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Shanghai - the engineer's view 22 Sep 2004

Mark Gillan (GBR) Jaguar.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 20 March 2004 Shanghai Circuit Detail.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, 22 September 2004 Geoff Willis (GBR) BAR Chief Designer.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 20 March 2004 Shanghai Circuit Detail.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, 22 September 2004

Formula One racing’s top technical brains on what we can expect from their respective teams this weekend and from the new, Hermann Tilke-designed Shanghai International Circuit in China.

Dr Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance, Jaguar:
“It really is a spectacular venue and I think we are going to see some interesting racing over the weekend. The first corner in particular looks quite complex so this will no doubt allow for some daring moves and thus an eventful race start. The circuit has a good mix of high and low speed corners coupled with a 1.1km straight. This should allow for some good overtaking, and of course we will be looking to make the most of any opportunity to move up the grid on race day.”

Sam Michael, Technical Director, Williams:
“Formula One has not raced in China or at the Shanghai circuit before so it will undoubtedly present plenty of challenges. The layout of the circuit is unique and it will take a considerable amount of work from the drivers to make sure they learn the circuit as fast as possible during the free practice sessions. Working towards a good mechanical set-up for the slow speed corners will be an important part of the engineers' work.

“From the circuit layout, Shanghai appears to be quite a twisty track, with the majority of the corners being slow speed, although there is a short, high speed section. There are three straight sections that may offer the opportunity to overtake, however, I think it will be difficult without a large differential in car performance. The first corner continues to tighten up on itself which will make the start of the race interesting.

“We have some further aero improvements for the cars since the last Grand Prix and Michelin will bring two known tyre choices. Selecting the correct tyre will be the main task for Friday practice, something that will be made more difficult because we have no track data. Strategy may be different to the recent trend of three short stint stops because the pit lane loss, fuel penalty and tyre degradation are unknown until we have done some running on the Friday.”

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director, BAR:
"As we are going to a brand new circuit, we will be relying on our simulation tools to help us prepare the car as close to our final set-up before we run next Friday. We have shown earlier in the year that the team is good at finding a competitive set-up at a brand new circuit, so we are looking forward to the challenge. The main track feature that stands out in Shanghai is the length of the corners, particularly Turn 1 where the drivers will see over 2G for nearly 4 seconds. In terms of corner and braking characteristics, the circuit is quite similar to the Nurburgring, but with a very long back straight, and it looks as though it will be tough on engines. We expect to be competitive in Shanghai with some new aero parts and engine developments, but we know that we will have to work hard to keep second place in the Championship for the last three races."

Bob Bell, Technical Director, Renault:
“We will run new front and rear wings for this race, and also introduce two new lightweight chassis that we have tested successfully at Monza and Silverstone, all of which represent a useful step forward in terms of performance. The new chassis is part of our on-going weight reduction programme aimed at optimising the car's performance, and the fact that we are introducing such major developments at this stage of the season indicates how hard we are pushing to regain our position in the constructors' championship.”

Rob White, Engine Technical Director, Renault:
“The Shanghai circuit combines elements similar to other circuits on which we race, so along with analytical and simulation work, the teams should be able to be well prepared. In terms of (engine) duty-cycle, Shanghai sits in a group with the majority of circuits we visit, so is not a high duty-cycle circuit like Monza or Spa, but not a low duty-cycle like Hungary or Monaco. Defining and verifying the operating conditions for the engine is an important part of our preparation, and will allow the drivers to use the engines to their maximum potential according to the demands of the particular circuit. In concrete terms, this means estimating the duty-cycle based on previous experience, and then dyno testing to simulate the conditions of the race weekend.”

Denis Chevrier, Head of Engine Operations, Renault:
“Overall, our expectations are that we will encounter an average type of circuit for the engine in Shanghai, but of course, our predictions and simulations cannot be full comprehensive, and some significant factors remain unknown at this point.

“Firstly, the ambient temperatures are uncertain. It could be very hot, and the slow speeds at various points around the circuit could mean cooling become a problem, which means we will need to plan for a number of different cooling solutions.

“Secondly, the wind speed and direction can always make a difference to engine performance and particularly the choice of gear ratios. Our first day's running will give us an indication of this parameter, as well as true values for corner speeds, and it may prove necessary to fine-tune our choice of gearbox ratios on Friday night prior to qualifying. The nature of the kerbs, and how much the drivers can use them at high and low speeds, will also influence this decision, as this can lead to over-revving.

“One other interesting point is that the start and finish line appears to be positioned relatively close to the first corner. The run down to this tightening curve seems to be of the order of 300 metres, and this will make it particularly important to qualify well as the overtaking opportunities at the start could prove to be limited.”

Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager, Bridgestone:
"We have been busy studying the track layout, which seems to be similar in style to aspects of the Indianapolis and Sepang circuits. Turn 13, for example, of the Shanghai circuit is a long sweeping corner followed by a long fast straight. This is similar in style to Indianapolis, albeit without the banking. Turns 7 and 8, the S bend section, is similar to the Sepang circuit layout.

“All in all, the Shanghai circuit is an exciting looking track which will require a high level of mechanical grip from the tyres. Due to the long straights and fast corners, the generation of heat in the tyres will also be an issue. Furthermore, we expect temperatures to be relatively warm and if the sun is out we could experience ambient temperatures of approximately 30 degrees Celsius and track temperatures of approximately 50 degrees Celsius.

“Taking these factors into account and the expected smooth track surface, we have chosen five dry weather specifications with compounds from our medium to soft range. After our success in the Middle East earlier this year, where our pre-race preparation and simulation work with our teams paid dividends on a brand new track, we have strong hopes for this race too."

Willy Rampf, Technical Director, Sauber:
"Shanghai will be a high downforce circuit even with its long straights, and cooling will be crucial due to the expected high ambient and track temperatures. It's an interesting circuit layout where the drivers will have to brake as they turn into the long corners, so brake stability and controllability will play a key role. We will find out factors such as brake wear once we have started running, when we will fine-tune the mechanical set-up. Things such as that, together with the bumpiness of the track are what you find out then.”

Pascal Vasselon, Michelin F1 programme manager:
"Given our experience in Bahrain earlier this year, choosing tyres for a previously unknown circuit such as Shanghai might appear quite routine - but that's not the case at all. Certain corners at Shanghai have a uniquie configuration and two of them - which have an almost snail-like profile when viewed from above - are likely to put a greater load on tyres than anywhere else on the calendar. Generally, we expect the rate of wear to be fairly even left to right and front to rear, which makes things a little bit easier. From what we can see, the track surface looks fairly smooth and non-abrasive - another little difficulty we had to factor in when finalising the best tyre compromise. When you encounter a new circuit like this, with lots of directional changes, it is best to select compounds that have a slightly broader operational spectrum than usual. And to further minimise any risk of error, we will be taking tyres that have previously been used in racing conditions."