Round seventeen of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes theHonda Racing F1 Team straight from the Fuji Speedway in Japan to Shanghaifor the Chinese Grand Prix. The 56-lap race takes place at the 5.451km(3.387-mile) Shanghai International Circuit, which is situated 40kms fromthe city.
The track was designed by Formula One architect Hermann Tilke in 2002 andwas built the following year on disused marshland. The construction of thevenue was a remarkable feat of engineering which required 40,000 stonepillars to be laid in the ground to shore up the foundations before buildingwork could begin. The circuit's layout is in the shape of the Chinesecharacter 'shang', which means 'high' or 'above', with excellent pitlane andpaddock facilities.
The first Chinese Grand Prix took place in September 2004 and was dominatedby current Honda Racing F1 Team drivers Rubens Barrichello and JensonButton, who finished first and second respectively. Jenson has finished inthe points for the previous two years and this is a technically challengingcircuit which both drivers enjoy.
SHANGHAI INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT - THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE
As at Fuji Speedway, car set-up is a compromise between slow-speed grip andstraightline speed. Ideally, the five second-gear corners around the laprequire high downforce, but the cars need to maintain a high top speed alongthe back straight, and that forces the teams to take off wing to reducedrag. There are more high-speed corners than at Fuji, however, so a neutralcar balance is crucial to achieve a good lap time.
The key corners are the slower ones because it is through there that thecars spend the most time. However the drivers must have confidence in theirmachinery through the long, tightening Turn 1 and the sixth gear chicane atTurns 7 and 8 if they are to put a good lap together. Rain has played a partin recent races, so car set-up also needs to reflectthe unpredictability of Shanghai's microclimate.
Full throttle: 55% Brake wear: MediumDownforce level: Medium/High - 7/10 Tyre compounds: Medium / Hard Tyre usage: MediumAverage speed: 203kph (126mph)
HONDA TEAM TALK
Ross Brawn, Team Principal
Q. What are you expecting from the Chinese Grand Prix weekend?"From our home race in Japan this weekend, the team heads straight to Chinafor the penultimate race of the 2008 season. The set-up and downforceconfigurations required for the RA108 at the Shanghai International Circuitare similar to those used at the Fuji Speedway with some extra downforceadded. Shanghai has some unusually long corners therefore we will be usingthe next step in tyre compounds with Bridgestone providing the medium andhard tyres which will be more durable and resistant to degradation. We arerealistic on our expectations for the Chinese Grand Prix weekend and foreseea similar level of performance to that at Fuji this weekend. Whilst this isdisappointing, we will reap the benefits of our decision to stop developingthe RA108 and concentrate on 2009 next year. The weather forecast for theweek ahead looks mixed with a high chance of showers over the weekend, sothat may throw up a few on-track surprises and make for an excitingweekend."
Q. You finished fifth in China last year. What are your thoughts on thecircuit?"I like the layout of the Shanghai International Circuit as it is quitedemanding and technical for the drivers but also fun to drive. There are alot of high-speed sections which I enjoy and you need good straightlinespeed for the pit straight and the long straight which stretches for over akilometre between Turns 13 and 14. It's very different from many of thecircuits which we race on and the fact that there are a few good overtakingopportunities, particularly going into Turn 1 and then at the banked entryonto the back straight, make it more exciting. Our focus in practice will beon achieving the right downforce level for the car which will be acompromise set-up to accommodate the different types of corner and thestraights."Rubens Barrichello
Q. You won the first ever Chinese Grand Prix in 2004. What is the key to aquick lap here?"Shanghai is a fantastic race venue and winning the first Grand Prix heremeans that the race holds some good memories for me. The circuit itself isexciting with the combination of long straights and different speed cornerscombining to make a very technical track. The unique feature here is thelength of some of the corners, particularly Turn 1 and Turn 13. To have agood lap here, you need to have a very good aerodynamic balance,straightline speed for the two main straights and good car stability. Theweather can also play its part so it will be interesting to see the forecastfor the race weekend."