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.

Tyres

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.

Weather

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.

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