The three-week break since the controversial Malaysian Grand Prix has felt like an eternity, but Formula 1 fans can surely hope that this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit will be about racing on the track, rather than intra-team disputes in the pit lane…
The event kicks off the second double-header event on the 2013 Formula 1 calendar, with the Bahrain Grand Prix coming up next weekend.
Recent form suggest any of the four leading teams will be in the running for victory on Sunday, so let’s try and perform a little crystal ball gazing and make a few bold predictions in our bumper Chinese Grand Prix preview…
|2013 FORMULA 1 UBS CHINESE GRAND PRIX
|Date:||12-14 April 2013|
|Venue:||Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China|
|Race Lap Record:||1:32.238, Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) – 2004|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:00-11:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 14:00-15:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 11:00-12:00|
|Race (56 laps, 305.066km)||Sun 15:00-17:00|
|Past 10 Years’ Winners:||Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP W03)||2012|
|Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes MP4-26)||2011|
|Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes MP4-25)||2010|
|Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB5)||2009|
|Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes MP4-23)||2008|
|Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari F2007)||2007|
|Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F248)||2006|
|Fernando Alonso (Renault R25)||2005|
|Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari F2004)||2004|
To have the Formula 1 circus expand its reach into China was a long-term goal of Bernie Ecclestone, a feat he proudly ticked off in 2004 when the Shanghai International Circuit made its F1 debut.
Being another Hermann Tilke concept, the track features his trademark use of wide expanses, ultra-modern facilities, and the usual mix of tight corners, the occasional quick directional changes and a long straight fit for overtaking.
Built on what is now a drained swamp, the entire circuit is actually built on some 40,000 polystyrene piles as its foundation.
The circuit is not renowned for providing fans with edge-of-their-seat races, but its layout will be conducive to more wheel-to-wheel racing.
This year will see the Shanghai International Circuit run with two DRS zones for the first time. Not only will we see the usual DRS zone positioned along the second half of the long 1.3-kilometre back straight, but another zone will be in place along the start/finish straight. Its detection point will be on the run into the final corner of the lap.
One of the circuit’s trickiest sections is its first corner complex where the track doubles back on itself in an ever-tightening right-hander that feeds into a sudden double-apex left-hander. Opening-lap contact is not uncommon through this corner as cars jostle for position.
Take a look at our Shanghai Circuit Guide:
Nico Rosberg became the Chinese Grand Prix’s eighth different race-winner in its nine-year history, and his victory gave the Mercedes team its first (and so far only) victory in its current guise.
The pair had looked on course to complete a 1-2 in the race, only for Schumacher to retire with mechanical dramas. But Rosberg kept the field at arm’s length all race long to give the team one of its few highlights in a troubled 2012 campaign.
So what have been some of the highlights from the races at Shanghai? Let’s relive a few of the better races…
2005: Reigning champion Michael Schumacher had an error-ridden weekend, crashing into Christijan Albers’ Minardi on his reconnaissance lap to the grid, and then later spinning into retirement during a safety car interruption. Despite McLaren looking the form team, Renault took an unexpected win to clinch the Constructors’ Championship, while McLaren’s Juan Pablo Montoya was lucky to avoid injury after his cockpit was pierced when he ran over a loose drain cover.
2006: Schumi finally mastered how to drive at Shanghai with a charging victory in wet conditions to keep his championship battle with Alonso alive for another race. It was the seven-time World Champion’s last F1 win to-date.
2007: Lewis Hamilton slips up in pit lane and retires after he had led in the early proceedings. A sterling drive from Kimi Räikkönen in the race nets him the win to keep his last-minute championship hopes alive, en route to clinching the crown by a single point at the final race of the year.
