F1 Preview – Chinese GP 2009

FIA Formula 1 World Championship
– 2009 Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix (3/17)
– Shanghai International Circuit
– Shanghai, China
– 56 laps
www.formula1.com
F1.com track map / Allianz track map
Live timing (Java required, free registration required, worth it)

Event History
Perhaps unbelievably the first F1 Chinese GP was held in 2004, my hasn’t time flown? I suppose that impression is furthered because the 2008 edition was only held last October and five months between races isn’t very much at all – however it means we have an interesting twist. This race should provide us with the starkest comparison yet between the cars as they were at the very end of the “aero era” with the beginnings of this new generation of car at the early stage of their development – I think qualifying 2 will be interesting for the laptime comparison, and the race will be interesting to see if the drivers can race with the cars and throw them about a bit more.

Normally we have to wait a full 12 months so let’s take the positives from this. The 2008 event was a very tedious affair which was panned worldwide for being boring – let us hope the new aero, the slicks, the diffusers and the KERS all combine to bring us some good racing action, as they have at the first two races of the year. It could go either way really – the KERS or diffuser guys may be able to drive past everyone else on that huge straight, so it seems odd that so many are opting not to use KERS this time.

I have to say I don’t remember a great deal about the previous races here. This may be down to my poor memory which is highly likely, or the races were genuinely not very memorable. Of the 5 races held so far Ferrari has taken 3 wins (Barrichello, Schumacher, Raikkonen) with Renault (Alonso) and Mclaren (Hamilton) taking the other two. It was in 2007 of course that Hamilton threw away his title chances on the pit entry, coming in far too hot and sliding into the tiniest gravel trap in the world. He made up for it by winning the race last year.

There has never been a huge attendance at this event. The main grandstand sees a decent size crowd but we are led to believe by some that many of these people are bussed in by the organisers. The rest of the circuit seems positively lacking in spectators – notice the large stands at each end of the long straight.

Circuit
Much is made of the fact that Hermann Tilke (and/or his design group) laid out this track in the shape of the Chinese symbol ‘shang’, as in Shanghai. The reality is that other than one of the longest straights on any racetrack in the world, the ever-tightening first corner and a similar ever-expanding turn on to the backstraight, there isn’t much to say about the place. The bulk of the circuit is made up a technical section linking turn one with the long back straight and that’s about all that can be said of the race track itself.
The biggest landmark are the two huge buildings overhanging the pit straight, one of which acts as the media centre (thus making it a very long journey for the hacks trying to get interviews) and I believe the other is corporate hospitality.

The teams are based in large huts behind the wide pitlane. Again, these are so far from the pitlane buildings it looks as though you’d need a taxi to get from the huts to the pits.

Here is Martin Brundle, then of ITV and now with the BBC, describing Barrichello’s pole lap of 2004, the inaugural event:

Here is David Hobbs of SPEED describing Hamilton’s pole lap of 2007, note the addition of further grandstands at turn one and elsewhere and the change in engine note:

Form
You’ve got to say BrawnGP really, haven’t you? And I’m not just saying that because I bought a cap! I’m tipping Button for another win and I reckon Barrichello may run him a bit closer this time, if not nick it for himself. I also expect Vettel, Glock and Webber to show well once more. I think both Ferrari and McLaren are still distracted by their respective off-track diversions with their management changes and we won’t really hear much from them until the Spanish GP. This is an ideal time for the likes of BMW, Williams, Toyota and RBR to score valuable points before the F1 giants get their acts together.

UK TV

Q: BBC One will air Qualifying live at 6am BST Saturday, session begins at 7am.
R: BBC One will air the Race live at 7am BST Sunday, race starts at 8am.
H: BBC Three will air 1hr Highlights at 7pm BST Sunday.

US TV

Q: SPEED will air Qualifying semi-live at 2am EDT Friday night.
R: SPEED will air the Race live at 2:30am EDT with the race to start at 3am. Rerun at 4:30pm.
– Canada should get coverage on TSN featuring BBC commentary but you may find Speed is blacked out.

Note about qualifying for US viewers: Speed builds in a delay during qualifying coverage in order to fit in as many advertisements as possible. This completely screws up your chances of following it online via live timing or joining in with Twitter / Live Commenting discussions. Complain! Make a fuss! Tell them which decade this is!

Live Comments
I will be at Sidepodcast.com for qualifying and the race. Fire up the Live Commenting Live..Thing at the appointed time, join the appropriate thread at the top of the screen, enter your name and then just type away! You’re welcome to join us as long as you keep the sweary stuff away.

I will not be on Twitter for this race as I will be watching at my Dad’s place, on his 42″ screen!

Support events
Porsche Carrera Cup Asia; Aston Martin Asia Cup;

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