After the dramas of the first two Grands Prix, the tenth running of the Chinese Grand Prix should provide another very open contest, with strategic decisions likely to be the deciding factor once again.
After the high temperatures and high tyre degradation of Malaysia, Shanghai will see a less extreme picture, as far as tyre wear is concerned. Whereas Sepang was all about managing the rear tyres, Shanghai is all about getting the front tyres at the optimum temperature for qualifying and then managing them in the race.
The first sector of the lap features a series of slow corners; Turn One being a long, 270 degree tightening corner. Sector two features Shanghai’s only medium and high-speed corners, Turns 7 & 8, as well as a pair of slow left handers. Then Sector three is a long sector with three tight corners and one of the longest straights on the F1 calendar.
In comparison to the first two venues of the season, the lower temperatures will be comparable to Melbourne, while the track is between Melbourne and Sepang in terms of the tyre wear and degradation.
Shanghai International Circuit; 5.45 kilometres. Race distance: 56 laps = 305 kilometres, 16 corners in total, a mixture of slow, medium and fast
Aerodynamic setup – Medium/high downforce. Top speed 322km/h (with Drag Reduction System on rear wing) – 310km/h without.
Full throttle – 55% of the lap. Total fuel needed for race distance: 148 kilos.
Time spent braking: 14% of the lap. 8 braking zones. Brake wear: Medium.
Loss time for a Pit stop = 17.5 seconds
Total time needed for pit stop: 21 seconds.
Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.34 seconds (average). Fuel consumption: 2.55 kg/lap
The UBS Chinese Grand Prix is the third round of the 2013 FIA F1 World Championship.
The first two races of the season have shown an open picture with Lotus, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull all appearing on the podium. Lotus won in Australia and Red Bull in Malaysia. But Mercedes were competitive in both venues and could have challenged for the win in Malaysia without some pit stop and strategy issues. Mercedes won the UBS Chinese Grand Prix last year.
Meanwhile Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was second in Australia but eliminated at the start in Sepang.
The McLaren continues to struggle with aerodynamic and ride issues, which could take some time to correct.
As far as drivers’ form is concerned at Shanghai, Lewis Hamilton is the only driver to have won the race twice: there are five other previous winners in the field; Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel.
It can often been overcast and cold in Shanghai and rain is quite common. The 2010 event was held in wet conditions, as was the 2009 edition. The race starts at 1500hrs local time. The ambient temperatures are forecast to be around 18-20 degrees, quite low by F1 standards.
Pirelli tyre choice for Shanghai: Soft and Medium.
This is the same choice as last year, although the 2013 tyres are quite different in terms of compound and construction; they are far more delicate and require careful management.
The single step between compounds should mean a performance difference of around 0.5secs per lap, with the soft tyre faster and the medium more durable. However we have seen that this varies greatly from team to team with some experiencing far greater differences and others less.
It’s the first time this season that we have seen the soft tyre in action. The medium has been used at both races and was good for up to 30 laps in Melbourne, where the temperatures were cooler, as they will be in Shanghai.
There are more high energy corners in Shanghai than in Melbourne, but not as many as in Sepang and the temperatures will be much lower so this should mean that the tyre degradation is more normal.
The front tyres are the limiting factor in Shanghai, unlike Malaysia where it was the rear tyres. The front left tyre in particular takes a real beating from the two long right hand corners.
Last year’s race was won on two stops and hinged on being able to get to lap 13 on the soft tyres used in qualifying; this is the window for two stopping. The winner, Rosberg, then did two longer stints on the medium tyres, dividing the rest of the race into two roughly equal stints of 21/22 laps.
Pre race predictions showed that two stops was faster than three by up to 7 seconds, but the danger was that the two stopping driver would be vulnerable in the last five laps on worn tyres. The key to making a two stop plan work was not leaving yourself too many laps to do at the end on worn tyres. Kimi Raikkonen fell foul of this last year and dropped out of contention in the closing laps. This year’s tyres show a tendency towards needing an extra stop, so China will be an interesting acid test.
It is another race which could favour Lotus and Force India, who appear to be able to make one less stop than their rivals at this stage of the season.
Chance of a safety car
The chance of a safety car at Shanghai is reasonably high, at 43% and there is an average of 0.7 safety cars per race. In the 2005 and 2010 races there were 2 safety car periods
Getting a good start can make a huge difference to the way the strategy is managed and the final result, while a poor start compromises a race and makes it harder for the strategy engineers. As far as 2013 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season as follows:
+4 Van der Garde
+2 Di Resta
*Webber dropped from second to seventh after a clutch problem in Australia
** Hulkenberg did not start in Australia
Pit Stop League Table
Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and there is a greater emphasis on faster stops this year than ever before. We have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams, including Red Bull’s fastest stop in the recent Malaysian GP at 2.05 seconds.
The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the recent Malaysian Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it.
1. Red Bull 20.736s
2. McLaren 20.894s
3. Ferrari 20.970
4. Mercedes 21.079s
5. Toro Rosso 21.638s
6. Sauber 21.699s
7. Lotus 21.892s
8. Marussia 22.016s
9. Williams 22.703s
10. Caterham 22.706s
11. Force India – Delayed stops due to technical issue