2010: McLaren’s new signing Jenson Button claimed his second win for the team in just his fourth race appearance for the Woking squad. The Englishman brilliantly mastered the damp conditions, and made the brave decision not to pit for wet-weather tyres when the track was hit with a rain shower early in the race. By electing to remain out on track, he gave himself prime track position to waltz to victory over Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
2011: Lewis Hamilton became the event’s first ever multiple race-winner, sensationally snatching the lead from Sebastian Vettel with just five laps of the Grand Prix to run. The Englishman faced a stressful start to the race when his McLaren refused to fire up ahead of getting onto the grid; frantic work from his mechanics meant that he only just managed to sneak onto the starting grid before the pit lane was closed. He drove a storming race on a three-stop strategy, passing team-mate Jenson Button for second place at Turn 1 halfway through the race, and then set about hunting down Vettel to claim a well-earned win. The other highlight was Mark Webber’s barnstorming charge to finish third, after a disastrous qualifying session that saw him line up 18th.
Shanghai Talking Points
We believe this weekend’s race will really bring three talking points to the forefront:
What impact will Pirelli’s tyres have this weekend? With the temperatures likely to be cooler than the high heat and humidity experienced last time out at Sepang, tyre management might not be as great an issue here as it was in Malaysia. Some teams were really found wanting when it came to managing their tyre wear in race conditions, and given how much of an impact it played here last year, could we see a repeat again?
Will wet weather play a part? Fans might not immediately associate rain with the Chinese Grand Prix, four of the last seven Grands Prix held here have been rain-affected, and the timing of the race – be it at the beginning or end of the season – seems to make little difference. While the rain has never been of the same intensity as Sepang (which is in a class of its own!), its presence has always spiced up the action.
Some unusual statistics: Lewis Hamilton is the only driver in the field to have won here more than once, claiming his second Grand Prix victory here in 2011. His first win came in 2008, which was also the last time that the Shanghai race-winner went on to claim the championship title…
So what do the Richard’s F1 readers and contributors think will happen this weekend?
“The early signs were worrying. The Williams FW35 was the final car to be released for the 2013 season and missed the opening test at Jerez, putting the team of the back foot from the get-go. Furthermore, the exhaust system on their 2013 entry was deemed to be illegal, forcing a revised design to be implemented. At the opening race in Australia, Pastor Maldonado described the car as “undriveable”, and has yet to finish a race this season. Newcomer Valtteri Bottas took an encouraging 11th at Sepang, however even he has admitted his disappointment at the lacklustre pace of the FW35. Expect Shanghai to be another difficult round for the Oxfordshire based team, who are now pinning their hopes on an upgrade for the Spanish GP in just over a month. A finish in the points for Bottas or Maldonado would be an unlikely, but hugely encouraging result if luck is on their side.” – Tristan Clark, RichardsF1.com Journalist
“It’s not as unpredictable as last year, but 2013 is still just as exciting, with a good eight drivers fighting for wins each week. Teams look more competitive against each other than last year so I’m hopeful that it lasts past the summer break, unlike 2012. Heading towards China, teams have had three weeks to assess the first two races and attempt to improve and get ahead of their competitors. McLaren have been playing catch up since testing and have struggled to challenge the front runners, a group they are so accustomed to being in, so expect to see some improvement. Massa has been threatening to get back on the winners list for a while now, and with the pace Ferrari has shown the start of this season, it’s a very real possibility to see him on the podium. Maybe even the top step.” – Josh Kruse, RichardsF1.com Journalist
