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Chinese GP Preview: Rain adds intrigue to knife-edge battle at the front
China F1 2017
Posted By: James Allen  |  06 Apr 2017   |  8:05 am GMT  |  128 comments

This Chinese Grand Prix this weekend is hotly anticipated with fans and commentators wanting to see two things in particular; is Ferrari faster than Mercedes in race conditions, as Melbourne seemed to suggest?

And with a 1.17km straight leading to a hairpin, will overtaking with these new cars be more feasible than in Melbourne?

Strategy will again be crucial and early indications are that this is likely to be a more interesting race than Melbourne, with two stops probable in dry conditions.

But it could get even more interesting than that as rain and cold temperatures are forecast for Sunday and if extreme wet tyres are needed, this potentially hands championship leaders Ferrari something of an advantage.

They are the only team to have done meaningful running on the new Pirelli extreme wet tyre and therefore will be the only ones who know where the crossover is between that and the intermediate tyre (green sidewall below), which tells the strategist and the driver when it is time to change to the other type of tyre.

There was some wet testing in Barcelona but it was mainly intermediate running. With limited time to test, it’s usually the extreme wet that misses out. In the test programme with the top teams to develop the 2017 tyres, the only serious wet running fell on Ferrari’s turn.

The previous Pirelli extreme wet wasn’t a great tyre, so we may find out more about the new one this weekend.

The rain will also increase the variability of the race, with possible safety cars and opportunities for the smaller teams to score a point. It presents an opportunity for Sauber and McLaren to bag an early point, which would not be likely in dry conditions.

Pirelli F1 tyres

If the other teams are lucky, they might get a chance to learn about the tyre and the crossover during practice on Friday, which is also forecast wet currently. So, unusually, we are likely to see cars going out in the event of heavy rain.

The choice of dry weather tyres for this weekend is Super Soft, Soft, Medium. Our indications are that the fastest strategy is likely to be Super soft – Super soft – Soft. We don’t see the medium tyre being run very much unless the front tyres grain badly, which can happen at Shanghai, with its two long constant radius corners. However we haven’t seen much front tyre graining during winter testing with these new wider tyres, so it is more of a remote possibility.

Unlike many F1 venues, where protecting the rear tyres is key to success, Shanghai is all about getting the front tyres at the optimum temperature, especially for qualifying. This is an area where historically Ferrari has given something away to Mercedes, on front limited tracks.

A significant percentage of the lap time in Shanghai is spent turning.

There are two unusual corners, Turn One and Turn 13, which are long and drawn-out, Turn One being a 270 degree, tightening corner. This overstresses the left front tyre and this is the limiting factor in any strategy plan. Teams have a limited scope for working on set ups for this kind of circuit situation, so there are always question marks about how competitive a team will be over a race distance.

Chinese GP 2016
Chinese Grand Prix in numbers

This weekend’s race will be the 14th running of the Chinese Grand Prix, which first joined the F1 calendar back in 2004.

There have never been more than two safety car periods in any F1 race in Shanghai and there have only been two interruptions in the last five events. The teams also enjoy very high reliability rates in Shanghai. There was not a single retirement in the 2016 event (one of only seven times that has occurred in F1 history), just three in 2015, four in 2013, two in 2014, and one in both 2011 and 2012.

Mercedes, which is hoping to claim its 75th F1 pole on the same weekend it celebrates its 150th start as a constructor in the championship, has scored the last five poles in China, which is its best record at any circuit on the current calendar. It has also won four of the last five Chinese Grands Prix, with Fernando Alonso winning the 2013 event for Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton has five poles and four race wins in Shanghai, which are both driver records. The polesitter has won the last three events in China and no driver has ever won the Chinese Grand Prix from starting outside of the top six places on the grid.

After his triumph last time out in Australia, Sebastian Vettel heads to China with the world championship lead for the first time since he clinched the 2013 title. The German driver has never lost a championship whenever he has led it at any point in a season and since 1990, 70 per cent of the winners of the first race have ended up topping the standings at the end of the year.

