Daily Archives: April 15, 2010

Chinese Grand Prix preview

Having already looked at the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix, we must now look at this year’s race. With three winners in three races so far this year, expect a huge fight between the teams this weekend.

The track

I have repeatedly voiced my dislike of the Shanghai circuit, but it is the venue for an interesting race this weekend. First of all, Mark Webber gives us a talkthrough of the lap of Shanghai, available in full 1080p HD:

The first thing we must note is that the back straight will be crucial in the race, as this is where most of the overtaking will be. McLaren’s F-duct system will be particularly useful here, with an extra 6km/h on a 1.1km straight. Even the Force Indias will have trouble keeping Hamilton and Button behind, unless other teams can incorporate an F-duct system as well.

The first corner may well be a scene for a first-corner accident. Although this track does not have a reputation for this, I feel that it might happen this year. With very heavy fuel loads and an ever-tightening first corner, expect at least one car to understeer into another, and cause a crash.


The tyres are key to winning this year, as we already know. However, the cooler weather the teams have been experiencing so far may come into play.

Bridgestone are bringing the soft and hard compounds again to China this weekend. As usual this year, a one-stop strategy should be in order, with most of the field going from soft to hard tyres at around Lap 15. Because of the cooler temperatures, some drivers may struggle to get heat into the harder tyres, like Brawn did last year.

If it rains, then of course tyre choice is free to choose. There are still reports that the intermediate tyres are wearing out far too quickly, so this may cause some drivers to pit early for dry tyres. If it rains heavily like last year, then extreme wets will be kept on for as long as possible.


It’s starting to annoy me saying this so much, but the weather will play a big part in deciding what happens this weekend. According to the BBC, it should be dry for Friday and Saturday, but quite cool. The higher than normal wind speed on Saturday may also affect the cars, seeing as how the wind will blow the cars back and to the left slightly on the back straight. On Sunday, heavy rain and showers are forecast, with high humidity, and constant temperature.

So, it seems like a similar setup to last year, when it only rained heavily on race day. If that does happen again this year, then expect all tyre strategies to switch to one stop,  halfway or slightly more through the race.

Drivers to watch

Nico Rosberg – After his excellent qualifying performance in a rain-soaked Malaysia, a wet race could be a big advantage to Nico. However, even though the Malaysian race wasn’t wet, he still hung on to take a podium there, so expect him to keep up his good form this weekend.

Jaime Alguersuari – He said that his battle with Michael Schumacher helped him improve his driving skill. He has matured very well from the lack of pace we saw last year. With two good races in a row for the young Spaniard, he could well pull off another surprise in Shanghai, and get some more points.

Robert Kubica – With a rapidly improving car, the teams ay they want to leapfrog Mercedes in terms of performance. If they can do this, and if it rains, Robert could well be in with a chance of another podium this weekend. His great race in Australia showed he can beat the best drivers, with far inferior machinery.

Jenson Button – Like I said earlier, the intermidiate tyres are in risk of wearing out too quickly. If that is the case, then Jenson Button will be the man to make the most of it. His smooth driving style will come in very handy, with the tyre situation this year.

Chinese GP Thursday press conference

Sebastien Buemi, Adrian Sutil, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher at the Chinese GP press conference

Sebastien Buemi, Adrian Sutil, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher at the Chinese GP press conference

At today’s press conference, we had Adrian Sutil, Michael Schumacher, Sebastien Buemi, and Lewis Hamilton. Here is the full transcript:

Q: Adrian, what was it like having your friend Lewis breathing down your neck in the last race for 20 laps or so?
Adrian Sutil:
It was not an easy race. At the beginning it all went right and we had a good pace, so I was quite comfortable with my position and then in the last 20 laps Lewis made a lot of pressure. He arrived really, really fast and he was on the soft tyre. I just tried to do no mistakes and keep my line and concentrate to the end of the race. I knew it was going to be quite a long race and long laps for me with him pressing behind. But in the last couple of laps I had the feeling his tyres were going off a little bit, so I could breathe a little bit more and I had a little gap, so it was still under control, but I know him and he fights until the end.

Q: I guess it does confirm that the team has taken quite a step forward this year?
Yes, we are doing really well I think. I am very happy that we improved so much over the winter. I had a good feeling over the winter. We did everything very efficiently and the work is still going on. That is not only the first three races where we were doing great. Of course we have our goals this season and we want to do even better. It is all set up well and we can improve this position in the next races.