“It would be easy to simply add my two cents to the ‘Webber vs Vettel’ situation, but it has been documented in global media to the point of exhaustion and I feel no viewpoint entirely different to anyone else can be put forward by me. Having said that, this weekend will likely see the start of an inter-team war (on track anyway) where Webber will no longer give an inch to anyone, much least his thrice-world champion team-mate. For the global audience, Vettel will want nothing more than to be in a position where he and Webber are miles in front of third place and he will have the opportunity to slow to a crawl and let the Aussie past (in a way similar to David Coulthard slowing to let Mika Hakkinen past in Melbourne 1998) to appear to be keeping the peace. We’ll see whether this eventuates or whether Webber simply punts Vettel off the track like Senna did to Prost in Japan 1990. For the rest of the field, expect Mercedes to again be strong on the anniversary of their first and only win. Nico Rosberg will want to remind everyone he won here last year and can do it again, and Lewis Hamilton is looking increasingly comfortable in his new colours and will be a strong contender once again.” – Matt Lennon, RichardsF1.com IndyCar Series Journalist
“Well, having been lucky enough to travel to the Australian and Malaysian Grand Prix’s, I got a new perspective on just who are the nice guys of the sport. Now it is common for us all to have a think about who we might like to do well at the upcoming race, but on this occasion I am going to tell you about the drivers I want to do badly. Fernando Alonso is a permanent on my list, as is Jean-Eric Vergne (I actually love you Jean-Eric, but you’re Dan Ricciardo’s team mate, and if he doesn’t get Mark Webber seat next year, I want you to have it), and Charles Pic (I know he drives for a crap team but he is such a grump). But most of all it is Valterri Bottas. This bloke is seriously worse than Tiger Woods in the ‘good bloke’ department and… yeah just get stuffed Valterri. I hope you finish last.” – Samuel McCrossen, The Qualifying Lap radio show co-host
“Two races, two winners. Weren’t we in a similar position last year? I honestly think that with China once again being a fairly different track compared to the first two rounds we could very realistically see a third winner out of three races, which of course is always exciting! Temperature will be key like it was last year, and it honestly wouldn’t surprise me to see Nico Rosberg and Mercedes perhaps come out on top again. Lewis Hamilton has been racy so far in 2013 and probably has even surprised himself with the pace of the car (and is smirking at those doubters who said he shouldn’t have left McLaren). So I’m going to go out on a big ledge right now and predict a Mercedes victory, possibly even a 1-2. You heard it here first!” – Ben Waterworth, The Qualifying Lap radio show host
The Form Guide
The past three weeks have all been about the Malaysian Grand Prix team orders controversy. One had hoped that the three-week gap would have allowed for some water under the bridge and cooler heads to prevail, but Sebastian Vettel evidently hasn’t read the memo. Speaking with reporters yesterday, the German said that he would “probably do the same” if the situation were to repeat itself.
The team has also come out and said that it will no longer institute team orders, which is a noble view, but it could ultimately damage the team in the long run…
While the relationship between Vettel and Webber may have taken a nosedive, there’s little reason to suggest that the form of the RB9 will. While it didn’t enjoy particularly good form here last year, its Adrian Newey cars have generally been quick here – it claimed its maiden win here four years ago, don’t forget…
But it will have plenty of competition this weekend, with Mercedes, Lotus and Ferrari all looking like potential race-winners here this weekend.
Mercedes seems to have overcome the tyre woes that beset its 2012 campaign, and last time out we saw both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton able to keep pace with the Red Bulls at Sepang, until they had to opt to save fuel to see the chequered flag. If they can put a bit more juice in the tanks, then perhaps the Silver Arrows could be right up at the front and repeat their 2012 success here.
Lotus and Ferrari will almost certainly be in the mix here this weekend, and no doubt keen to recover after each team dropped the ball at Sepang. The former battled with the ever-changing conditions in Malaysia, while Ferrari and Fernando Alonso made a rare error not to pit when the Spaniard had a damaged front wing. We all remember what happened on Lap 2…
Don’t forget to enter your F1 Predictions!
The third round of the 2013 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open, and you can enter your predictions for the race right here to be in the running for some great prizes throughout the season and at the end of the year!
The cut-off to submit your predictions is no later than five minutes before qualifying starts, so make sure you’re in it to win it! To enter your predictions, click here.
As always, RichardsF1.com will be bringing you the best of the on- and off-track action this weekend, so make sure we’re your first port of call for your Chinese Grand Prix fix!