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Chinese Grand Prix


Chinese GP race report

 



2016 Chinese Grand Prix – race report

"It was fun racing the quicker cars today"

Shanghai International Circuit, Sunday 17 April

Despite showing flashes of pace throughout the weekend, both drivers able to push hard inside the top 10, we finished the Chinese Grand Prix just out of the points – in 12th (Fernando Alonso) and 13th (Jenson Button).

As the race progressed, it became apparent that the MP4-31 could not quite match the pace of the top 10 runners. Despite the team executing five flawless pit-stops, and running alternative strategies (Fernando did a two-stopper; Jenson a three-), the drivers crossed the finish line just a few seconds apart, strongly suggesting that they had delivered their respective maxima this afternoon.

Despite the immediate disappointment, there are positives to take away from the race weekend: both cars ran flawlessly throughout every session, Fernando completed his first race distance of the season, and the team has learned a great deal more about the strengths and weaknesses of the MP4-31.
 

FERNANDO ALONSO, MP4-31-02

Started: 11th
Finished: 12th
Fastest Lap: 1m42.226s on lap 36 (+2.402s, 19th) 
Pitstops: Two: laps 16 (2.76s), and 32 (3.05s) [Pri/Back-Up/Back-Up]

 
“Today wasn’t easy. We didn’t quite have the pace to record a good result and finish in the points. We chose a two-stop strategy and tried to benefit from that, but the early Safety Car didn’t help us, and our race didn’t really work out as planned after that. That’s the way it is, but it’s a shame. 

“We need to look in detail at the areas in which we need to improve – we ran among a lot of different cars this afternoon, so we should have some useful reference points from which to gauge our respective strengths and weaknesses.

“On a positive note, today’s race was the first proper long run I’ve completed in this year’s car – I didn’t ever finish a 50-lap stint during testing, and I retired early in Melbourne because of the accident.

“There’s a long way to go, but we’ll keep improving. I’m already looking forward to the next race.”
 

JENSON BUTTON, MP4-31-03

Started: 11th
Finished: 13th 
Fastest Lap: 1m40.298s on lap 46 (+0.474s, 3rd)
Pitstops: Three: laps 4 (2.58s), 27 (2.86s) and 44 (2.49s) [Opt/Back-Up/Back-Up/Opt] 

 
“My start was good: I made up a lot of places and was able to take the battle to the other cars. Our pace on the Option tyre during the first stint was also pretty good – it was fun racing the quicker cars.

“When the Safety Car came out, there was mayhem in the pit-lane because Nico [Hulkenberg] was trying to slow everyone down to help his team-mate. After that stop, we seemed to be sitting in a strong position, but we were running the Medium compound, and we just seemed to stand still compared with the others.

“We tried to do a two-stopper – which didn’t work out – so then we decided to fit the Option for the final stint. Given our position just outside the points, we thought we might as well give it a go.

“Perhaps fitting the Option at the end was the wrong choice – I could have stayed out until the end on the Medium, but I decided to have some fun by fitting softer [ie, faster] rubber – but it just couldn’t make its performance last to the end. Still, as I say, it was worth having a crack at it.”
 

ERIC BOULLIER - Racing director, McLaren-Honda

“Ultimately, we didn’t have quite enough race pace to score points today, especially with such scant attrition ahead of us.

“Having said that, both Fernando and Jenson maximised their race strategies, the fact that they finished more-or-less nose to tail after 56 hard-driven laps underlining that Fernando had efficiently mined the most out of a two-stop approach while Jenson had pugnaciously realised the maximum available out of his necessarily more dynamic three-stopper.

“Moreover, although we still need to find more straightline speed, the power units in both our cars performed with commendable reliability throughout all three days of today’s grand prix, yesterday’s qualifying hour, and all the practice sessions that preceded them. So our friends at Honda should be lauded for that achievement. Equally, we’re encouraged by the power unit developments they have in the pipeline, and as a result we’re confident that our overall performance will continue to improve apace.

“Operationally, we made no mistakes all weekend, and our pit-crew performed with their customary aplomb. Well done, guys.

“Last but not least, it’s encouraging to note that, when we fitted Options to Jenson’s car for his fourth and final stint, he immediately began to fly, clocking the then-fastest lap of the race on lap 46, a spirited circumnavigation of the Shanghai International Circuit that was thereafter eclipsed by just two other drivers.”
 