Q: What about the contribution of Paul di Resta? He comes in and drives on the Friday morning, is that a distraction for you or is that a good thing?
Well, I want to be in the car always of course even on Friday morning but we agreed to it during the winter. He is our test and reserve driver and he has his chance on the Friday morning swapping the car. Once in mine, once in Tonio’s (Liuzzi). I think in general it is a good thing for young drivers coming into Formula One to get a chance to test a little bit. Now with the testing ban they don’t have any driving experience. When there is a problem with the race driver they need to go in the car and they are not prepared, so this is a way to do it better to give them a chance to settle well into Formula One.

Q: Sebastien, Toro Rosso this year have had to design their own car. Tell us about the advantages and disadvantages of that?
Sebastien Buemi:
For sure it is not an easy thing to set up a team which was not building its own car last year. It has been big work during the winter and we are getting up to speed with the updates in the wind tunnel, so we will see the result in the middle of the season. But we have a good car to fight in the middle of the pack and score points if we do a good race, so it is not too bad.

Q: Difficult start to the season, but is it getting better now?
It was not the start of the season I was expecting but sometimes difficult things happen. It has been the case this year, so we will see what we can achieve here. We saw a good improvement in Malaysia and we seem to be quite a lot closer to Force India and Williams and I think it doesn’t look bad for finishing near the points or in the points. That will be our objective this weekend.

Q: How difficult is it for you that you have had a whole season’s experience but you don’t have a more experienced driver to help with sorting out the car? Is that a problem for you?
To be honest in Formula One I have never had a really experienced driver with me, so I don’t know how it is to work with someone with a lot of experience. I do my best to improve the car and the team and now it is getting a lot better with experience and knowing all the circuits and knowing how the race weekend goes. I think we can achieve a good set-up and a good car during the practice, so I will take it as it comes and try to do my best.

Q: So not really a problem?
I don’t think so.

Q: Lewis, I think you have been out and about in Shanghai today. You were at the Expo I believe?
Lewis Hamilton:
Yeah, this morning before we went to the track we stopped by the Expo and I got to see a little bit of it and I just have a small tour around the UK’s Expo. It was quite a cool and special building they have created there. But it was just a quick stop and I did a bit of a press conference and that was it.

Q: We are three races in to the so-called rivalry between you and Jenson Button. How is it going?
We are doing well. We are scoring lots of points for the team. He is a doing a fantastic job and we are getting on really well. He brings nothing but positiveness to the team and I think he is a very well balanced and well-rounded guy. We get on really well and it is working well for us.

Q: I guess the real worry if anything is Red Bull’s pace. How much of a worry is that? And the team was taking steps and making new technical decisions to counter that, but they have had to abandon that.
We have not had to abandon much. There are so many different things in the pipeline and one of those was to go in a similar direction as perhaps some other teams have done. But it is clear everyone cannot do that now. I don’t know how that affects others but it doesn’t really affect us. We still have updates that we are working on and should be coming in the course of the next few weeks or months. I am looking forward to seeing the updates come but I know the guys back at the factory are flat out. We try to make as many improvements as we can. Last weekend we seemed to be very competitive with them through practice but in the race the Red Bulls pace was a little bit… I don’t know if they were pushing that much, but we have just got to keep our eye on the ball and keep pushing.

Q: Michael, do you still feel Mercedes is a little bit behind? Where do you feel it is?
Michael Schumacher:
I guess you have Red Bull and Ferrari being a little bit up front and then probably it is right to say that McLaren is a little bit up front on us although the last race could not really show it. We are probably still in fourth position at the moment.

Q: How is the development coming along from your point of view?
As you expect in Formula One every kind of race you being new things and it goes step by step. I am quite happy with the general development trend. Naturally as probably most of the teams we will have a little bit bigger upgrade in Barcelona due to time availability and so on, so we are all look forward to that.

Q: You’ve now been back for three races. Have you found things very different since you left F1 three years ago?
Well, the number of questions and style of questions and all this sort of thing is pretty much the same. Driving the car, in a way, as well. It’s natural that there are some characteristic changes but at the end of the day, every year, you get a new car, and you just adapt and work the car around your needs. Yes, it has taken a little bit of time after being out for three years, it does need a little bit more time, especially with less winter testing available. But I’m feeling pretty good, I have to say. It’s worked out almost quicker than I expected it to do and I feel very comfortable in the car now and I look forward to when things get to the end to show a little bit better.