Two drivers have notable streaks that they will be hoping to continue as they travel to Shanghai. Fernando Alonso is the only F1 driver ever to finish every Chinese Grand Prix, but his McLaren team hasn’t scored a point at the 5.451-km track since the 2013 event.

Daniel Ricciardo

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo possesses the longest continuous streak of making it through to Q3 in qualifying as the last time he failed to do so was at the 2015 Italian Grand Prix, which was 30 races ago. But the Australian driver did lose his 29-race finishing and 17-race points finishing streaks after failing to get to the end of his home event due to gearbox sensor and fuel cell problems on his RB13.

Lance Stroll, who will make his second F1 start for Williams this weekend, produced a debut performance that exactly matched Jenson Button’s first F1 appearance for the Grove-based squad 17 years ago.

Button also crashed in the final practice session, qualified on the last row of the grid and had his race ended by a technical issue at the 2000 Australian Grand Prix. But the 2009 world champion went on to score his first ever F1 points in his second Williams start, when he finished sixth at the next race in Brazil.

What are you expecting from the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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Good to see every team managing a fair amount of laps in FP3. Good to see the track busy for most of the session too. Maybe less practice time is what is needed to get the teams to run their cars from the get go of given time. Looks like a tight qualifying fight for Mercedes and Ferrari. Marc


I seem to recall that last year there was a very very wet race………. One driver took to it like a fish in water…….. somehow his name escapes me. Young kid, drives for a soft drink firm. Could be the beneficiary here……….


I suspect that Stroll’s debut result will be where the similarity with Button’s career ends…


With only a 30% chance of precipitation on Sunday, I rather think it will not give Max much chance of a rain advantage over the field. Too bad.

Mr. Stroll will stroll out of the race …. again. Lewis and Sebastian will run hard at the start with only Max able to mix it in is my feeling. Pensive driving from Bottas, I hope is not the order of the day.

Kimi, well , its up to how he feels. He either nails it or its another disappointment , another waste of car.

Did I miss anyone ?


Yeah, probably…

Wouldn’t count Max up there, I’d be surprised if he can drive around a fundamental lack of rear downforce in low grip conditions, if Ricciardo’s diagnosis is accurate.


Extreme wets? Don’t make me laugh. Before the conditions get anywhere like that bad they’ll be trundling around behind the safety car, or the race will be red flagged. James you do realise wet races aren’t allowed any more?


did we not get the new rule that they will run behind the pace car to “dry” the track and then do a standing start…. eventually , so that all the drivers can have a chance to beat the one or two racers still present.

Tornillo Amarillo


Sorry, but something happens with headlines lately, a little bit alarmists, exaggerated…. I cannot see the fans so excited really.


In normal conditions I would say it is advantage Ferrari as this is a track that favors rear stability and that seems Ferrari best characteristic. Merc is more front end and fast corners. If it rains though engines and fuel can be less relevant and that will make an interesting race for RB (as well as Alonso can pull some of his miracles). Also Kimi here has to prove that he is up to the game.


Won’t fuel consumption be an important factor?


… is Ferrari faster than Mercedes in race conditions, as Melbourne seemed to suggest?

I guess I really won’t believe it, for sure, until a Ferrari driver clinches the 2017 WDC.
But I will be paying very close attention to the racing. The variance in track type, between Melbourne and Shang’hai, should yield clues to pecking order of the moment, but the competitiveness/scoring could yet be manipulated by a team with a substantial advantage of ready-to-strap-on ‘upgrades’ and PU enhancement program.
On a sub-plot, I am still predicting a startling race by Giovinazzi, en route to securing the Sauber drive for the entire 2017 season.
I have a feeling about Nico Hulkenberg, if the weekend conditions are as forecast, rain and cold.
And, as always, hoping for a top step visit by Red #7!


Again, I find it strange that a fair few seemed to think that Ferrari will be at a disadvantage in cooler conditions. How did they arrive at this conclusion would be interesting to find out. As l saway it, Ferrari seemed quite competitive during the winter testing in Barcelona.
Always enjoy a race with changing conditions and with the start not to be taken behind the safety car, we might have a thriller ahead of us. Can’t wait for all of it to start. Marc


Mercedes is tough on its tires so cooler conditions may help offset.

