How the F1 teams will approach the Chinese Grand Prix
Insight
Strategy Briefing
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Apr 2012   |  11:42 am GMT  |  88 comments

Next weekend is the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai. Strategy decisions for this race are always on a knife edge; there are several ways to do the race, especially with the cars being close together on performance this year and with the two Pirelli tyre compounds also being close on performance.

And after what happened in Malaysia, teams will be working hard in Friday practice to understand how the tyres are likely to perform on long runs and in qualifying. This year getting the right car set up to deal with both is proving very tricky, largely thanks to the banning of the blown diffuser. Teams have lost more downforce and rear end stability as a result of that, than they imagined.

The first sector of the Shanghai 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.

Once you’ve read all about the considerations the teams will go through when deciding their plans for the race, you can try to find the fastest way to do the race using our Race Strategy Calculator. Click here to use it. Strategy Calculator

Track characteristics:

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

Form Guide

The UBS Chinese Grand Prix is the third round of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship.

The first two races of the season saw McLaren dominate in Australia, with Malaysia hard to draw many conclusions from due to changeable weather conditions, although Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso won the race from Sauber’s Sergio Perez.

The McLaren continues to be the fastest car in the field, with the Red Bull faster in race conditions than in qualifying and the Mercedes being the opposite. The W Duct drag reduction system on the Mercedes is likely to work to optimum effect on Shanghai’s long straight and Mercedes must be considered a contender for pole position. But the high tyre wear will knock them back a little in the race.


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; Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel.

Weather Forecast

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.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Shanghai: Soft and Medium.

Last year’s Chinese Grand Prix was one of the most exciting from a strategy point of view and all the signs are that this year will be the same. The difference in performance between the soft and medium tyre is projected to be just 0.3secs/lap, much less than last year.

Last year in China we saw different strategies being used by the podium finishers. Lewis Hamilton won the race by stopping three times and crucial to this was saving a new set of soft tyres by not doing a second run in Qualifying 3. Sebastian Vettel paid the price of stopping just twice, while Mark Webber came through from 18th to 3rd with a counter strategy of running three stops using the harder tyre first.

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. There is a huge stop into turn 1, with a 6g deceleration; one of the toughest of the year on the tyres.

However with the performance of the cars so close together, getting the right compromise on set up between qualifying and the race will be vital. With the banning of Exhaust Blown Diffusers, the teams have lost more downforce at the rear of the car than they expected and this is leading to problems trading off qualifying pace and race pace. The tyres seem to have a sweet spot and at the moment it is teams like Sauber and Williams who seem to be finding it more than the big teams. This will change with more running. Teams will be using Friday’s practice sessions in China to understand the best way to work the tyres for single lap pace and race pace.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Last season three stops was the way to go and the pre-race expectations are the same for this year. The winning strategy last year was to stop on lap 15 for soft tyres; Lap 25 for soft tyres and Lap 38 for harder tyres. However with the gaps between the tyres being much less this year, teams will use Friday practice to assess tyre performance and the exact difference between strategies.

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

Recent start performance of drivers

As far as 2012 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season as follows:
Gained:
+11 Kobayashi 

+10 Kovalainen
+8 Massa, Perez

+7 Alonso, Glock

+6 Raikkonen,
+5 Maldonado
+4 Pic

+3 Rosberg, Hulkenberg

+2 Vettel, Di Resta
+1 Button, Schumacher*, Petrov, Karthikeyan
Lost:
-1 Hamilton, Vergne, De la Rosa
-2 Ricciardo

-3 Grosjean**, Webber
* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia
** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams.
The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the most recent dry race, Australia, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it. The 2011 league table positions are in brackets.
1. Ferrari 21.910s (5)

2. McLaren 22.837s (3)

3. Red Bull 22.915s (1=)

4. Mercedes 23.017 (1=)

5. Williams 23.166 (7)

6. Toro Rosso 23.257 (8=)

7. Lotus 23.310 (6)

8. Sauber 23.832 (8=)

9. Caterham 24.397 (8=)

10. Force India 24.579 (4)

11. Marussia 25.046 (11)

* HRT did not qualify for the Australian Grand Prix

The Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from the strategists of several F1 teams and from Pirelli. Now try to find the fastest way to do the race using our Race Strategy Calculator. Click here to use it. Strategy Calculator

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1

Fernando alonso

180 starts

28 wins

Number 1 treatment barrIng 2007

Freedom to design team around himself

Ayrton senna

162 starts

41 wins

Equal treatment with Prost, the greatest driver after senna. Teammates twice and battle in 1990 which went down the wire.

