Preview: 2008 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix

To the 4th Chinese GP, and the Space Station Shanghai for the penultimate race of the 2008 season. Following some strange calls from officials last week in Japan let’s hope this week’s on-track action doesn’t end up in front of the stewards.

If you’ve seen this race before you’ll know why I refer to it as a space station. The media centre and offices are HUGE and straddle the track like some alien ship has landed at the circuit for a day at the races. Or it could be in orbit somewhere. You can imagine smaller craft docking with it – or maybe I need to get out more.

This is another of those tracks designed by the ubiquitous Herman Tilke, who says he modelled the layout on the Chinese character ‘shang’ (from Shanghai). I guess he ran out of ideas that week so copied the promoter’s letterhead.

Obviously the teams don’t fly the trucks halfway around the world so at the ‘flyaways’ the circuit owners lay on special facilities. This week the teams are based in tranquil-looking huts at the back of the pits, set among waterways and plants and stuff. It looks nice. No such luxury in Brazil in a couple of weeks.

One year ago Lewis Hamilton and McLaren blew his first shot at the World Championship by destroying his tyres and not calling him in for new ones, respectively. When he eventually pitted, he threw it into a little gravel trap set just off the pitlane entry. Okay you can argue they were waiting to see which way the weather would go, it had been raining on and off for a while and they needed to know whether to go for dry or intermediate tyres. Hindsight is a wonderful thing yet I remember thinking they should at least pit him for something. The tyres were delaminating. Raikkonen was 17 points back before China ’07 and 7 behind after it. Kimi then won the title.

This year Hamilton can confirm himself as Champion by scoring 5 points more than Massa. Massa can take the fight to Brazil by closing that gap, and ideally needs to beat his opponent by a couple of positions. Both men are under tremendous pressure to perform well and you can easily argue both cracked in Japan. Can they regroup in China? How effective will their team-mates be in helping take points from the other team’s contender?

Both Alonso and Kubica are on form at the moment – can they steal a win? Alonso especially is on a roll at the moment and has made public comments that he is in it to support Massa. After his year alongside Hamilton I would expect nothing else…

Kubica is an interesting one. Aside from Hamilton and Massa, Robert is the only other driver not mathematically eliminated from the title fight. He’s still some way back and will have to score well with the others (esp. Hamilton) having problems – yet Lewis and Felipe have both struggled to score decent points lately while Robert has been notching up the points finishes. Don’t count him out just yet.

We may also hear news of Sebastien Bourdais’ movements – if any – for 2009. I hope STR see sense and keep him around.

Event Times
Qualifying is on Saturday at 2pm local / 7am UK / 2am US EST.
Racing starts on Sunday at 3pm local / 8am UK / 3am US EST. Check your listings for TV coverage start times.

If you are watching live remember to make use of the live timing at, a link is on the main page (remember to ‘load in big window’).

F1 News – Update
Further to my post yesterday, now has official video from multiple positions on each of the three contentious decisions from the Japanese GP. See my previous post for the video link and my comments.

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