The Grape Unwashed

I see it more as Mercedes being at a disadvantage at high temps, but I reckon their tyre management will be much better in Shanghai.


I vaguely recall James doing an analysis around the time of Melbourne (2017) suggesting that Merc still had a cooler weather advantage.
Maybe somebody else can verify?


James – if it is raining on Sunday does the fact that these cars have greater aero and grip than recent years make insufferable safety car starts in the rain a lesser likelihood?


Different rules this year re safety car starts. Once there is enough water cleared from the track it will be a standing start. Unless monsoon conditions, then red flag.


Embarrassing race for McHonda.
Ferrari {arch-enemy of 2nd most pop team} and Mercedes {dumped by McLaren after a long pardnership} will rejoice this race xP
Hope there is dry track enough to see who-is-who in top speed and powa.

The 2007 was one of the craziest races I’ve ever seen.
In the race 16 of 17, Lewis did a wonderful drive opening a big gap to the field on a wet track.
Then the track kept drying, everybody changing to dry tires except for Lewis.
The peloton then started to catch Lewis and when it was about his time to pit he got stuck in the smallest sand trap ever in F1.
The circustances where favourable for a conservative race as he had a fair advantage over Alonso and a big over Kimi.
But Kimi won the last race to became WDC with 110 pts against 109 of Lewis and Alonso.
I remember Lewis even released his bio at 22 y.o…. before the Chinese race… as a 2007 WDC ?8^o
Of course, had to retrieve all books to correct history. xD


Lewis did? I wasn’t aware..


And this is why you should never count unhatched chickens!

That said, with his tyres worn down to the canvas it was obvious that he needed to pit. Everybody could see it except them.


Funny how most are saying this is where the Mercs will show their speed, they said that after testing that it will be Melbourne.
What if Ferrari have the legs on the Mercs here, will it go to the next track and the Mercs will show their pace??


Merc was sandbagging in Melbourne, haven’t you heard. They are sitting on a minimum 2 sec gap and had let Ferrari win only to make this Season more interesting to an unsuspecting fan 🙂


Do we know who that unsuspecting fan was?


Anyone outside of bright minds employed at BRACKLEY and BRIXWORTH. They are so far ahead everyone else.

Ricciardo Aficionado

You must be the unsuspecting fan.


You read me like an open book. Take that pair of bozo’s and pour one out.


Melbourne may have given us a just a window as to how close Merc and Ferrari really are but Shanghai will provide a better guide of their respective weaks and strengths on a purpose built track. Seemingly Ferrari are much improved but I’m inclined to think Merc still have a power edge. If Qualifying is dry I would put my money on Hamilton getting pole then seeing what he can do with the Beast in the wet.

So for me it’s a Lewis Seb front row followed by Bottas and either Kimi, Dan or Max. But the race may well mix things up. Be interesting to see if Max’s exploits in Brazil was a one-off.


And the Latest From Shanghai: He Plans To See Out His Contract With McHonda Then Switch To Mercedes In 2018


The Grape Unwashed

That’s uncanny! A second attempt at a working link –



I hope it’s wet, not only for the obvious reasons of mixed up racing. I want to see if the McLaren chassis is as good as Eric and co think – although I know the long straights might still kill Fernando even in the wet…..


As a hard core tifosi I hope that Ferrari can do it again. I suspect that we’ve had our time and that Australia was a one off. I see Merc running off with it sadly.


“As a hard core tifosi”

“Australia was a one off”

Which one is it 🙂


James having read driver reactions on Autosport quite a few drivers complained in pre season the Inters were only good enough for one or two laps -even in condition regarded as intermediate conditions before being severely worn . With that knowledge could we see quite a few teams skip Inter’s completely and change from full wets straight on to dry tyres if it is mixed conditions?