Let us not be naive to compare these two.

2

@mocho

It’s quite a normal thing that in an F1 debate the other Party refuses to understand your point. Anyways. I’ll give it one more shot.

Your reply for my first fact is not in connosance of the same. You are talking about competitive cars whereas I’m talking about competitive teammates.

It’s true senna prost had winning cars, but the same goes for fernando. Let us look at senna:

1984- not a winning car

1985-1987: lotus which was going downhill. Not a competitive machinery

88-91: competitive but not dominant due to an equally formidable teammate. That affects a lot.

92 and 93 were not competitive cars but he did a great job

Fernando: 01- bad car 02-04- not a winning car, only in 2003 and 2004 Renault showed pace and let fernando won

Brawn was not a dominant car in 2009. They were dominant in the first half only. Second half belonged to bulls. It’s the same logic for your argument of 2005 and 2006. So let’s call it an off there.

2005 the championship was decided like 2009. By the time kimi and Mclaren got to their pace fernando was way way ahead. Along with Mclarens poor reliability whatever pace they had did not show in results. Same goes for 2006, where Ferrari struggled in the first half. So in 2005 Renault is faster in first half abd reliable for the whole season whereas Mclaren is faster in second half and not at all reliable throughout the season. If you have watched 2005 then yiu will know what I’m talking about.

Conclusion:

Fernando alonso relies the on the entire team to support him otherwise he can’t function. Not the same goes for Lewis kimi and vettel who won with equal treatment. Abd also senna, who had a cut throat teammate. No driver wins without a dominant/competitive car. Senna did it do did Prost, but they also had each other to compete against. Whereas fernando had fisi, who never could maximise the potential of the car as much as he could. Therefore Sienna’s championship was much more difficult. The years when fernando won he had a huge advantage at the start of the year. Lewis kimi and vettel have won from behind having competed all year. Something which ferns do has never ever done. This year looks like another waste for him, Inspite of having a teammate not being able to challenge him. He is a good driver, but nowhere near senna Prost Schumi or Mansell.

3

Fact No. 1: Fernando Alonso, barring 2007, never had a teammate who was on the same level as he was, and who was “allowed” to compete with him.

—-And then it was Fernando who wasn’t allowed to compete…

Result: Fernando gained majority of the victories. This helped his stats since his cars were always competitive barring 08 and 09, to an extent 11 as well.

—-U think 2001, 2003 and 2004 were competitive cars???

Fact No. 2: Senna. Prost etc had ruthless teammates in 88,89 and earlier in thier careers.

Result: Even though they drove dominant cars, in effect there was no dominance since they were both competitive with each other, and therefore the individual outcome of driving dominant cars was the same as driving a competitive car, since they were not given Number one status when they were teammates.

—-Prost and Senna had winning cars almost every year, that helps a lot. Fernando only 4 in 11 seasons.

Fact N0. 3: Since 2004, there has not been a single dominant car in the field, barring the RB7.

Result: The likes of Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel to an extent, Button all won their championships in the not so dominant cars. So Fernandos feat is nothing great. In fact, all Lewis’s victories have come in competitive and not dominant cars.

—-Brawn wasn’t dominant? I remember it wasnt possible to put money for jenson that year. And all have had competitive cars every year barring 2008(Seb), 2006 and 2009 (Kimi,) 2009 (Lewis) and before 2008 (Jenson, who’s numbers are not even close to Fernando’s). Fernando has shown he is also the class of the field in driving uncompetitive cars.

Fact No.4: Fernando had the support of his team. His competitors did not.

Result:Championship in 2005 with the help of Fisi who did not challenge him. 2010 he came close, with the help of the points given by Massa.

