The third race of the 2012 Formula 1 season is all set to be an exciting affair at Shanghai. The enthralling qualifying session has made this race even more spicier with the Mercedes cars topping the timing charts, courtesy of their controversial double DRS rear wing. To keep you all up to speed, here is a complete guide the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix.
Track: Shanghai International Circuit
The 2012 Chinese Grand Prix marks the ninth time that the event has been held at the Shanghai International Circuit. The 5.451 Kilometre Long, Hermann Tilke designed circuit has a fair share of slow corners intertwined with the high speed ones. There are two long straights in which the cars reach a maximum speed of 310-320 Km/Hr. The back straight at 752 meters is one of the longest in all of the F1 circuits.
Two slight modifications have been made to the track. The grass bordering the track around turns 1, 2 and 6 has been replaced with asphalt which has been painted green using an approved non-slip paint. This means that the cars which slightly overshoot these turns can return to the track without much damage. The second change is that the tyre barrier to the drivers’ right in the pit entry has been fitted with a conveyor belt retaining system.
DRS zone: One along the back straight
The hairpin on Turn 14 at the end of the 752m long back-straight will witness a flurry of overtaking activity courtesy of the DRS zone preceding it. It is actually the same zone which was used last year too. The Drag Reduction System (DRS) was one of the main reasons behind Mark Webber rise from 18th place to 3rd place in last year’s race here. The braking point at the end of the DRS zone makes it easier for the drivers to overtake at Turn 14.
The DRS detection point will be at Turn 12 and will be activated midway through the back straight. Drivers within a second of the preceding driver at the detection point will have luxury of using DRS in that lap.
Weather: Unpredictable as always!
The weather at the Chinese Grand Prix has always been unpredictable. Four out of the eight races held in this circuit have witnessed heavy rain at some point of the race. There has always been a threat of rain during the Chinese Grand Prix weekend ever since the race moved to the mid April time slot in 2009. The races in 2009 and 2010 were held in wet conditions whereas the 2011 Chinese Grand Prix was a dry affair.
This time around, the weathermen are unsure whether it will rain during the race. They have forecast a partly cloudy sky for Sunday. So, in all likelihood, it is going to be a dry race this year.
Tyres: Soft and Medium compounds
Pirelli have brought their P-Zero Soft and Medium compound tyres to China. The yellow marked Soft tyre will be the Option tyres whereas the white marked Medium tyre will be the Prime tyres during the race.
If it is a dry race on Sunday, the drivers have to make use of both compounds during the race. In case of a rain affected race, the Wet and Intermediate tyres will come into play.
Grid: Mercedes lockout front row
For the first time in many years, the silver arrows will be starting from the front row. Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg will be hoping to make his first pole position count. His compatriot in the other Mercedes – Michael Schumacher, will be keen to get a win under his belt since returning to Formula 1 in 2010. Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi will line-up in third position – the best ever for Sauber. Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen rounds off the second row alongside Kamui.
Jenson Button and Mark Webber fill up the third row. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton – who was handed a 5-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox, will start 7th alongside Sergio Perez in Sauber. Ferrari‘s Alonso and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean round up the top 10. Double world champion Sebastian Vettel qualified a disappointing 11th and will started alongside under-performing Brazilian Felipe Massa. The drivers of Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso, Caterham, Marussia and HRT will start from the seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth rows of the grid respectively.
Pit Strategy: 3 stops
The race consists of 56 laps around the Shanghai International Circuit. If it is a dry race, the drivers are expected to make three pit stops to change their tyres. Given the nature of the Shanghai circuit, tyre degradation happen pretty soon. Soft tyres last about 12-15 laps while Medium compound tyres last about 25-30 laps. Despite the soft compound tyres being the quickest, Drivers may opt for Medium compounds if they feel that tyre degradation level is higher.
It was the pit stop strategy that made a lot of difference last year. This time around, the teams know how the Pirelli tyres behave and are expected to get their strategies right.
Stewards: The men who matter
Garry Connelly, Vincenzo Spano and Emanuele Pirro will serve as the stewards for Sunday’s race. The first two are members of the World Motorsport Council while Pirro is a former F1 driver. As always, Charlie Whiting is the race director.
Past record: Hamilton’s happy hunting track
Lewis Hamilton has been very successful at Shanghai in the past. He is the only driver to have won this race twice ( in 2008 and 2011). He has also finished second in 2010. He is starting seventh on Sunday’s race which makes it very difficult for him to push for a win. He might pose a challenge for the podium places.
McLaren and Ferrari have won three races each in Shanghai. Renault and Red Bull have won one apiece. An interesting fact is that the winners of the Chinese Grand Prix have always been withing the first three rows of the starting grid. This might spell doom for the likes of Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel who are hoping against hope to win the race on Sunday.
Race Timing: 15:00 Local time/6:30 AM GMT/12:00 PM IST
Telecast: Star Sports, Sky Sports F1, BBC One