I’ll be hoping for an intermediate tyre qualifying, a full wet tyre race start, with a tricky intermediate tyre switch after midway and a final dash on Supersofts…


Supposed to be dryer, and a bit hotter, on Saturday. Quite cool and windy weather forecast for Sunday.


Personallt, I am not that excited. It is natural for people to hope that things will be different this year, but Mercedes will still use their qualifying boost and will take most poles this year and with overtaking being scarce, they will also win most races. Ferrari will be closer, but it will not change the outcome


That’s too simple a way of looking at things. I remember 2002 when Montoya and his Williams were beastly on a Saturday gaining many pole positions but were swamped by the Ferrari’s on race day. Similar today’s cars the aero made racing quite difficult.

As it turned out, Michael had the title wrapped up in July (at Magny Cours) and Ferrari took the constructors a few weeks later in Hungary.


It looks like Mercedes do have an advantage in qualifying, but hopefully Ferrari will prove to be slightly faster in the races. Then we should see some battles as the red cars try to find a way to get to the finish line ahead of the silver ones.


Hmm, I’m of the mind that it could be far too easy to overtake down the back straight in China with DRS, such that people might deliberately decide to hang back, get the free DRS and the fuel saving benefit, and then overtake when the lead car’s had to turn their engine down.


Surprise surprise. Shanghai lap record – F2004 V10 Ferrari. 🙂


will that record be broken this weekend?


I doubt it. The straights in China are pretty long…


not long to go..


You mean like officially, when it should be, on a Sunday, during a Grand Prix?

Considering that last year the fastest lap was 1:39.824 I’m going to say, no, it won’t be. I’m sure we’ll get close for pole and media will hype it, but that’s not when the fastest lap record is official. And there is a very good reason for that.


we’ll find out on race day. i wonder where those 5s are..


Look for them in the F2 races.
After seeing the 1:40-ies from the test in Bahrain. I checked the qually time of the last GP2. Surprise ! 1:47+
Will McLaren be under 1:40 ?!? or will they be saved by the rain ?


@sebee: wonderful.
Why don’t you take your DeLorean and attend the 2004 China GP, if it was so great ?


I absolutely would to relive those V10s in F1 again!

…but I’m out of plutonium. Can you spare some?


Banana peels in the future…


There’s got to be another way to find 1.21 Jigowatts of power, think Marty, THINK!!


Wouldn’t you rather go to the future where everyone is watching this Formula X1 thing? 🙂


Would I want to see Formula X1 success realized if it means Formula 1 is no more?

I need some investors to buy team franchises first. 🙂


No rain, no safety-car, no traffic, fortuitous tyre choice
= Lucky fluke


Why are pro sports so popular? Because you’re supposed to see the best of the best at their best.

Every other sport wants to get more performance from the sportsman and from the equipment. It is only in Formula 1 that opposite is true and performance is held back and equipment is slowed. How else can you explain it when cars from 13 years ago were faster, looked better and sounded mega to boot?

Ricciardo Aficionado

Bat technology has also been restricted in several ball sports.


Did they put modes on the bat to slow the swing down?


I seem to recall they also did something with the construction of tennis balls to try and slow them down and reduce the advantage of a big serve (or did I dream that?).

Ricciardo Aficionado

Apparently, at the professional level, men’s balls are fluffier than the women’s. You might have dreamt about that?


I did know that rugby is a game played by men with odd shaped balls but I was unaware of the distinction in tennis. Thanks for the update 🙂


Fluffier balls. Now I remeber why I don’t watch tenis.


Selective memory, perhaps?

Those ‘classic’ videos?
‘Massaged’ by audio software to pitch-shift up half an octave or so.
I don’t care about lap times – I just want ground-effects back.
Nothing beats a Brabham BT20 circa 1968.


What do you make of this broad agreement that’s been reached to make the engines simpler and louder after 2020? Can you hang on that long?! 🙂


I make nothing of it. Same thing was on the menu for the 2017 regulation change, and what did we end up with? Same lame PUs….exactly the same really. We got wastegate out of it if I remember, and we got exhaust whistles due to be introduced 2018 or before.

