Shanghai International Circuit is Formula 1 supersized: huge paddock; towering grandstands and straights that disappear over the horizon. Even after a decade and more of racing in China, it’s still a marvel to behold.
Located around 40km from the centre of the world’s most populous city, the Shanghai International Circuit has all sorts of interesting features. The long pit straight and the even longer back straight dominate the first and final sectors and, with slow corners before and after, ensure the Chinese Grand Prix is never short of overtaking opportunities – but the race isn’t a simple, low-drag slipstreaming exercise.
The two ‘snail’ sections – corner complexes that go beyond 180° – and a tight hairpin put a premium on good traction and, combined with the high-speed turns of the middle sector, demand some concessions to downforce. There are also several heavy braking zones. While not a problem for the brakes themselves, the unevenness of the braking zones (a legacy of building on marshland) tends to test out a car’s damping capabilities and force driver errors. The tarmac is also very abrasive with the life of tyres – particularly the softest compounds – sometimes measured in corners rather than laps.
History lesson: Built on marshland that was deemed unsuitable for housing, the Shanghai International Circuit is one of the most impressive purpose-built Formula 1 facilities in the world. It cost $450m to construct and the 5.451km/3.387-mile layout is shaped like the Chinese character ‘shang’, which stands for ‘high’ or ‘above’, and the team buildings resemble the ancient Yuyan-Garden in Shanghai.
What makes the track unique: The combination of one very long back straight – the longest of the entire season – and a couple of 270-degree corners that put a lot of energy through the tyres. Car set-up is a delicate compromise between straight-line speed and cornering grip.
Grip levels: Medium. The circuit isn’t used much during the year, so there’s quite a lot of track evolution during the weekend as rubber is laid down. Last year the lap time improvement was 3.3s from the beginning to the end of the weekend.
Run-off: Substantial. This track was designed by Hermann Tilke and Peter Wahl, the creative brains behind the F1 tracks in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Malaysia – all of which have substantial run-off areas. The Shanghai International Circuit is no different.
Watch out for…: The weather. It’s fair to expect a range of temperatures and conditions over the course of the weekend.
|2015 winner||Lewis Hamilton, 56 laps, 1:39:42.008s|
|2015 pole position||Lewis Hamilton, 1m35.782s|
|2015 fastest lap||Lewis Hamilton 1m42.208s (lap 31)|
|Name||Shanghai International Circuit|
|Circuit length||5.451km/3.387 miles|
|Distance to Turn One||380m/0.236 miles|
|Longest straight||1.17km/0.727 miles|
|Top speed||340km/h/211mph, on the approach to Turn 14|
|Pitlane length||351m/0.218 miles, estimated time loss 21s|
|Full throttle||55 per cent|
|DRS zones||Two, on the approaches to Turns 1 and 14|
|Key corner||Turn One, a 270-degree right-hander through which the cars slow from 300km/h at the end of the pit straight down to 50km/h at the apex. Huge amounts of energy are put through the front-left tyre as a result|
|Fastest corner||220km/h (137mph), Turn 13|
|Slowest corner||65km/h (40mph), Turn 14|
|Major changes for 2016||None|
|Fuel consumption||1.7kg per lap, making it not quite as critical as the last race in Bahrain|
|Brake wear||Medium. There are eight big stops from high speed, but the long straights help to cool the brakes.|
|Gear changes||51 per lap /2856 per race|