Q: Do you think a younger Michael Schumacher might have been more frustrated with the time it’s taken to get back right to the very top? You seem more relaxed…
It depends what age you’re talking about, because when I came into Formula One I would have obviously been very happy with the results we’ve had, because you haven’t had a ranking or a position. If you talk about after winning certain championships, then naturally you would have been a little bit less happy, but with having all this kind of experience, coming back after this break, I feel more than happy with what’s going on. One of the big and interesting things is working with the team to develop the car and being involved in this kind of process. That is so much of the fun. The driving is fun as well but you get used to that pretty quickly, but working on the details, that’s what makes it up for me.


Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, do you think that the F-duct is going to give you the big advantage that many of your rivals suspect or do you see Red Bull as the main team to beat you?
I still see Red Bull and Ferrari as the teams to beat here. You don’t know what Mercedes have brought either, so I think it’s the same as every race.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all drivers, with these low temperatures currently do you expect problems heating the tyres, especially the hard ones?
For sure, temperatures as low as six degrees which is what we have now is going to be a problem, especially on the hard tyre. We will have to see on Friday, tomorrow, how it looks but I know there will definitely be some warm-up problems. I’m not so concerned that they will never work but they will just take a long time to come in, probably around five or six laps until you get them to a certain speed. So we have to see, we have to adapt the set-up work a little bit to it, but we’re also expecting slightly better temperatures for Saturday and Sunday.
MS: It’s going to warm up over the weekend, so less of an issue.

Q: (Marco Degl’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Michael, are you not a little disappointed because of this wave of criticism which has been rising up over the last few days, because a lot of people are impatient that you don’t win?
You see, I’ve been around long enough to know what I call the wave of emotion. During the winter everybody was every emotional and very supportive and positive and once you’re up on this edge of the wave, there’s a natural happening that you start to fall over the edge and whether you are the reason for it, or whether it’s just a natural happening, it’s not always important and because the results have not been as great as some people have expected and even myself, yes, I would have loved to have better results but then the competition is very high and in this respect it’s a natural happening to not have the same positive feedback in the media. But you know, I know exactly what I’ve been doing, I know what’s been going on and I’ve no reason from my side to be disappointed, quite honestly. I still feel very happy. Whether people like it or not is their own choice.

Q: (Ottavio Daviddi – Tuttosport) Michael, considering the situation that you explained very well, yesterday Fernando said that in his opinion you are still in the fight for the championship this year. Do you agree with him?
Indeed, yes, I do, because if you take the points system, and you have seen that Fernando had a retirement in Malaysia for whatever reason, it can happen to all of us. I had my retirement in Malaysia, so at one point in the season, most likely, that will hit the guys who are fighting for the championship. If we have a quick enough development pace, there’s no reason why we can’t fight for the championship, it’s far too early and there’s such a long season ahead. Development is so important, and we all know how fast the rate of development is. I’m pretty sure we have good potential to develop this car, so it’s far from feeling and thinking that this season is over, for Nico (Rosberg) and even for myself.

Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) A general question to Lewis and perhaps Michael as well. It’s quite tight at the top of the drivers’ standings after three races. Are you expecting it to remain such a tight battle between maybe six or eight drivers as we continue, or do you expect, when we get to Europe, when the development race kicks in in earnest, that we will see people leaping ahead? Sebastian (Vettel) could have won all three races so far.
Yeah, you’re right, Sebastian could be quite a bit ahead at the moment, but I think at the moment it is very close, and I’m hoping that it stays like that for some time but undoubtedly, at some stage during the season, whether or not Red Bull continue to have not such great reliability, as Michael was saying, anything can happen and it can happen to any of us. We just have to try and stay as consistent as possible. You cannot afford too many DNFs, so I think that is probably what every team is trying to maintain, try and stay as consistent as possible.
MS: I think I answered that before.

Q: Michael, I know this is the second time you have been in Shanghai over the last four years; do you have any special feelings about this city and also for your professions here?
Well, it’s been a while that I have not been here, but it’s quite impressive to see the development. I stayed in town for a couple of nights and I’ve been around a little bit. It’s impressive to see this. It’s always been one of the Grands Prix you enjoy coming to because the enthusiasm of the fans is pretty extreme, so the reception I got when I’ve arrived at the airport or when I arrived at the hotel has been interesting, so naturally we look forward to hopefully performing well for the fans that we have here.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Sebastian, you seemed to be well ahead of your team-mate most of last year and this season too, but the last race was somehow different. Do you feel threatened by Jaime Alguersuari now?
I think that the last race has been a bit difficult for me. I had a small contact on the first lap with (Kamui) Kobayashi and it broke my front wing, so I did most of the race with a broken front wing and when we changed it, I did the third fastest lap in the race, so it’s difficult to compare, but for sure he has done a good race, he finished in the points, so there’s nothing to say. If you look at the qualifying and everything, it still seems to look good for me, so I just hope for a good race weekend when I can show my speed up to the end, without any problems.

Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Michael, this was the scene of your last Formula One victory before you retired in 2006. Could you talk about the last time you experienced that winning feeling, feeling what that race was like for you, memories of that race and perhaps how you could carry that forward into a lovely result on Sunday?
I’m not a person who looks too much into the past, quite honestly, so forgive me if that’s not in myself. I would rather look forward and have slightly better races than I have in the past two races, which were a bit out of my control. But the track and car and situation should be good enough to have a good race.
The track is a little bit particular, because there are quite a few corners that, depending on whether you have a good balance in the car, are good fun. If your car struggles in terms of balance, you get really angry because in turn one or 13, it’s going to be a mess if you don’t have a good balance and it’s going to be great fun if things work out. It changes your emotion quite a lot.

Q: (Nick Mulvenny – Reuters) Lewis, you obviously had a great win in 2008, but in 2007 you remember what happened then, when you came off the track. Do you think that you’ve matured as a driver, that that sort of situation wouldn’t happen today? That you would insist that you should pit rather than stay out on bald tyres?
Well, I know where the gravel trap is now, so I don’t think I would be in that position again. Of course, having the experience and being a few years down the line, I think I’m able to understand and make calls for myself, but I don’t think that we as a team would put ourselves in that position again. I’m confident that we won’t be there again.

Lola and Prodrive not applying for 2011

Prodrive will now focus on its rallying, rather than on F1

Prodrive will now focus on its rallying, rather than on F1

On the same day, both Lola and Prodrive have confirmed that they are not applying for the 13th grid spot for the 2011 Formula 1 season.

Both of these teams had applied for a position for this year, but failed. Prodrive had previously got a place on the 2008 entry list, providing that the FIA could get in a rule allowing customer cars. However, this rule never got through, and Prodrive never raced in F1. While Lola applied last year, they haven’t appeared in F1 since 1997, with the abysmal Mastercard Lola (it was so bad, it never saw a wind tunnel, never mind a race!).

David Richards, who runs Prodrive, said:

"Our current focus is on Prodrive’s return to the World Rally
Championship in 2011 and that alone takes significant resource
to design and develop a totally new car. At the same time, we
continue to expand our activities with Aston Martin in all
categories of sportscar racing, in the USA, Europe and at Le
Mans. We also have a full V8 Supercar series to contest in
Australia with Ford, which together with further investment
in advanced vehicle technologies for road car applications
creates a very demanding agenda for the business.

Taking on the challenge of starting a brand new Formula One team,
finding the necessary funding and developing the car from scratch
is a massive undertaking and not to be underestimated. As expected,
we’ve witnessed the financial and technical challenges that the
new teams have faced this year in just getting to the grid, let
alone being competitive and whilst I have enormous admiration for
their efforts I don’t believe this is an appropriate strategy for
Prodrive or Aston Martin to adopt.

We’ve enjoyed a successful involvement in F1 in the past and respect
the value it can create; we will therefore keep a close eye on
developments in the Championship. However, I have always made it
very clear that the timing for a Prodrive entry would be judged
on two criteria: that we could be competitive and that the business
case would make it a financially viable proposition. Today, if we
were to adopt the strategy of starting a new team, I don’t believe
it is possible to meet these two conditions."

Executive chairman and owner of Lola, Martin Birrane, also spoke today. He said that, despite having designed a car that would have run in 2010, they will not be applying it for the 2011 season:

A 2010 entry under the cost capped and performance balanced
criteria was perfect for Lola. We already have F1 standard
facilities at our headquarters in Huntingdon.

Sadly our well-developed 2010 F1 project, which included a
significant wind tunnel programme, had to be frozen in June
2009. The recently announced applications for 2011 has left
us with insufficient time to prepare for what would be a
quite different programme.

A lot of people complained, when USF1 was unable to make the grid, that teams like Prodrive or Lola would be more suited than the teams that were chosen. I certainly can’t believe how long Prodrive have waited to get into F1, only to be rejected by the FIA on many occasions. While Lola last appeared in F1 with one of the worst cars ever seen, they have a decent racing team in Le Mans, as shown when they had the fastest petrol LMP1 car in Le Mans 2009.

I would have liked to see these teams in F1, but unfortunately this isn’t the case. Now, the probable choice for 2011 is between Epsilon Euskadi and Durango at the moment, but we will have to wait and see who gets picked.