YUSUKE HASEGAWA - Honda R&D head of F1 project & executive chief engineer

"Throughout the eventful weekend of changing weather conditions and qualifying red flags, the drivers and the team have performed at their best, and it was a positive weekend to bring two cars home.

"We are obviously disappointed that we could not score points, but I think the race result is a good indication of where we currently are. The entire team did solid work today which will hopefully lead to better results in the future races."



2016 Chinese Grand Prix preview

THE DRIVERS ON: THE CIRCUIT

#14 Fernando Alonso

“The Chinese Grand Prix is always a little bit of an unknown: the weather is often changeable as it’s spring time in Shanghai and the temperatures can often fluctuate, which influences the car’s set-up and balance over the course of the weekend. Track temperatures will be much cooler than what we saw in Bahrain, which means keeping heat in the tyres is harder to maintain, so we’ll need to focus this weekend on optimising our set-up for the variable conditions.

“The track itself features a challenging mix of corners, and the two long, fast right-handers place a lot of wear on the tyres, especially the front left. It can therefore place huge emphasis on tyre wear and graining, so it’s important we get the tyres working properly from the start of every stint so we can manage them during the race and get the best out of them. The circuit is enjoyable to drive, and there are some fun, high-speed sections around the back, so I’m excited to see what our chassis and power unit are capable of there this year.”
 

#22 Jenson Button

“The Shanghai International Circuit has an interesting mix of requirements – quite a few slow- and medium-speed corners, which are followed by two very long straights – one being 1.17km (0.727 miles), and the longest of the season. That places a lot of stress on both the tyres and the power unit, but I’m hopeful that with this year’s package, we won’t suffer as much on this track as we have done previously. The key will be preparation and set-up: getting the aero balance right from Friday onwards, and getting on top of the tyre wear with every new set.

“This won’t be an easy race for us – the conditions will be very different to Australia and Bahrain – but it’ll be good for us to test the characteristics of the MP4-31 there, and understand as much as we can about how it behaves on this sort of track and with the cooler temperatures. It’s important we gather as much information as possible and take into account all variables as we visit each circuit, so that we can adapt this for grands prix later on in the year. It’s a long season, and we’re looking for improvements and progress at every race.”
 

CIRCUIT STATS
 

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
First race 2004
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
ERS demands Low
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

 

CIRCUIT FACTS 

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.
 

EVENT STATS
 

Start time 14:00 local / 0700 BST
Race distance 56 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 percent distance/42 laps)
Safety Car likelihood 45 percent. The substantial run-off areas make it relatively easy to remove stranded cars.
When to press record Don’t miss the start. Making consistent getaways has proved tougher than expected this year, since F1 reverted to a single clutch, and that will make the drag to Turn 1 in China more exciting than ever.
Don’t put the kettle on When the race reaches laps in the mid-teens and mid-30s. These were the two pitstop windows for the top four cars home in last year’s race. Sebastian Vettel was the first three-stopper to finish, in fifth place.
Weather conditions now   19 degrees and cloudy 
Race forecast 22 degrees, but there’s a chance of rain over the weekend. Fifty percent of Chinese GPs have been rain-affected.
Tyre choices Super-soft/soft/medium, which are the same as at the opening two races of the season

 

EVENT FACTS

First Chinese Grand Prix: 2004

Slogan: There’s no official slogan for the race, but Shanghai is known as “The Paris of the East”

China's F1 heritage: The Shanghai International Circuit has hosted the Chinese Grand Prix every year since 2004, prior to which the sport didn’t have much of a foothold in China. The Zhuhai International Circuit, in the south east of the country, hosted international sportscar races, but it took the construction of a bespoke F1 track to allow the sport to build a fanbase. Shanghai is an ideal host city; it’s the financial capital of China and it’s the only city in China to have two international airports.

Smallest winning margin: 0.714s, in 2015. The Mercedes drivers finished 1-2, but Nico Rosberg accused his victorious team-mate Lewis Hamilton of backing him into the clutches of Sebastian Vettel in third place. Hence the small winning margin.

Sporting legacy: The Beijing Olympics in 2008 did a lot to raise China’s sporting profile, and the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 will surely build on that momentum. The popularity of motorsport is growing year-on-year, largely thanks to the grand prix in Shanghai, and Ma Qinghua was the first racing driver to become a household name, when he took part in first practice for the 2012 Italian Grand Prix for HRT.

Did you know? The grandstand opposite the pits has seating for 30,000 people.

Don’t forget: McLaren has won the Chinese Grand Prix three times. 