So to sum up, call me sceptical.


Can you hang on that long?!

If they were introduced tomorrow I’m quite sure he would find something else to bleat on about 🙂


I’m glad you think everything is hunky dory and perfect in Formula 1.


Please can you clear something up for me – approx 2 months ago you informed me that I was dead to you and that would be your last comment [to me]. Since then I have lost count of the exact number of replies you have sent me but it must be into the mid teens. If I am dead to you, and you did not intend to comment to me ever again, why do you keep replying? I have not commented, even once, to anything you have posted unless you have commented to me initially. What has happened, am I no longer dead to you and would you like to resume our little chats? If so, you know what you have to do.


Oh boy! 😉


I really hope you two can sort it out. You were made for each other… XX


I get over things. Only one thing I can’t get over…slow quiet F1 cars that run of fuel quotas!

What is this? JAonF1 customer service complaint? You want me to yield to you like Lewis did last Grand Prix? I don’t even remember why that would be necessary.


Sebee, it never has been before, why would it all be perfect now?


Formula 1 is like a slider knob that moves in a line. It wasn’t perfect before, but we have moved even further away from perfection with this PU formula. I actually think that 2004 was the closest F1 came to perfection. For perfection what was needed was a budget cap Max Mosley was talking about and pushing for, these wider tires, and some of the winglets/aero taken out, perhaps a standardized rear wing that would control turbulence – without DRS to allow close following. That’s how close the list to get to perfection was. Today that list is long long long. First you have to undo all that has been done to get us back to where we were. What will it take? It will take Formula 1 realizing that it is Formula 1 that is the draw, not a car manufacturer, and acting on it.


Some China stats:

Begun racing in 2004

a) Lewis 4 wins, Alonso + Rosberg 2 wins

b) Mercedes + Ferrari = 4 wins, Mclaren 3 wins

c) 8 out of 13 have been victorious from pole

d) Lewis and Alonso are the only drivers to have won with different teams

e) The only back to back winner is Lewis

f) The track has seen 5 one time winners

g) Whoever got their first win in the wet hasn’t won in the dry e.g. Schumi, Kimi, Vettel, Jenson

h) With the exception of Rubens, all China winners are champions


“h) With the exception of Rubens, all China winners are champions”

Now that Rosberg is a WDC, a huge % of wins from the last 10 or so years will have been won by world champions, I’ll work it out one day 😀


@ Andrew M

Yes champions have won a huge percentage of races because champions are winners


I have a suspicion though that it’s gotten more concentrated the last few years, the “breakthrough” drivers of the last few years (Ricciardo, Verstappen) have won very few races. Let’s see:

2016 – 19 out of 21 won by WDC (90%)
2015 – 19/19 (100%)
2014 – 16/19 (84%)
2013 – 19/19 (100%)
2012 – 17/20 (85%)
2011 – 18/19 (94%)
2010 – 15/19 (78%)
2009 – 13/17 (76%)
2008 – 10/18 (55%)
2007 – 14/17 (82%)
2006 – 15/18 (83%)
2005 – 15/19 (78%)
2004 – 14/18 (77%)
2003 – 8/16 (50%)
2002 – 11/17 (64%)
2001 – 11/17 (64%)
2000 – 13/17 (76%)
1999 – 7/16 (44%)
1998 – 15/16 (94%)
1997 – 13/17 (76%)

Giving it an eye-test, it seems the wins these days are passed around the WDC club more than they used to be (although Rosberg makes this pretty binary, if he wasn’t a WDC the last 3/4 years would look pretty different).


Technically speaking, the wins by WDCs prior to becoming one shouldn’t be counted, No?


Well I did say I deliberately did it this way! I’ll work out the percentages if you only include driver wins post-WDC later.


That’s a nice set of stats Andrew, and highlights the frustration that most* of us feel toward the direction the sport has headed and the validity of the racing…


It seems you included wins as WDC to drivers that weren’t WDC yet at the time of their wins. That would screw up the percentage given. Funny enough, Nico Rosberg has never won a F1 race as a F1 world champion. Marc

Ricciardo Aficionado

Maybe need to factor in the number of champions in the field too?