—-Fisi could not challenge him because he wasnt fast enough. Fernando beat Kimi by 21 ponts with a slower car, u should remember that. 2010 Massa didnt help much, those 7 points would have gone for Fernando sooner or later, Ferrari just wanted it in a safe way.

Fact No. 5: There has been only one time Fernando did not have a dominant car and had a competitive teammate

Result: Losing out to team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

—-Only one time with no dominant car? not even 2007 Macca was dominant. And in the end, with team supporting Lewis he tied with him. The following seasons he has proved to be the best year after year.

Hope that helped to clean your mind!

4

That was for Kazim!

5

Looking forward to seeing what the Renaults can do providing they have a trouble free weekend….. and if Romain can keep it clean!

Also wonder if ‘that’ gravel trap is still there. I’m sure Hamilton will know 😉

One fond memory of this place is Schumi’s win in 2006. It seemed as though he was down and out but did he come back fighting! The way he muscled past a/both Renaults into turn one was brilliant. *off to look for video clips on the net* 🙂

6

The debate of dominant cars is as flawed as a footballer scoring with one leg and getting credit for playing wit the same. All those who think Fernando is up there with Clarks and Sennas are going to have a sour taste in their mouth by the end of this post. Since the debate of dominant cars has started, let me connect the dots to conclude a holistic debate.

Fact No. 1: Fernando Alonso, barring 2007, never had a teammate who was on the same level as he was, and who was “allowed” to compete with him.

Result: Fernando gained majority of the victories. This helped his stats since his cars were always competitive barring 08 and 09, to an extent 11 as well.

Fact No. 2: Senna. Prost etc had ruthless teammates in 88,89 and earlier in thier careers.

Result: Even though they drove dominant cars, in effect there was no dominance since they were both competitive with each other, and therefore the individual outcome of driving dominant cars was the same as driving a competitive car, since they were not given Number one status when they were teammates.

Fact N0. 3: Since 2004, there has not been a single dominant car in the field, barring the RB7.

Result: The likes of Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel to an extent, Button all won their championships in the not so dominant cars. So Fernandos feat is nothing great. In fact, all Lewis’s victories have come in competitive and not dominant cars.

Fact No.4: Fernando had the support of his team. His competitors did not.

Result:Championship in 2005 with the help of Fisi who did not challenge him. 2010 he came close, with the help of the points given by Massa.

Fact No. 5: There has been only one time Fernando did not have a dominant car and had a competitive teammate

Result: Losing out to team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

7

Read my comment down here.

8

James,

Having never used the strategy calculator before, which is considered beating the normal strategy; above or below the normal curve?

9

Above means you’re faster

10

Prime, prime, option, all new is actually around 12 seconds quicker if you optimise it.

However, the drivers have only 6 sets of dry tyres for qualifying and the race (3 prime & 3 option) –

http://www.formula1.com/inside_f1/rules_and_regulations/sporting_regulations/8680/fia.html

Getting through qualifying using only three sets of tyres is theoretically possible, but doing so while qualifying at the front of the grid (which probably worth quite a lot more than five or six seconds over the race) would require a great deal of luck.

11

China podium for dry race:

Button

Hamilton

Kimi

China podium for wet/drying race:

Perez

Kimi

Alonso

12

You know that you’re pushing it now with Perez again. 🙂

13

A big thank you to all commentators on this site! Although I don’t comment myself that often I always find it a pleasure to read through the comments.

14

I had no idea that Alonso has been overtaken by Hamilton three weeks ago. Will Vettel lose his 6. place this year?

1.Michael Schumacher 68 Pole Positions

2.Ayrton Senna 65 Pole Positions

3.Jim Clark 33 Pole Positions

4.Alain Prost 33 Pole Positions

5.Nigel Mansell 32 Pole Positions

6.Sebastian Vettel 30 Pole Positions

7.Juan Manuel Fangio 29 Pole Positions

8.Mika Häkkinen 26 Pole Positions

9.Niki Lauda 24 Pole Positions

10.Nelson Piquet 24 Pole Positions

11.Lewis Hamilton 21 Pole Positions

12.Fernando Alonso 20 Pole Positions

15

Interesting reading the list of previous winners. They all seem to have something in common.