Fan zone: Jed, aged 22, from Austin, Texas. “How did F1 debutant Stoffel Vandoorne celebrate his points finish at the Bahrain Grand Prix?”

McLaren’s answer: “Like everyone in the team, Stoff was delighted by the result in Bahrain. There was an impromptu celebration when he got back to our hospitality unit after the race, but such is the incessant nature of F1 that he was on a flight back to the UK later that evening, ready to work on the simulator on Monday morning. Our preparations for the Chinese Grand Prix wait for no man!”
 

THE DRIVERS ON: THE EVENT

#14 Fernando Alonso

“It was disappointing to be told I couldn’t race in Bahrain, but I fully respected the decision of the FIA medical team. While I hope I’ll be back in the cockpit on Friday, until I get the all-clear from the doctors to race – whenever that may be – we cannot assume anything, but I’m continuing to prepare for the race weekend as normal. 

“Stoffel did a great job in Bahrain, and although Jenson suffered reliability issues, it was positive to see that both cars ran quite strongly during the weekend. It was also interesting for me to see the race weekend unfold from a different perspective, which helped me to understand everything that goes into getting the cars on track and learn a lot about the different processes, although I’d still prefer to be racing! I’ve always enjoyed driving in China – I’ve won there twice before – and I hope we’ll be able to have some good battles on track and see more progress this weekend.”
 

#22 Jenson Button

“The Bahrain race weekend was bittersweet on my side of the garage. We definitely saw another step in the car’s performance from Australia as we keep learning more about the handling and characteristics of the car, and bring new upgrades to each grand prix. Friday practice was a real positive, but unfortunately we couldn’t make it stick in qualifying and then suffered reliability issues in the race. Saying that, until the point when we lost power, the car had felt very good, and I’m hopeful that we can continue that momentum in Shanghai and make the most of the package we have. 

“As always though, we need to work hard on our reliability. We’ve definitely seen an improvement in that area, but anything less than 100 per cent is never enough, and it’s important we take advantage of our progress to bring home the points we deserve and have something to show for all of our efforts. The Chinese Grand Prix is a very different challenge from the past two races, and I’ve enjoyed racing there in the past. My victory there in 2010 was very memorable and a great race – it just shows how the changeable conditions can really mix things up – so I hope we can enjoy some more good racing there this weekend, and most importantly, see the chequered flag.”
 

HEAR FROM THE MANAGEMENT

Eric Boullier
McLaren-Honda Racing Director

“While we definitely saw a reassuring improvement in our performance in Bahrain, we cannot take anything for granted, and it’s imperative that we don’t waste opportunities to score valuable points due to lack of reliability, as we saw at the last race. At the very least, we must learn from every situation, and in the case of Jenson’s power unit issue, we’ve done so, so we go to China with continued optimism that we can try to maximise the potential of our package.

“Despite the decision from the FIA medical team that Fernando was not able to race, the team prepared admirably for the weekend, and Stoffel did a fantastic job to score his and the team’s first championship point of the year, in his debut grand prix. Once again, Stoffel will be on standby until Fernando has his routine meeting with FIA doctors on Thursday, and until then we will be readying ourselves as normal. Fernando has been recuperating at home and training as usual, and we, like him, hope to see him back in the car. We’ll accept the outcome – whatever that may be – and plan accordingly. 

“Next weekend will also see the return of the 2015 qualifying format, which is certainly a positive step for the fans and will hopefully offer a more watchable, engaging qualifying process than the interim solution we saw at the last couple of races. Operationally, the McLaren-Honda team will adapt in our usual way and make the most of the track time and resources available to us in each session. Tyres and power units will be the big talking points this weekend on this challenging, but nonetheless varied and interesting Shanghai International Circuit, so set-up, management and reliability will be key to ensuring we achieve our potential in China.”
 

Yusuke Hasegawa
Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“As we saw from Stoffel's pace in Bahrain, we have surely come a long way since last year. We still need a bit more overall package performance to tackle the long, one-kilometre straight in Shanghai, but it’s reassuring to know that we’re heading in the right direction.

“There was a mechanical issue on Jenson's ICE which we will replace for the upcoming race weekend. The situation has been thoroughly investigated, and will be rectified in all future engines to be used.”

 


Chinese GP map



2016 Chinese Grand Prix

The colossal 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.

Both Jenson and Fernando are Chinese Grand Prix winners. Fernando won in 2005 and 2013, while Jenson’s victory in Shanghai, after a characteristically assured drive in changeable conditions, is one of McLaren’s three wins at this circuit.


 

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