Swapping places with the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Shanghai International Circuit now hosts the 3rd race of the season. This 5.45km long circuit consists of a variety of fast flowing corners and these high lateral loads mean that the Chinese Grand Prix is the first time the structural integrity of Pirelli’s new 2018 tyres are truly put to the test. Turns 1 and 2 are particularly brutal, as drivers enter the famous banked corner at 320kph, trying to maintain car balance as the corner continues to tighten, gradually reducing the speed to 100kph.
For the optimum setup around this circuit, teams need to find the ideal compromise between having high downforce in the corners and low drag along the straights. Luckily, the track surface is relatively smooth and consistent which helps teams to iterate their setup, despite the fact that the circuit is rarely used throughout the year, making it initially very ‘green’.
The drivers clock 4.5G at Turn 7 for a total of 2.9s and spend over half the lap on full throttle. Pitlane length is 388m, with the fastest pit stop last year taking 17.291s. The Chinese Grand Prix marks the debut of this year’s new P Zero Ultrasoft that teams can use alongside the Medium and Soft, which is the first time Pirelli have bought a ‘gap’ in compounds, missing out the Supersoft.
To encourage overtaking, Pirelli have changed their tyre allocation rules, so rather then teams choosing from three consecutive compounds, teams can run a double step in compound. Therefore, instead of bringing the Medium, Soft and Supersoft to the Chinese Grand Prix, Pirelli have bought the Medium, Soft and Ultrasoft. This could open up the strategy options and lead to some interesting race day decisions.
‘The new wider range of 2018 P Zero compounds have allowed us to come up with some nominations this year where there is a gap in the tyres selected: in the case of China, alongside the Medium, we jump from Soft to Ultrasoft, leaving out the Supersoft,’ explains Mario Isola, Head of car racing at Pirelli. ‘There’s quite a big gap from medium to the softer compounds, which are quite close together (with the exception of the Hypersoft). So, by missing out the Supersoft in China, we end up with three choices that are quite evenly spaced out, which in turn opens up several different possibilities for strategy. These strategy calculations have of course already begun, with teams selecting different quantities of the Ultrasoft heading into the race, and we could also see some different approaches to qualifying as well. With China being an unpredictable race anyway, thanks to a number of different overtaking opportunities and notoriously variable weather, this tyre nomination introduces another parameter, which should hopefully contribute to an even better spectacle.’
Turns 1 and 13 are the most demanding corners for the tyres
The long straight between Turns 13 and 14 can cool the tyres significantly, which could lead to lock-ups
As the circuit isn’t used much throughout the year, the track can be quite green and slippery, so track evolution could be high in FP1
Cold conditions can lead to some cold graining, particularly in the practise sessions
According to Brembo, the Chinese Grand Prix scores 6 out of 10 on the brake difficulty index, representing a medium level of brake severity compared to the other races in the calendar
In total the brakes are used for 18 seconds each lap, which is 10 seconds more than the Australian Grand Prix
Throughout the race, the brakes are applied roughly 450 times, resulting in a total load of 38 tonnes – which is equivalent to the weight of 440 female adult pandas
In terms of energy dissipation from the brakes, the Chinese Grand Prix ranks the lowest, with 101kWh dissipated on average which is the same amount of electrical energy consumed daily by 8 Shanghai residents
The average deceleration has increased from 3.5G last year to 3.7G this year, which is much lower compared to the other races