“…Lewis Hamilton is the only driver to have won the race twice, there are five other previous winners in the field; Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel.”

I’ve never thought of Shanghai as a “the cream rises to the top” circuit like Monaco, Spa or Suzuka, but this list certainly makes a case that makes me want to look closer at the circumstances of each of these victories.

16

Any news on Ferrari yet and their updates for China? Have they said anything to the media so far about possible improvements to the car?

Or they don’t know either until the car hits the track on Friday?

Thanks

17

I think the biggest update they should implement is hiring some sort of Chinese wiseman to do a rain-dance before the formation lap.

Being serious though, Pat Fry has confirmed 5 updates for China, saying some are more visible than others. The main package update is still scheduled for Spain though. He estimates Ferrari are currently 8ths of a second per lap behind the front-runners in dry conditions.

18

I’m not sure I want that rain dance unless you can guarantee Alonso doesn’t finish first, maybe just second, if as someone mentioned earlier the Chinese GP winner hasn’t won the WDC…

19

Agreed, an Alonso 2nd place would do nicely.

I would say maybe Felipe for 1st, but lets not drift too far into the world of fantasy eh?

20

Fry said they have 5 upgrades for this weekend with some being “visible” and some “not visible” and with the “major” update ready for Spain. Hope they have their figures right as they need to make an 8sec per lap deficit in qualy pace…

21
tom in adelaide

James – a request. After qualifying could you get one of your braniacs (we all know you have a team of them!) to create a graphic showing a top down image of the track with the pole getter crossing the finish line and all the other cars in their relative positions on the track according to their best qualifying time? It would be interesting to see it presented this way and I’m not smart enough to do it!

22

That’s an interesting idea. Would be good wouldn’t it? I’ll look into how that could be rendered.

23

If the gaps between the teams get any closer you’ll only have to render the finishing straight!

24

That’s what I thought as well until I did a quick back of the envelope calculation.

The number is how far from the line drive X would have been when Hamilton reaches it:

Hamilton 0.00

Button 8.57

Schumacher 9.89

Webber 13.91

Raikkonen 13.91

Vettel 23.80

Grosjean 25.18

Rosberg 25.52

Alonso 66.03

Perez 71.54

Maldonado 77.82

Massa 85.76

Senna 91.89

di Resta 93.90

Ricciardo 94.23

Hulkenberg 94.62

Kobayashi 104.56

Vergne 159.89

Kovalainen 172.31

Petrov 186.39

Glock 257.31

Pic 275.43

de la Rosa 360.60

Karthikeyan 397.64

Oddly finding a map of the track that has an actual scale on it turned out to be somewhat troublesome, but that would mean that Karthikeyan is just coming out of the final corner when Hamilton crosses the line.

25

I guess I found a pretty good strategy. Lap 11-soft-new, lap 24-soft-new, lap 38-medium-new. 3 stops, but there have to be new softs available…so, qualifying will be really crucial.

26

You might have trouble qualifying anywhere near the front with that strategy – you need to use the softs to qualify.

Realistically, I’m not sure it’s possible to have more than a couple of sets of new tyres, and only one of those sets will be the softs.

You might try 15, new option; 31, new prime; 46, used option

– or something like that.

27

For those proposing a podium, don’t forget that Andrea Grosjean could strike again!

28

¿Romain?

29

oooppsss

I mean to say : Romain De Cesaris!

30

You didn’t get it.

31
Adrian Newey Jnr

James – any chances the teams use your calculator? hahahah

32

They use a similar tool, but theirs is more sophisticated, clearly. The tyre model is similar though.

33

Great stats, as always. A statisticians delight!

34

Mercedes will definitely be a contender for pole position, along with McLaren and Lotus. I feel that Schumacher will get pole position, but Hamilton will beat him in the race, but Mercedes will be much better in the race in China.

35

Massa really has to up his game in this race. Remind people that he is a Ferrari driver on merit. Either has to be right behind Alonso’s pace or ahead of him.

36

Hi James, just wondering how the maths add up here. Fule consumption of 2.55 Kg/lap equals 142.8 Kg for the race distance of 56 laps. What is the extra 5.2 Kg needed for?

