup data to try to get their tires into the right operating window. Will be very interesting to see how things are unfolding for the teams given variable conditions/temps throughout the first two race weekends…will be interesting to hear the final verdict on F-ducts from Whiting. Wet or dry it will be interesting to see what FA does.

  6. xeroxpt (@) said on 11th April 2012, 18:11

    I don’t like the track. It wasnt my favourite GP of last season despite being tremendous it was a tactical mistake by red bull and complete failure by the Pirelli, my only explenation for the chinese gp to have the highest rating its the fact that it is the 3rd race of the season and you cant give more than 10 for each race so you cant rate other races higher.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th April 2012, 21:07

      @ukfanatic

      complete failure by the Pirelli

      Pirelli supplied tyres which didn’t fail and produced a great race.

      What exactly did they do wrong?

      • xeroxpt (@) said on 11th April 2012, 21:30

        I got to start reading my comments before pressing post, my english is getting really bad lately.

        What i meant to say is that the tyres were so heavily punished that RedBull just couldnt win with a 2 stop strategy, (by the way im pretty sure there were a couple of punctures), anyways yes the Pirelli are doing great for the show, in a perfect world and perfect Formula 1 i just wished that we could have real racing head to head best driver wins not worst team decision.

        By the way what was you favourite gp, the Chinese GP ?
        Or the Canadian GP, British GP or the German GP ? im pretty sure that i ranked china higher but i dint knew what these 3 above would deliver.

  7. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 11th April 2012, 18:30

    I didn’t particularly like last years GP. Can’t remember why, but I was very surprised with the rating it got. Maybe it was down to the fact that it was just the 3rd race of the season and it was the first one to feature a battle for the lead… but I reckon that if it was held in the middle of the year, the result would’ve been different and it’d have been a normal Grand Prix.

    Anyway, I don’t like the circuit either. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I need to get up at 3 AM to watch the race…

    Hope we get a dry race this time. I’d love to see the true pace of the top teams without a crazy race like in Melbourne or Sepang. It’d be nice to see that before a 4 weeks break if the Bahrain GP doesn’t go ahead afterall.

  8. jpowell (@jpowell) said on 11th April 2012, 18:37

    If it’s dry I expect to see a repeat of Australia with Button winning from second on the grid. I think Lewis’s only chance of a win are a midly wet race throughout were his greater car control can overcome his poor performance on managing the tyres in the dry.

    • Paul Ogbeiwi (@pauldstar) said on 11th April 2012, 21:10

      loool all this after two races. congratulations

    • matthew said on 11th April 2012, 21:45

      lewis won in china last year on these tyres well similiar anyway.also i remember atleast 2 races in which jenson wore his tyres out quicker than lewis.i dont remember it happening more than that the other time around.it was lewis crashing that caused him problems.
      so this thing about lewis not being able to look after his tyres is massively exageratted.
      and in a mildly wet race the mclaren doesnt work great,hence the reason why both jenson and lewis struggled for pace in malaysia.

  9. sumedh said on 11th April 2012, 18:39

    Shanghai has given us 5 exciting races in last 6 years – 06,07,09,10,11 – an enviable record. Lets hope 12 is no different.
    I would really like a third different team win the race though. 2010 was when three different teams won the first three races, and look what a season we had!!

  10. xbx-117 (@xbx-117) said on 11th April 2012, 18:55

    I will indeed have my sat in the comments.

    Last year’s race was probably the best of the whole year (Monaco would have been), and I’m hoping for a repeat.

  11. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 11th April 2012, 18:59

    “The DRS zone is situated here in the race and is unchanged from what was used last year–” According to GPUpdate, the DRS zone is 152 meters shorter than last year.

  12. Matt (@agentmulder) said on 11th April 2012, 19:00

    “The DRS zone is situated here in the race and is unchanged from what was used last year,”

    Are you sure about this? I’ve read elsewhere that the DRS “live” zone is going to be shortened.

  13. BasCB (@bascb) said on 11th April 2012, 19:28

    You forget to mention that HRT is actually bringing some NEW BITS to the car!

  14. Lothario said on 11th April 2012, 20:15

    I thought Canada was the best-rated race in 2011.

  15. Wet or dry we are in for a great race,which leads me to another question,does anybody know the weather forecast for the weekend?

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.