Formula One 2017 Track Guide: China

Formula One 2017 Track Guide: China

VAVEL's circuit guide moves to China for Part Three. The Shanghai International Circuit is unique, but how long can it stay on the calendar?

James Eagles

Notable for its two 'snail' sections and the longest back straight seen in Formula One today, the Shanghai International Circuit is the venue for the Chinese Grand Prix, now approaching its fourteenth instalment.

Hermann Tilke's track draws inspiration from the Chinese character 'shang' and features several long corners and quick changes of direction. Tough on tyres, engines and drivers, the circuit is viewed as one of the bigger challenges on the calendar, with variable weather conditions posing a strategic threat.

Crowds waned towards the end of the last decade.
Crowds waned towards the end of the last decade. | Photo: Getty Images/Paul Gilham

Despite being on the calendar every year since its debut race in 2004, the Grand Prix's status has come under financial threat on numerous occasions. Losses were announced after the 2008 edition and due to falling crowd numbers, ticket prices were lowered around the start of the decade. With its contract running out soon the future of the event is unknown, although the circuit's promoters Shanghai Juss Event Management have stated that the Grand Prix is sustainable in the long term.

Once again, like Bahrain, the Grand Prix was started in order to promote motorsport in China. Although Ma Qinghua spent two years as a test driver for the now defunct HRT and Caterham teams in 2012 and 2013 respectively, no Chinese driver has yet participated in a Formula 1 race.

Track guide

One of two DRS zones, the pit straight is of medium length and drivers spend their time drifting over to the left hand side of the track in order to take the best line through the spiralling, long and gradually tightening right of Turn 1, that leads into 2. Approach the entry with gusto and decrease your speed as you go, try to get the front end to bite so you can clip the apex of the second corner, otherwise Turn 3 - which is an immediate left - will have to be compromised. Watch the traction out of 3 as the rear of the car will want to snap away from you.

Turns 1,2,3 change in speed and elevation. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson
Turns 1,2,3 change in speed and elevation. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson

Turn 4 is still spent carefully increasing the throttle and Turn 5 is a simple flat out kink. Keep the car as straight as possible through there as you need to be on the left once more for the braking point of Turn 6. Down to second gear, swing the car round the right hander, don't worry about the exit - the track opens up. A lot of the lap is spent setting yourself up favourably for the next corner and the approach to the very long Turn 7 is no different. Bring the car to the right and flick it left with commitment, lift off the throttle and shift down to reduce understeer in order to meet the inside of the corner, so you can get Turn 8 right. You'll need to tap the brakes and move down two gears in order to get the right line for that.

Next up, you're immediately hit by the double left of Turns 9 and 10, taken at low speed. The first part of the complex can be difficult to nail as it's tighter than you think. Mercifully, Turn 10 is a little more open but be careful of the exit kerb - take too much and you will lose time.

Turn 11 sees the start of the second 'snail' section. Brake at around 75 metres and kiss the inside kerb of the left hander. Wander over to the middle of the track to get the best entry for Turn 12 and the line for the very long, almost perpetual right of 13. Easy on the throttle, much like the last turn in Australia it requires a disciplined right foot as you need the best exit possible for the 0.7 mile back straight.

It can be difficult to find a consistent rhythm. | Photo: Wikipedia
It can be difficult to find a consistent rhythm. | Photo: Wikipedia

Open the DRS when prompted and enjoy the respite. Hit over 215 miles per hour before being hard on the brakes as close to 100 metres as you wish for the right hairpin of 14. Some take it in first gear, most in second in order to minimise wheel spin on corner exit. Coax the car back to the right before caressing the brakes, shifting down two gears and flinging the front end into the final corner. Don't take liberties on the exit once more, it was one of the many sites that saw Pastor Maldonado end up in the barriers. And there you have it, the pit straight signalling the start of another lap in Shanghai.


Most wins for a driver - Lewis Hamilton - 4

Most wins for a constructor - Ferrari and Mercedes - 4 each

Lap Record - 1:32.238 - Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 2004

Did you know?

The 2011 race came under severe threat when it was revealed that areas around Turns 1, 8 and 14 were sinking, and they still are to this day!