@ Andrew M

Blimey, these percentages are pretty eye opening

No wonder Brawn was drafted in to save the sport


That wet tire testing with Ferrari, didn’t both Vettel and Räikkönen go off during it? I hope the wet is a good tire this year.

I forgot about Ricciardo’s finishing streak … Mount Heidfeld still reigns supreme there. It was 25 consecutive race finishes for Ricciardo:


… and 29 consecutive classified finishes:


Did anyone spot Quick Nick around the RBR garages on Sunday in Melbourne? 😃


Thanks for the links – and the relative comparisons among drivers and their abilities, even when they had mounts that barked.


Vettel definitely crashed. Were there many comments re the new wet tyre at the test? It has to be better than last year’s surely.


Aah the China race has seen many a classic races play out because in it’s short history it has tended to rain unlike Spa which is largely dry these days

And yes in rain affected races, the fans can look forward to Max coming out to play and perhaps the smaller teams sneaking in some much needed points

Apart from that, the fans look forward to seeing if overtaking will be possible but the feeling in the paddock is that it will be a lot less than previous years (if it remains dry that is)

Regards Ferrari, on paper it looks like they will have an advantage if the extreme wets are used but unfortunately this tyre is only used when the pack is behind the safety car

Overall, what I expect from the China race is a fun filled spectacle because in 2017 the new rules state the grid will have starting starts in rain affected races


Wet races not starting behind the safety car is definitely a plus. Just hope that they allow the race to start even if the rain is heavy. Within reason of course. Marc


I don’t think we should be holding our breath. They couldn’t hold FP1 because it was a bit misty – at the time of writing FP2 was looking like it will follow the same fate.


@ Cometef1

Apparently even in heavy rain, we shall have standing starts

What will happen is they will circulate behind the safety car clearing as much water as possible then Charlie will give the green light for the race to go ahead.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to monsoon conditions, in this case the race will get red flagged


14th Chinese GP? I still think of it as being one of the new tracks! I always like a wet race, but was looking forward to seeing what these new cars can do on a proper circuit, and if the Ferrari does have a real advantage in race pace. The rain will muddy the waters somewhat, but at least we should get an exciting race at a circuit that doesn’t usually deliver those.


I know, I did a double take when I read that too!


I still think of it as being one of the new tracks!

Have you found that policeman and Doctors are starting to look very young 🙂


C63, Ha ha, yes! Still feels strange seeing a Doctor young enough to be my son, nobody has tried to help me cross the street yet though…


nobody has tried to help me cross the street yet though…

It’s only a matter of time 🙂


Last year, while in Montreal for F1, a young woman with a baby in one arm and groceries in the other, tried to give me her seat on the Metro. I was only 59, but apparently I look decrepit and not able to stand for a few minutes. Canadians, even the French ones, are annoyingly nice, but that was humiliating. Maybe this year I will wear a “Make America Great Again” cap. That should temper their generosity.

Ricciardo Aficionado

Trump put his foot down. He’s now in vogue.


Ab normal, I think you would end up walking! Perhaps you need to step up your daily moisturising regime….


Lol – my ex brother in law suffers from MS, and as well as walking with a stick he has problems with his vision. One day he was stood at the kerb, squinting across the road trying to read a sign on the other side. The next thing he knew he was ‘scooped up’ by a well meaning passer-by , who had assumed (wrongly) that he was waiting to cross, and he was frog marched to the other side. He didn’t have the heart to tell them, and waited until they were out of sight before crossing back 🙂


C63, I’m sure that’s true, another thing that made me feel old this week was when I suggested to Mrs W when watching Line of duty that if any of the victims had been assaulted with a custard pie, then Lenny Henry was surely the culprit, I got nothing back but a blank stare of incomprehension….


Yet another thing that makes me feel old is getting Broadchurch mixed up with Line of duty!


The Phantom Flan Flinger. They don’t make programmes like that anymore, not like when I was a lad 🙂

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