37

I think the extra fuel is for outlap (to the starting blocks), the formation lap and at the end of the 56 laps for the inlap.

38

James, can we hear your prediction for the drivers finishing on the podium this weekend? I’m going with Button, Vettel then Grosjean. And I’ll go with Schumacher 4th.

39

You can hear mine. Hamilton, Button, and Webber with his first 2012 podium.

Hamilton’s always gone well at Shanghai. He was fighting for the win in 2007, won in 2008 and 2011, second in 2010, and moved up 3 places to finish a respectable 6th in Mac’s

2009 dog of a car. He likes the circuit, and I think is one of the few drivers who really knows how to make the last corner work for him down the start/finish straight (witness pass on Button last year).

40

HI James,

if your calculator is accurate (& it seems to have been pretty good, allowing for the weather at previous races), then saving a new set of the options looks to be important to getting the best race pace again – and of course could be vital in gaining or preserving track position..

The option looks a slightly better choice than the prime, as it’s quicker, but doesn’t seem to degrade much more rapidly at all.

The best times for two and three stops (using new prime; new option, and new option; new prime; used option) aren’t very far apart at all, so the choice between two and three stops is likely to be a tactical one.

41

The strategy calculator was interesting. It took me two tries to pick a two stop strategy that beat James time by two seconds, however. Better brush up on that, James!!!

42

There’s a two stop strategy that will beat James by 6 or 7 seconds.

Lap 18 new options, and lap 38 new primes would do it.

43

And a 3 stopper that beats his by 10. prime option prime, all new. The new set of options is over 6 seconds.

44

Good spot! Thanks

45

Hi James,

While I really enjoy reading the preview article you do for each race and playing with the strategy calculator, I feel it would be improved further if you could include a diagram of the track and sector layout. Just a little additiona but would help me visualise your report better.

Graham

46

That’s actually a very good suggestion Graham. I was on google to check the track and see where the long straight is positioned. Would be great if this will be included in the next articles.

47

Thanks for the suggestion

48

Can I make another suggestion please – Just a brief analysis on which cars will be strongest in sector 1, 2 and 3. It would be a handy and interesting fact to know (even a rough idea) before going into qualifying and the race.

Thanks! 🙂

49

gooo schumiiiiiii 😀

50

While this might sound a bit different; should the nature of the crowd be a strategic factor? In so many other sports the fans make up a powerful force. Why not in Formula 1 ?

51

I’ve heard a lot of drivers say they can’t even see the grandstands when they are in the car, and I’m pretty sure they can’t hear anything but engine!

52

the crowd has a effect at your home race, but not so much anywhere else.

53

Seeing as this is China and there arent any fans, I cant see the point.

54

Then James ought to say in his strategy report that the crowd is no factor here etc. Because at some venues they will be a factor, and we as students of the sport need to recognize the fan-strategic factor, whether it’s a genuine issue or not. Just to ignore it seems somehow incomplete.

55

Well, if we are to beleive that the crowd is not a factor in the race outcome, then the sponsors really have no business being at the venue, at all (In other words, if a particular sponsor’s team wins it has no grandstand impact, because conversely the supporters played no role in the outcome. there is no audience participation factor, so to speak.). The only important audience for the sponsors then is the silent/motionless one at home; the TV audience. This audience can then be engaged with the sponsors through electronically-produced brand signage, generated by the TV crew (Bernie has already done some of this, if you don’t already know). The cars can then be free of any colour or paint livery at the track, and save the weight, and the pit crews can all wear the same clothing at the track (they will be electronically sponsored-up, as well), etc. etc. Talk about cost savings, here’s a big opportunity.

56

In the car the crowd isnt a factor anywhere, the drivers are far too busy driving to be watching the grandstands. Out side of the car it’s effect would be on an individual level and even then only really applicable at home races, yet drivers are so professional these days that it doesnt seem to have any effect.

I think Villenueve was the last driver to be visibly effected by the homw crowd as he used to choke on a regular basis in the Canadien GP, but even then he seemed to have eliminated that by his last race there.

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